Leadership and the Issue of Ethics Essay

Total Length: 2025 words ( 7 double-spaced pages)

Total Sources: 5

Page 1 of 7


This paper focuses on questions of ethics and unethical behavior in the workplace. It discusses what leaders can do to better create an ethical environment in which people are respected and ethical values are promoted. It provides some examples from the real world of what happens when organizations fail to act ethically, and it also examines some of the problems that led to the disaster that was the 2007-2008 economic collapse. Ethical principles such as utilitarianism and virtue ethics are explained in connection with these discussions. The issues of diversity and discrimination are evaluated at length, and the issue of corporate sponsored volunteer programs is discussed as well.

Keywords: ethics, workplace ethics, leadership ethics, organizational ethics


Some of the most common forms of unethical behavior in our workforce today consist of misuse of company funds, misuse of company time, fraudulent activity, and lying. There are many different examples of these unethical activities. Wells Fargo for instance was just punished for signing people up to accounts that they did not want and then charging them for the service. Other banks view their clients as “muppets” and attempt to manipulate them for the banks’ advantage (Coleman, 2016). Other issues include sexual harassment in the workplace (the #MeToo movement has exposed this) and continued inequality.

Leadership in organizations could help to minimize ethical misconduct by setting the example themselves and instituting a culture of virtue ethics, in which employees learn to promote the good rather than that by which they think they can gain an advantage over others. When leaders serve their workers and put their workers first, it sets a tone in an organization: the workers then set about serving their clients instead of trying to manipulate them, lie to them, or con them in to doing something that is not in their best interest (De Vries, 1998). Leaders have to show what it means to be a good worker by embodying that vision in themselves: when they fail to do so, they create atmospheres like that at Enron, where the leaders were shiftily trying to conduct “get rich quick” schemes; the underlings picked up on it and participated in their own forms of lying and manipulation to make themselves look good. The traders on the floor did so when they were manipulating energy prices to gain an advantage over buyers and sellers.

For workers to be ethical, they have to know what is expected of them: the organization has to be one that embraces ethics from the top down. Workers do not make the leaders but rather leaders make the workers. So if the leaders themselves are not representing the ethical values they wish to see in their workers, they cannot assume or expect that their workers will be any different. The head is the head for a reason: it is what sends out the messages to the rest of the body on how to operate.
The same is true for the head of an organization: it has to send out the right ethical approaches.


As our businesses have developed over the last 100 plus years, our modern day businesses have not really evolved to be more ethical today. The reason is that human nature is still the same as it was 100 years ago and modern businesses are still run by human beings. People are always going to be looking for ways to cheat or scam others, and so to assume that just because our businesses have developed and evolved to be more refined thanks to technology is to assume that somehow human nature has changed as well. It has not, and a simple perusal of the latest headlines will reveal as much. In fact, this is one reason online shopping has become so popular: people simply prefer shopping online to having to go out and possibly engage with other human beings because they do not know what they will encounter when they go out. Whether it is a random act of insane violence (such as a terror attack or random shooting) or some other experience that people might wish to avoid, the world is full of risk.

Still, there are ways that technology has allowed for more accountability in our businesses. For example, social media has made it so that nothing remains hidden from the public any longer. If a business creates an issue (such as when one of the major airlines literally forced a passenger off a plane because it was too full), it is all over social media in the blink of an eye and the company has to immediately do damage control to salvage its reputation and keep its business from sinking.


The financial meltdown in 2007-2008 was both a failure of people and of capital market processes. It was a failure of people, first and foremost, because they were the ones creating the shoddy loans, chopping them up into shoddy bundles, giving these shoddy mortgage backed securities AAA ratings when in reality they were full of junk. People were getting greedy thinking they could sell insurance on these junk-filled mortgage backed securities without risk; those who knew better did not mind making a nice profit off the ensuing collapse. Those leaders in the government who bailed out the banks and other institutions with hundreds of billions of taxpayer money only incentivized risk taking still further and let the perpetrators off the hook (Taibi, 2010). Some could say that this was the state merely implementing utilitarian ethical theory and doing what was in the best interest of the greatest number of people—but when the greatest number of people (i.e., working class taxpayers) are saddled with billions in bailout dollars so that bankers can get away with devaluing the dollar, the utilitarian ethical….....

Show More ⇣

     Open the full completed essay and source list


     Order a one-of-a-kind custom essay on this topic


Coleman, L. (2016). The Mutual Fund Industry: Structure and Conduct. In Applied Investment Theory (pp. 121-129). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

De Vries, M. F. K. (1998). Charisma in action: The transformational abilities of Virgin\'s Richard Branson and ABB\'s Percy
Barnevik. Organizational Dynamics, 26(3), 7-21.

Huston, J. H., & Spencer, R. W. (2018). Quantitative easing and asset bubbles. Applied Economics Letters, 25(6), 369-374.

Taibbi, M. (2010). Griftopia. New York, NY: Spiegel & Grau.

Tiku, N. (2018). New lawsuit exposes Google’s desperation to improve diversity. Retrieve from https://www.wired.com/story/new-lawsuit-exposes-googles-desperation-to-improve-diversity/

sample essay writing service

Cite This Resource:

Latest APA Format (6th edition)

Copy Reference
"Leadership And The Issue Of Ethics" (2019, January 26) Retrieved June 25, 2022, from

Latest MLA Format (8th edition)

Copy Reference
"Leadership And The Issue Of Ethics" 26 January 2019. Web.25 June. 2022. <

Latest Chicago Format (16th edition)

Copy Reference
"Leadership And The Issue Of Ethics", 26 January 2019, Accessed.25 June. 2022,