Ethical Leadership: Positive and Negative Aspects

Organizational leaders use various methods when managing, motivating, and directing others. The administrative style defines strategies and efforts to fulfill the stakeholder’s expectations and cater to the employees’ welfare. Ethical leadership is among the most commonly used form in most enterprises. Ideally, an administrator ensures they portray exemplary standards of ethics and motivate the other team members to maintain the same qualities. This method is based on integrity and the ability to do right even when performing private activities. Ethical leadership is an effective style of administration, although it cannot be applied in all organizations.

Fundamentally, ethical leadership ensures a company adheres to the law. Businesses normally have legal policies that dictate employees’ expectations and guide daily corporate decisions (Chikeleze & Baehrend, 2017). For instance, most organizations have a rule against sexual harassment in workplaces which motivates responsibility. Moreover, incorporating this form of administration provides a system that makes every worker observe federal and local laws, improving workplace safety.

The executive creates a good example for the subordinates by following all the rules, reducing administration complexity as workers conform to the leader’s character. Hence, an enterprise that focuses on ethics can run with few interruptions by law-enforcing agencies such as courts.

In addition, the structure of the ethical style improves the accountability of workers. Wang et al. (2017) explain that ethical leaders focus on gaining respect, thus making responsibility one of their main virtues. In essence, they aim to create a philosophy by ensuring their actions match their words. They ensure every plan they implement meets the promised standards to demonstrate how they prefer business activities (Paterson & Huang, 2019).

The administrative board’s responsibility wins the other workers’ trust improving transparency. The subordinates become comfortable sharing information with the administrators, which enhances recognition of problems at the early stages. It can produce financial challenges when mechanical challenges are reported saving the company the cost of repairing extremely damaged equipment. On the other hand, it can improve social welfare, enabling easy problem solving through negotiations or conciliation.

However, ethical leadership has several negative aspects that must be evaluated before adopting it in managerial practices. Firstly, it demands full organizational support to achieve the set goals. Every employee has to accept their application before it is approved fully (Chikeleze & Baehrend, 2017). If someone, especially in the administrative department, remains sidelined, the system is likely to fail. Arguably, involvement in unethical practices requires less effort than ethical actions, and if they pursue other employees, they may change their perspectives. When a considerable number of subordinates shift their views, then the whole policy can be altered. Thus it requires a holistic decision of either a yes or a no without intermediate perceptions.

Secondly, it is a relatively expensive method of leadership to implement. A compliance program that aligns with the goals and objectives of a firm is necessary. It is costly and time-consuming to create a schedule. Moreover, its policies have to be evaluated and updated to match the developments in the company (Geddes, 2017). The cost increases when some companies have to hire an extra professional to oversee the utilization of resources. The risk of using this leadership style increases when the expenses are coupled with the reliance of the strategy on the leader’s consistency (Sharma et al., 2019). If an executive worker decides to alter the organization’s definition of ethics, it may contradict what others believe about good practices. Resultantly, the method may fail, forcing the company to introduce a new policy.

By keenly evaluating ethical leadership’s positive and negative aspects, its application is best when the executive voluntarily uses it. Making it the business policy may cause great challenges if a manager is unaware or unwilling to use it (Sharma et al., 2019). For instance, in the Costo case, the former CEO, Jim Sinegal, chose to use ethical leadership in his firm. He wears clothes tagged ‘Jim’ that may be mistaken with the clerks, creating equality. In one scenario, he collected litter from a Costo store which made an impression to the employees that it is right to keep the place of work clean. If a manager is forced to lead using the ethical style, a company may fail as they will not guide the best practices to adopt.

However, ethical leadership cannot be viewed as the most favorable style for universal application. The type to adopt is determined by the kind of organization or job position of a worker. Vroom’s decision tree approach claims the mode of making decisions is based on characteristics of a situation such as Adobe (Salezahdeh, 2017). The theory evaluates the level to which subordinates should be involved in deciding corporate matters. Accordingly, employees are usually involved when topics being discussed affect their welfare. In comparison, a restaurant can use servant leadership to prioritize on needs of employees so that they can provide high-quality food to the customers.

Ethical leadership is significant as it ensures a firm follows all rules and creates a healthy institutional culture. Furthermore, it improves the accountability and transparency of most employees. Nevertheless, its application should highly depend on a manager’s ability and willingness as its use requires unanimous approval and possess a high financial risk potential. Organizations such as Costo have found this leadership style to be instrumental in guiding employees despite its limitations. Firms that cannot use this method should evaluate their structure and job positions requiring a manager. In conclusion, ethical administration is effective in companies that focus on improving employees’ character.


Chikeleze, M. C., & Baehrend Jr, W. R. (2017). Ethical leadership style and its impact on decision‐making. Journal of Leadership Studies, 11(2), 45-47. Web.

Geddes, B. H. (2017). Integrity or compliance-based ethics: Which is better for today’s business?. Open Journal of Business and Management, 5(3), 420-429. Web.

Paterson, T. A., & Huang, L. (2019). Am I expected to be ethical? A role-definition perspective of ethical leadership and unethical behavior. Journal of Management, 45(7), 2837-2860. Web.

Salehzadeh, R. (2017). Which types of leadership styles do followers prefer? A decision tree approach. International Journal of Educational Management, 31(7), 865-877. Web.

Sharma, A., Agrawal, R., & Khandelwal, U. (2019). Developing ethical leadership for business organizations: A conceptual model of its antecedents and consequences. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 40(6), 712-734. Web.

Wang, D., Feng, T., & Lawton, A. (2017). Linking ethical leadership with firm performance: A multi-dimensional perspective. Journal of Business Ethics, 145(1), 95-109. Web.

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