Are ethical theories relevant for ethical leadership?

  • Dion M
  • 259


    Mendeley users who have this article in their library.
  • 12


    Citations of this article.


Purpose – The aim of this study is to know if ethical theories could be connected to some leadership approaches. Design/methodology/approach – In the paper eight leadership approaches are selected: directive leadership, self-leadership, authentic leadership, transactional leadership, shared leadership, charismatic leadership, servant leadership, transformational leadership. Five western ethical theories (philosophical egoism, utilitarianism, Kantianism, ethics of virtue, ethics of responsibility) are analyzed to see to what extent their basic concepts could be connected to one or the other leadership approach. Findings – Agiven ethical theory (such as philosophical egoism) could be suitable to the components of various leadership approaches. Ethical leadership does not imply that a given leadership approach is reflecting only one ethical theory. Rather, ethical leadership implies that for different reasons, various leadership approaches could agree with the same ethical theory. This is what we could call the “moral flexibility of leadership approaches”. Research limitations/implications – This study focuses on western ethical theories. A similar study should be undertaken for Eastern ethical theories coming from Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, or Daoism. Practical implications – Some dualisms (such as Kantianism-transformational leadership, philosophical egoism-transactional leadership) do not reflect the philosophical connections between ethical theories and leadership approaches. Thus, the notion of ethical leadership would have to be redefined. In doing so, the paper reveals how a given ethical theory could be used by different kinds of leaders, and for very different reasons. Originality/value – This study will contribute to make ethical theories and ethical leadership more interconnected, in spite of the different (parallel) “conceptual universes” in which they have evolved until

Get free article suggestions today

Mendeley saves you time finding and organizing research

Sign up here
Already have an account ?Sign in

Find this document

Get full text


  • Michel Dion

Cite this document

Choose a citation style from the tabs below

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free