Research Output

Concepts of Ethical Leadership and their Potential Implementation in Organisations: An Operational Perspective

  This study links ethical leadership theory to the implementation of improved leadership practices and examines whether ethical leadership characteristics actually exist, particularly in highly operational environments.
The study analyses how ethical leadership can be embedded by process, by applied leadership (role modelling), and by changing culture and climate. The conclusion reveals that all three approaches are needed for an implementation and depend on middle managers, otherwise no organisational transformation is possible.
The research design of this qualitative study analyses data from 100 in-depth interviews using inductive categorisation, aiming to retrieve deep, rich and unprompted data from a highly developed and advanced production facility. The ethical leadership characteristics, and evidence specific influences on leadership behaviour, revealing 14 perceived leadership issues resulting in a leadership climate which negatively influences motivation, performance, and corporate culture.
These issues were found to be responsible for deteriorating work climate, motivation, morale, and team spirit. Particularly favouritism, inequalities, shouting, blaming, internal competition and unclear strategies ruin motivation, employee health, and co-operation.
Concerning the implementation of a better suited leadership culture, a research framework model is developed, integrating transformational change and leadership.
Findings document that the influence of middle managers acting as role models seems to be greater than research suggests. Key findings also show that individual leadership development without changing the corporate realities is not sufficient to implement ethical strategies. Neglecting to actively control the leadership climate can have devastating effects even for very successful operations.
Considering the pressure of goal attainment in highly operational areas, an absence of unethical behaviour can already be seen as a success for leaders.
Finally, a change process sequence for shaping leadership climate was identified.
These research results are highly relevant for organisations and leaders wishing to be engaged in improving their leadership quality.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    30 September 2015

  • Publication Status:


  • Library of Congress:

    HD28 Management. Industrial Management

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    658 General management

  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


Bachmann, B. (2015). Concepts of Ethical Leadership and their Potential Implementation in Organisations: An Operational Perspective. (Thesis). Edinburgh Napier University. Retrieved from



ethical leadership, role modelling, implementation, embedding ethical leadership, ethical transformation, leadership climate, integrity, operational context, employee health, internal competition, employee motivation, inductive categorisation, unprompted information, transformational change, Burke/Litwin model

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