The Need for Ethics in Global Leadership

Corporate scandals of recent years have brought the ethics of global leadership to the forefront of the organizational world (Jones & Millar, 2010). Ethics has been a part of the leadership conversation for nearly fifty years when styles such as servant and transformational emerged (Northouse, 2013), but there has been a disconnect for leaders when they find themselves working in different cultures (Jones & Millar, 2010).

Corporate scandals have revealed a need for leaders who are governed by an ethical system that values people and the environment over financial gain (Jones & Millar, 2010). It is believed my many there is no limit to profitability for corporations, so there is no voice to indicate when enough is enough, or too much (Jones & Millar, 2010). Business scholars are beginning to point to the need for values to manage corporate advancements, citing that values are critically important to the direction of human behavior at the center of corporate exploits (Grojean et al., 2004). Values are cognitive statements which support interests of social environments and they motivate behavior by directing emotional intensity of individuals; finally, values are standards that actions are judged and justified and are acquired by socialization activities and experiences (Grojean et al., 2010). The existence of values in global leadership provide the ethical compass needed when working with people from different cultures.

Ethics are the heart of leadership (Ciulla, 2004), and people are the benefactors or victims of leadership. Ethically void leaders who commit evil acts, even on a small scale, are no longer affordable in a world where globalization is the basis of much of the world’s economy (Jones & Millar, 2010). Global leaders must be educated to value human beings and the environment, regardless of culture, over material goods and financial advancement (Jones & Millar, 2010).


Ciulla, J. B. (2004). Ethics and Leadership Effectiveness. In The Nature of Leadership (pp. pp. 302–327). Thousand Oaks, Calif: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Grojean, M. W., Resick, C. J., Dickson, M. W., & Smith, D. B. (2004). Leaders, Values, and Organizational Climate: Examining Leadership Strategies for Establishing an Organizational Climate Regarding Ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 55(3), 223–241.

Jones, M., & Millar, C. (2010). About Global Leadership and Global Ethics, and a Possible Moral Compass: an Introduction to the Special Issue. Journal of Business Ethics, 93, 1–8.

Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: theory and practice (6th ed). Thousand Oaks: SAGE.


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