Don’t Separate “Ethics” From “Leadership”

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Preparing Leaders For Ethical Leadership

Preparing leaders for ethical leadership is a long-term process.  It requires careful thought about the messages we are sending. For example, what message are we sending when we separate ethics training from other leadership training?

The Risks of “Separate” Ethics Training

I believe that we take an unnecessary risk when we separate ethics training from the rest of a leader’s development. When we separate ethics training and leadership training, we may be unintentionally sending the message that ethics is separate from leadership. What could be the harm of separating ethics from leadership?

The Impact on the Leader’s Mindset

If we separate “ethics” from “leadership” as leaders are learning, they could develop the mindset that ethics is compartmentalized and that ethical decisions are different from other decisions.

Leaders who receive separate ethics training that is not an integral component in the rest of their leadership development may think of it as they would think about a vaccination, to be tolerated once in a while, but not something that should govern their thinking, choices and behavior every day.

Leaving Leaders to Fill in the Blanks

When ethics and leadership are not integrated during the learning process, leaders may have difficulty integrating ethics and leadership themselves in day-to-day practice.

Strong Leadership Without Ethics

One of the most worrisome possibilities of teaching ethics separately from leadership is this:

If we continue to teach leadership without its governing ethics and values built in, we could unintentionally be teaching people to use strong leadership that is outside of the boundaries of ethical behavior.


For more, see new book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 


  1. I disagree that leaders left to fill in the blanks and the consequence of such being… let’s say “not good”. Are not leaders free thinkers and just spirits? Ethics are simply a component of behavior and neither valorized or devalorized by being separate. Molding other people for leadership is a privilege. We are not teaching who to be but HOW to be. I do agree that boundaries are rational and keeping ethics within those boundaries has integral effects yet keeping ethics apart reinstates it’s intrinsic value in that it is not necessary to get vaccinated every day, you get it once and your good for life.


  2. I appreciate your article, and I agree that ethics does need to be integrated into leadership training. Otherwise, as you indicate, leaders are left to fill in the blanks…with all the potential unintended consequences.


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