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A Student's Guide to Leadership

Decision Making
Leadership Characteristics & Traits
Share Your Thoughts! What Makes a GREAT leader?
Transformational Leadership
Decision Making
Motivate Your Team
Leadership Analysis - Winston Churchill
Leadership Analysis - Lee Kuan Yew
Leadership Analysis - Rudy Giuliani
Quiz - What's Your Leadership Potential?
Videos - Famous Speeches By Great Leaders
Further Training in Leadership
Handy links
Handy References

As a Leader, you will need to call the shots! Here is a handy guide to keep in mind when making decisons on behalf of your followers. Don't forget, there is no "I" in team!

There is no "I" in TEAM. But there is in ISOLATION, INTIMIDATON and IGNORANCE.

Ethics are an integral part of effective leadership and impact the decisions we make. In order to understand the topic of ethical decision making, we must first determine how “ethics” are derived. Ethics arise from habit and they are influenced by our values and morals. Our values are fluid and can change. They are our personal beliefs which are influenced by factors such as:



  • Religion
  • Education
  • Media
  • Peers
  • Parents and other early care givers
  • Life experiences
  • Our culture and social surroundings




Morals however, are more fundamental and it a nutshell, it helps us determine what is right, and what is wrong. Velasquez (1998, n.p) lists the five characteristics that distinguish moral standards as:


Deal with issues that can seriously injure or benefit

Can’t be changed by authority decisions

Felt to be more important than other values such as self-interest

Based on impartial considerations

Associated with emotions such as guilt, shame and remorse



Models of Ethical Decision Making


  • Utilitarianism – Also known as “Consequentialism,” decisions are justified if the outcomes produced are for the “greater good.” The ethical nature of the decision is made on the consequences of that decision. Some (bad) examples are slavery and wars.


  • Non-Consequentialism – There are no other choices but to follow that decision because it is an “obligation” or “duty.” These rules must be obeyed regardless of what may result. These are often derived from legal authority and rights, religious authority and human reason. Eg. Samurais, military institutions


  • Justice and Fairness – The model was developed by John Rawls and is based on two principles. Firstly, each person has to right to basic liberties and secondly, inequalities of wealth can only be justified if they are the greatest benefit of the least advantaged and they go with positions or appointments that are open to all in conditions of fair equality of opportunity.


  • Ethic of Care – This models helps us to justify our decisions on the basis that we have extra obligations to those we love and care about and we should nurture our relationships. The downfall of this model is bias and favouritism. In a business context, this means owing a duty or care to our employees.


  • Virtue Ethics – This model of decision making forces us to ask ourselves, “what are the traits of a morally good human being?” Our choices are a reflection of our character and integrity. These values will differ from one culture to another.


(Week 3 Lecture Slides - Ethical Leadership, 2007)

A Student's Guide to Leadership