Ethics and Motivation

Ethics and Motivation

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An ethical leader can motivate other people. Such leaders are driven by ethical behavior. They are always striving to do the right thing. They can motivate people to act in a way that benefits their organization. They can delegate responsibilities that motivate employees (Latham, 2011). They respect other people. They encourage employees to freely express their ideas and views. They listen actively when other people are expressing their opinions. This motivates others to do what is best for everyone. However, leaders also can manipulate other people. Leaders with this ability use their power to derive outcomes (Latham, 2011). They do not respect or value others. They impose their views on other people. They have poor listening skills. They tend to make inflexible decisions that coerce other people into agreeing with their decisions. They are also unlikely to be transparent. This is an unethical strategy for leadership success.

Various motivational theories explain and support how leaders might behave ethically and unethically. According to expectancy theory, motivational forces, determine if a leader will behave ethically or unethically. When faced with alternative behavioral paths, leaders will choose the path with the highest motivational force. According to organizational theory, leaders will behave ethically or unethically depending on their ethical quality (Argandona, 2008). Also, leaders may justify their ethical or unethical behavior in terms of profit maximization with a focus on maximizing their effectiveness at the expense of the effectiveness of other people within the organization. Also, according to social exchange theory, leaders are more likely to engage in ethical behaviors and less likely to engage in harmful unethical behaviors if there is a positive social exchange relationship (Umphress & Bingham, 2011).


Argandona, A. (2008). Integrating ethics into action theory and organizational theory.             Journal of Business Ethics, 78(3), 435–446.

Latham, G. (2011). Work Motivation: History, Theory, Research, and Practice. SAGE          Publications, Inc.

Umphress, E. E., & Bingham, J. B. (2011). When Employees Do Bad Things for Good         Reasons: Examining Unethical Pro-Organizational Behaviors. Organization Science,      22(3), 621–640.