Ethical Leadership

No one wake up one day and say they will be unethical, however small acts can build up to unethical behavior (Prentice, 2007). This conclusion on ethics is similar to a slippery slope argument. Understandably, unethical people and unethical actions aren’t equivalent to evil people or evil actions (Prentice, 2007). As stated by Chapman and Sisodia (2015), “Ethics is people.” Ethics usually involves and revolves around people. However, good intentions are not enough to ensure ethical behavior (Prentice, 2007). Thus, Prentice outlined how unethical decisions could be made:

  • Obedience to authority: following orders blindly
  • Conformity bias: observing others in a group and conforming to consciously or unconsciously
  • Incrementalism: the slippery slope argument
  • Group think: pressures to not stand out from a group consensus
  • Over-optimism: irrational beliefs led by a strong tendency of optimistic beliefs
  • Overconfidence: irrational beliefs led by a strong tendency of confidence
  • Selfserving bias: gathering information that only strengthens one’s views or self-interest and discarding challenging viewpoints
  • Framing: how a problem or situation is framed can yield different results
  • Sunk costs: continual consideration and loyalty to a bad idea, just because a significant amount or resources have been poured into the idea
  • The tangible, the close and the near term: having something tangible that is near you and close by weights more than those that are separated by distance or time or in the abstract
  • Loss aversion: people prefer not to act for fear of losing something
  • Endowment effect: people getting attached to something


End decision: According to Prentice (2007) one way to not fall into the trap of an unethical decision is to check your personal biases at the door.


  • Chapman, B. & Sisodia, R. (2015). Everybody matters: The extraordinary power of caring for your people like family. New York, Penguin.
  • Prentice, R. A. (2007). Ethical decision making: More needed than good intentions. Financial Analysis Journal, 63(6), 17–30.

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