Introduction to Ethical Leadership, and Fostering Ethical Practice

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This section introduces ethical leadership. The readings offer definitions of ethical leadership, emphasize the role of leaders in promoting ethical practice, and provide strategies and suggestions for leadership development. As a learner, you will consider how ethical leadership can apply to your nursing practice and how it relates to other leadership concepts, theories, and styles.


Activity #1

Complete the required readings. 

  1. Denier, Y., Dhaene, L. & Gastmans, C. (2019). ‘You can give them wings to fly’: a qualitative study on values-based leadership in health care.  BMC Med Ethics, 20(35). (2019).
  2. Franczukowska, A. A., Krczal, E., Knapp, C., & Baumgartner, M. (2021). Examining ethical leadership in health care organizations and its impacts on employee work attitudes: An empirical analysis from Austria. Leadership in Health Services, 34(3), 229-247.
  3. Fox, E., Crigger, BJ., Botterell, M., & Bauck, P. (undated). Ethical leadership, fostering an ethical environment & culture. National Center for Ethics in Health Care. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Pages 13-39.


Activity #2

Next, watch this video of John Heiser, former President & Chief Operations Officer of Magnetrol (2017) on ethical leadership.

Video: Ethical Leadership (4:59)


Heiser (2017) briefly describes what ethical leadership “looks” like with some examples. Although Heiser’s experience is not specific to healthcare, consider the following:


  • Who are the stakeholders to engage with, understand, and gain feedback from?
  • Are you being authentic (self-reflective and self-aware, honest)?
  • Do you “walk the talk”?



Activity #3

Self-reflection is an important part of being an ethical leader. Complete the Ethical Leadership Self-Assessment Tool.


Note: this is a reflective exercise only, you can choose to use and complete the action plan that follows the self-assessment. The template is based on the components of the Ethical Leadership Compass presented by Fox and colleagues. In your organization, there may not be a developed ethics program but consider what resources you do have and how you might seek guidance on ethical concerns.


Activity #4

Finally, reflect on a recent decision you have made in your practice. Using the ethical leadership perspective, are there components that you did not consider? Please use the following checklist to help guide your reflection: Ethical Decision Making – Quality Check – U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  


To help you move learning into action, bring the checklist to an upcoming meeting and assess a recent or pending decision with your team using the questions provided.


Check Your Understanding



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Leadership for Nurses in Clinical Settings Copyright © 2022 by Dr. Kirsten Woodend, Dr. Catherine Thibeault, Dr. Manon Lemonde, Dr. Janet McCabe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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