Leadership and Change: The Case for Greater Ethical Clarity

Bernard Burnes, Rune Todnem By

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This article addresses the relationship between the ethics underpinning leadership and change. It examines the developments in leadership and change over the last three decades and their ethical implications. It adopts a consequentialist perspective on ethics and uses this to explore different approaches to leadership and change. In particular, the article focuses on individual (egoistic) consequentialism and utilitarian consequentialism. The article argues that all leadership styles and all approaches to change are rooted in a set of values, some of which are more likely to lead to ethical outcomes than others. It also argues that all stakeholders in an organisation have a role to play in ensuring ethical outcomes. It concludes that in order to achieve sustainable and beneficial change, those who promote and adopt particular approaches to leadership and change must provide greater ethical clarity about the approaches they are championing. © 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)239-252
    Number of pages13
    JournalJournal of Business Ethics
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


    • Consequentialism
    • Emergent change
    • Ethical change
    • Ethical leadership
    • Planned change
    • Utilitarianism


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