Blog 4: Ethical Leadership VS Unethical Leadership


From Brown et al theory, Ethical leadership are the influential role models in organisations who shape attitudes and behaviours by demonstrating appropriate conduct in their own actions and interactions with others and by promoting ethical conduct by communication, reinforcement, and decision making (Neubert, Wu and Roberts 2013).

Generally, Ethical leadership is very important in the organisation which provides benefit with the positive effects and positive relationship through both individual and organisation. This is the examples of how influence in practice the ethical leadership for the organisation (Community Box, 2010):

–          Provide model ethical behavior to the community in the organisation

–          Build trust, creditability and respect both for individual and for the organisation

–          Lead to collaboration which creates good team-working in the organisation

–          Create good climate and atmosphere in the organisation

–          Increase the self-respect and moral of peoples in the organisation

In opposite, some organisations prefer to use “Unethical leadership” which is defined as the behaviors conducted and decisions made by organisational leaders that are illegal or violate moral standards, and those that impose processes and structures that promote unethical conduct by followers. This leadership style is motivated by greed and involves harming others to make profit. However, unethical leadership style can benefit in seeking the accomplishment organisational goals so that leaders can encourage corrupt and unethical acts within their organisation (Thornton L, 2012). There are various terms of unethical leader acts such as:

–          Abusive supervision – Subordinates’ perceptions of the extent to which supervisors engage in the sustained display of hostile verbal and nonverbal behaviours, excluding physical contact. (Tepper, 2000)

–          Supervisor undermining – Supervisory behaviour that is indended to hinder, over time, the ability of subordinates to establish and maintain positive interpersonal relationships, work-related success, and favorable reputations. (Greenbaum, Mawritz and Piccolo, 2012)

–          Toxic leadership – Leadership approach that harms peoples and even the company as well through the poisoning of enthusiasm, creativity, autonomy and innovative expression by over-control (Wilson-Starks, 2003).

–          Tyrannical leadership – Leadership that use their own power with cruel and oppressive tactics to take their own advantage rather than the well-being of their subjects and in the process (Glad, 2007).

These terms of leadership styles are oppressive, abusive, manipulative, and calculatingly undermining. Their actions are perceived as intentional and harmful which creates the source of legal action against employers (Tepper, 2000).


Good example of unethical successful company is Apple – the world’s most valuable company and one of its most profitable in the global brand. This most admired company is also among its least ethical with three reasons. Firstly, the impacts of Apple’s actions are greater and harmful by avoiding tax on profit from transferring intellectual property. This tax is valuable into the cost in the U.S. Treasury approximately $2.4 billion and can make Apple to have highest profitability. Secondly, the role models are pioneers of bad behaviour that is going to have much more pernicious effects than innovative avoidance by an obscure company. This shows that Apple has low responsibility for ethical leadership but we can agree that they rightly expect visible individual leaders and corporations to hold themselves to the highest standards. Lastly, Apple is so aggressively in trying to find every last loophole in the tax code. This is caused to push any workers in their organisation to exhaustion and suicide in Chinese sweatshop because of tyrannical leadership style in the organisation. Based on three reasons, Apple is still be one of the most profitability company and Americans take such pride in Apple brand by using unethical leadership (Callahan D, 2012).

In conclusion, even though unethical leadership can help some organisation to achieve the objectives and goals with the profitability into the company, but this leadership style can create the negative effects such as the pessimistic of employee attitudes, difficulty of recruitment and bad work environment. These impacts could happen in the future and in the long-term period which may damage the company image toward the employee trust and customer thinking. So, the manager should focus on the ethical leadership rather than unethical leadership because ethical leadership is sustainable method that creates many positive effects in the overall performance of company through the individual and group of peoples in the organisation in the long-term period. Contrast with the unethical leadership style that is difficult to predict in the successful of the business in the long-term period.


[1] Thornton L (2012) What is Unethical Leadership? [online] available from <> [19 June 2013]

[2] Tepper (2000) Consequence of Abusive Supervision. The Academy of Management Journal (43) pp.178-190

[3] Glad (2007) Tyrannical Leadership [online] available from <> [19 June 2013]

[4] Community Box (2010) Ethical Leadership [online] available from <> [19 June 2013]

[5] Wilson-Stark (2003) Toxic Leadership [online] available from <http://‎> [19 June 2013]

[6] Neubert, Mitchell and Wu (2013) The Influence of Ethical Leadership and Regulatory Focus on Employee Outcomes [online] available from <> [19 June 2013]

[7] Callahan D (2012) Apple iCheat: How the World’s Biggest Company Also Became the Most Unethical [online] available from <> [19 June 2013]


8 thoughts on “Blog 4: Ethical Leadership VS Unethical Leadership

  1. natthapondw says:

    good job! good blog with good example!

  2. Sukhit Ngouvisitkul says:

    Tyrannical leadership in this article you wrote is the worst type of leadership that should never be exercise at any level in the organisation. To be the head of any organisation you must set a good example to your subordinates. Positive thinking, hard work, patience,good listener,warm welcome manner,problem solver,honest behavior are all character required from a good leader. Other details you wrote above should be a part of a good leadership.

    • ngonapoom says:

      Thank you very much for your feedback. I would like to specific about the characteristics of good leader. However, because of word limitation and the real question from this blog is “giving opposite site of ethical leadership”. So, I cannot provide more information in this blog.

  3. Mook Nichakamon says:

    you should separate clearly about the topic of ethical and unethical leadership, maybe underline, highlight or make the topic bigger so that I can read and understand clearly

  4. Nabodee Ngouvisitkul says:

    Hello, Mr. Napoom. Yeah, I agree with you that although unethical leadership that leaders from the enterprises used could make the companies achieved their specific goals, it could not be a good way to use in long-run as it has lots of negative impacts that could consequence the companies to be failure in nearly future from improper practices. Based of my own experience, I have learned from the case of success from Tom shoes company that had succeed its organisation by used the strategy “One for One” to donate each of its product sold to the poor people from concerning good CSR that relied on ethical behaviour. So, in my opinion, ethical leadership should be introduce to the leaders within organisations to maintain sustainability as long-run benefits along with positive impacts to organisational culture.

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