What's the difference? Ethical leadership in public, hybrid, and private sector organisations

L. Heres, K.M. Lasthuizen

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Is there one best practice for ethical leadership? Studies suggest that the publicness of an organization can have important implications for leadership. Yet research on ethical leadership generally assumes that one ethical leadership style should fit all types of organization alike. This study explores the validity of that assumption by using qualitative interviews to unravel similarities and differences in how Dutch public, hybrid and private sector managers conceive ethical leadership. The results suggest that most aspects of ethical leadership may be transferable across public and private sectors. However, in comparison with their private sector counterparts, the managers operating in public and hybrid sector organizations placed greater value on being altruistic, showing concern for the common good, and being responsive, transparent and accountable to society at large. Moreover, whereas public and hybrid sector managers considered explicit and frequent communication about ethics to be a key component of ethical leadership, most of the private sector managers preferred communication strategies in which ethics was more implicitly embedded in discussions of, for instance, 'the business model' or 'customer relationships'. The results suggest further research on the contingencies of ethical leadership views and practices across different types of organizations is warranted. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-466
JournalJournal of Change Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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