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Strategic and Ethical Leadership Styles Comparison Essay

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Updated: Aug 26th, 2020


The success of any organization is largely dependent on the way it is managed. Since the leaders’ decision and behavior may be considered a decisive factor in the efficiency of the organizational business conduct and the employees’ productivity, the selection of right strategic approaches in leadership may have a significant favorable effect on the corporate performance and its outcomes. The strategic and ethical leadership are meant to address a set of issues of both internal and external character. Through the elaboration of leadership strategies, the executives may achieve success in managing and guiding their subordinates. While strategic leadership is rather focused on the increase of organizational efficiency through the evaluation of environments, ethical leadership is more concerned with the issues of moral and respectful business conduct. Despite the differences in approaches, both leadership styles provide the opportunities for organizational improvement, and their incorporation into the organizational regulation may allow the leaders to attain long-term sustainability in business.

Strategic Leadership

In the article “Strategic Leadership of Corporate Sustainability,” Robert Strand investigates the managerial strategies, their interrelations with the leaders’ organizational responsibilities, and the overall effects on business outcomes. The author highlights the concept of corporate sustainability and makes it a landmark for the leadership to follow. As Strand (2014) claims, “corporate sustainability refers to the integration of economic, environmental, and social considerations on the part of corporations” (p. 688). Therefore, organizational leaders need to address these aspects of corporate performance while developing a strategy.

Traditionally, strategic leadership focuses on the group of top management and its executive capabilities. The strategies may usually be task-oriented or employee-oriented, and through them, the leaders attempt to guide, support, and motivate the subordinates, communicate with them, and give feedback. The motivational aspect is essential to the strategic efficiency as it gives the employees the purpose for the effective fulfillment of their duties and increase of productivity. According to Strand (2014), the consideration of the concept of corporate sustainability by leadership allows the realization of the external advantages and disadvantages “that may have otherwise gone unrealized without concerted attention and coordination afforded by a strategic level position” (p. 687). In this way, by increasing the corporate social responsibilities, and inclusion of the concepts of sustainability into the organizational bureaucratic machinery, leaders attain the opportunity to expand their focus. As a result, the organization accumulates the competitive advantages that help it to overcome the crises, forecast it, and prevent the undesired outcomes.

Ethical Leadership

In the article “Ethical Leadership” written in 2010, Mihelic, Lipicnik, and Tekavcic review the main conceptual and practical constituents of ethical leadership. Ethical leadership is primarily concerned with decision-making and its consequences. According to the principles of ethics, the top managerial group needs to make the decision based on fairness, responsibility, and respect (Mihelic, Lipicnik, & Tekavcic, 2010, p. 31). The leaders are regarded as main contributors to the dissemination and incorporation of ethical values into the organizational culture. Thus, the efficiency of ethical leadership defines the extent to which the subordinates accept the principles of ethical behavior at the workplace and comply with them.

“Ethical leaders’ conduct serves as role-modeling behavior for followers as their behavior is accepted as appropriate” (Mihelic et al., 2010, p. 33). Therefore, communication may be regarded as the main instrument of ethical leadership. The establishment of a sound and positive leader-employee relationships is the only way for the development of ethical behavior in the subordinates.

Through the consideration of the universal ethical and moral principles, and by addressing the needs and interests of a vast number of stakeholder groups, the leaders represent the organization as a good corporate citizen and improve its reputation in the external environments. In this way, in comparison to the competitors who do not pay respect to ethical conduct, the organization gains the advantages of the customer attraction, brand awareness, and, as a result, the profitability increase. Moreover, ethical leadership is regarded as a vital element in the fulfillment of the corporate mission and vision; it serves as the motivation for the achievement of the long-term and short-term goals (Mihelic et al., 2010, p. 32). Overall, ethical leadership indicates the moral health of the organization which is regarded as the main construct of corporate sustainability and success.

Comparison of Ethical and Strategic Leadership

Traditionally, the strategic leadership is primarily focused on the problems of the employees’ management and regulation of their performance in a way that would allow the improvement of multiple organizational indicators and would lead to positive financial results. However, the strategic management that involves the consideration of corporate sustainability has a wider scope and provides greater opportunities for the leaders (Strand, 2014). According to this “neo-institutional theoretical framework” introduced by Strand (2014) in his article, the corporate sustainability responsibilities imply the necessity to address the needs of the organizational stakeholders in the external environment (p. 687). In this way, the given version has some conformity points with ethical leadership the main focus of which is on the ethical and moral aspects of business conduct.

Ethical leadership is primarily concerned with the universal principles of morality. By addressing the external wide-scope values, the leaders target the internal organizational environment as well. Thus, strategic leadership and ethical leadership may be considered similar when talking about the patterns of their external and internal functioning and their effects. At the same time, the main and evident distinction of these leadership styles is the accent on ethics in ethical leadership. It is possible to assume that ethical leadership thus has a wider scope – it may include the strategic approach and consider corporate sustainability issues as well. But strategic leadership in itself doesn’t emphasize the importance of morality and fairness in business conduct, and it is rather concerned with the practical and utilitarian aspects of the organizational operation.


The literature review makes it clear that strategic and ethical leaderships have some similar and distinct features. It is possible to say that the main similarity of these approaches is in the overall goals of the organizational leaders. Both ethical and strategic leadership allow the managers to increase the employees’ productivity, improve communication and motivation, and integrate the corporate values into the organizational culture. But the main distinction of the strategies is the leadership focus and the fashion of the achievement of the goals. While strategic leadership is oriented towards the task performance and improvement of relationships with the employees directly, ethical leadership focuses on the improvement of organizational behavior by highlighting ethics and respectful conduct.

Strategic leadership is an essential part of organizational success. However, the consideration of ethical issues and the reference to a greater number of external stakeholders’ interests may provide additional benefits for organizations, such as to improve reputation, and the increase in customer attraction.


Strand, R. (2014). Journal of Business Ethics, 123(4), 687-706. Web.

Mihelic, K. K., Lipicnik, B., & Tekavcic, M. (2010). Ethical leadership. International Journal of Management and Information Systems, 14(5), 31-41. Web.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Strategic and Ethical Leadership Styles Comparison." August 26, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/strategic-and-ethical-leadership-styles-comparison/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Strategic and Ethical Leadership Styles Comparison'. 26 August.

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