This module is a resource for lecturers  




This section contains suggestions for in-class and pre-class educational exercises, while a post-class assignment for assessing student understanding of the Module is suggested in a separate section.

The exercises in this section are most appropriate for classes of up to 50 students, where students can be easily organized into small groups in which they discuss cases or conduct activities before group representatives provide feedback to the entire class. Although it is possible to have the same small group structure in large classes comprising a few hundred students, it is more challenging and the lecturer might wish to adapt facilitation techniques to ensure sufficient time for group discussions as well as providing feedback to the entire class. The easiest way to deal with the requirement for small group discussion in a large class is to ask students to discuss the issues with the four or five students sitting close to them. Given time limitations, not all groups will be able to provide feedback in each exercise. It is recommended that the lecturer makes random selections and tries to ensure that all groups get the opportunity to provide feedback at least once during the session. If time permits, the lecturer could facilitate a discussion in plenary after each group has provided feedback.

All exercises in this section are appropriate for both graduate and undergraduate students. However, as students' prior knowledge and exposure to these issues vary widely, decisions about appropriateness of exercises should be based on their educational and social context. The lecturer is encouraged to relate and connect each exercise to the key issues of the Module.


Exercise 1: Leader's view

Leaders differ in how they view human nature and the tactics they use to get things done through others. This exercise is intended to encourage students to reflect carefully on their current views on leadership and to stimulate their interest in learning more about ethical leadership. The lecturer asks the student to complete the following questionnaire, either in class or before they arrive to class, and facilitates a discussion in class around the questions. The questionnaire is adapted from Richard Daft's The Leadership Experience (p. 166; see References in Key issues section of the Module).

Think carefully about each item below and indicate whether you agree or disagree with it. Also indicate whether you think your class mates would agree or disagree with each item.


Me  (Agree / Disagree)

My class mates  (Agree / Disagree)

1. Overall, it is better to be humble and honest than to be successful and dishonest.


2. If you trust someone completely, you are asking for trouble


3. A leader should take action only when it is morally right.


4. A good way to handle people is to tell them what they like to hear.


5. There is no excuse for telling a white lie to someone.


6. It makes sense to flatter important people.


7. Most people who get ahead as leaders have led very moral lives.


8. It is better not to tell people the real reason you did something unless it benefits you to do so.


9. The majority of people are brave, good, and kind.


10. It is hard to get to the top without sometimes cutting corners.


Lecturer guidelines

Lecturers should encourage students to share their answers and the reasons behind their choices. Students can do this in small groups or simply by turning to the student next to them. Lecturers should not evaluate or criticize students' answers; rather they should encourage students to share what they really believe, and direct them to think deeply. Ambiguity and differences are expected to appear in students' arguments. Lecturers could summarize the discussion, and explain to the students that in order to resolve the ambiguity and differences that were expressed, they could obtain more knowledge about ethical leadership, including the leader's ethical responsibility, the importance of ethical leadership in making a leader effective, how to make ethical decisions and ways to promote ethical leadership.


Exercise 2: Decision cards

This exercise involves distributing cards to students, asking them to decide in which "box" to place the cards, and to consider the choices made by their fellow students.

The lecturer could provide students with the following instructions:

  1. Please read the decision cards distributed to you and decide in which of the four boxes you would like to place each card. The boxes are titled as follows: "in all cases", "in most cases", "in some cases" and "never".
  2. Once you have decided in which box to place each decision card, write the number of the card in the selected box.
  3. After you complete the task, compare the selections of the student sitting next to you with your own selections and identify any differences.
  4. Focusing on the differences in your selections, discuss with your fellow student the reasons for your respective selection decisions.
  5. Following the discussion, feel free to change your selections. Please show your changes by drawing an arrow to the new box.
  6. Take note of the number of cards you changed.
Decision cards
Decision Card 1
Decision Card 2
Decision Card 3

It is wrong for leaders to accept gifts from followers.

Leaders must consider the consequences of their actions and the effects they will have.

Leaders must always be role models for all followers.

Decision Card 4
Decision Card 5
Decision Card 6

Under all conditions, leaders must ensure that all followers participate in the decision making.

It is enough for leaders to become an expert, as human relationships do not matter.

Leaders must act in accordance with the principle of equality.



Box 1:


Box 2:

in some cases

Box 3:

in most cases

Box 4:

in all cases

Decision Card 1





Decision Card 2





Decision Card 3





Decision Card 4





Decision Card 5





Decision Card 6






Lecturer guidelines

The purpose of this card exercise is to encourage students to make decisions in given situations and to evaluate the decisions' ethical dimensions from the point of view of others. Lecturers could design their own cards and adapt the exercise accordingly.


Exercise 3: Pop culture examples of ethical leadership

Either during class or at home before the class, ask the students to research online a current example of ethical leadership among pop culture figures and celebrities. Ask each student to provide an explanation as to why this figure or celebrity demonstrates ethical leadership.

Alternatively, ask each student to prepare a two-minute video clip presenting the pop-culture ethical leader of their choice.

Lecturer guidelines

The point of this exercise is to encourage students to appreciate how ethical leadership impacts on and relates to their own lives, and to articulate what ethical leadership means in their own terms. Students should feel free to select any pop culture figure as an example of ethical leadership, but the lecturer could stimulate the students by providing some well-known examples from their region such as Bono, Oprah Winfrey, Beyoncé, Ivorian reggae singer Alpha Blondie, Nigerian rapper Falz, or Chinese basketball player Yao Ming.


Exercise 4: Case study Telling the truth

Invite students to consider the following case, taken from Robbins, Stephen P. and David A. De Cenzo (1998). Fundamentals of management: Essential concepts and applications (2nd ed.). New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, p. 28.

One of your employees has just been diagnosed with a treatable form of cancer. He has confided in you about the status of his health. He has also asked you not to say a word to anyone because he considers his health to be a personal matter. Over the next few months, this employee is absent frequently, especially during his radiation treatments. His absences are not a major problem for the company because his duties involve direct computer work which he can do while at home. However, some of your other employees have asked you what's wrong with him. You politely decline to discuss his situation. As a result, the other employees think that their co-worker is getting special treatment, and are ready to go to your boss to complain. You are confident that if they only knew of the employee's illness, they would understand. But you promised him not to reveal the reason for his absence. At the same time, it would create unnecessary and unhelpful problems for him if other employees complain about him.

Ask students to discuss the following questions:

  • Should you reveal to your employees the reason for their co-worker's absence? Why or why not?
  • Should you explain to your boss what is really going on?
  • How would you handle this situation?

Lecturer guidelines

Gives students a few minutes to read the short case and prepare individual answers to the three questions. Have students discuss their answers in small groups and elect a spokesperson to provide feedback to the plenary group. Ask the group spokespersons to provide feedback. Summarize by explaining the dilemma (choosing between telling the truth and being loyal to a friend), and highlighting how the application of different ethical theories might lead to different actions.


Exercise 5: Case study: Stay neutral or not

You are the CEO of a large online platform that allows C2C business transactions (transactions directly between customers). At a leadership summit, the CEO of a video game company approaches you to express his concern over discovering a bootlegged version of a video game his company had began to produce on your platform. The CEO goes on to say that his company stopped the production of the game after receiving too much criticism over how violent the game is. He asks if you would consider taking down the game, not only because it is a bootlegged version, but also because it is violent. Previously, you have never evaluated the products sold on your platform since your company is protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA states that an online platform like yours cannot be held liable for selling any particular product so long as the company does not selectively police its site. If your company were to remove this product from the platform then, under the DMCA, you should review all products being sold. This would require the hiring of a new team, along with the added risk of significantly reduced transactions on your platform. If you stay neutral and let the product stay, you could risk criticism from the public for allowing the sale of such a violent game.

Ask students to discuss the decision they would have made if they were in this leader's position, and the reasons for that decision.

Lecturer guidelines

This case study involves a somewhat more complex ethical conflict for a leader compared to the previous one. The guidelines for conducting this exercise are similar to the previous one: After giving the students a few minutes to read the short case and prepare individual answers, have them discuss their answers in small groups and elect a spokesperson to provide feedback to the plenary group. Ask the groups' spokespersons to provide feedback. Summarize by explaining the dilemma and highlighting how the application of different ethical theories might lead to different actions.


Exercise 6: Turning knowledge into practice

The idea behind this exercise is to turn knowledge about ethical leadership into practical guidelines. Students are encouraged to carefully examine the ten activities Daft associates with a moral leader, and then to review the five principles of ethical leadership suggested by Northouse (see Key Issues section of the Module).

Daft summarizes the following ten activities of a moral leader:

  1. Develop, articulate, and uphold high moral principles.
  2. Focus on what is right for the organization as well as all the people involved.
  3. Set the example you want others to live by.
  4. Be honest with yourself and others.
  5. Drive out fear and eliminate issues that cannot be discussed.
  6. Establish and communicate ethics policies.
  7. Develop a backbone - show zero tolerance for ethical violations.
  8. Reward ethical conduct.
  9. Treat everyone with fairness, dignity, and respect, from the lowest to the highest level of the organization.
  10. Do the right thing in both your private and professional life - even if no one is looking.

Northouse's five principles of ethical leadership are as follows:

  1. Ethical Leaders Respect Others: To do so means always to treat others as ends in themselves and never as means to ends. Respect means that a leader listens closely to followers, is empathic, and is tolerant of opposing points of view. It means treating followers in ways that confirm their beliefs, attitudes, and values.
  2. Ethical Leaders Serve Others: Leaders who serve are altruistic. They place their followers' welfare foremost in their plans. In practicing the principle of service, ethical leaders must be willing to be follower-centered, must place others' interests foremost in their work, and must act in ways that will benefit others.
  3. Ethical Leaders Are Just: Ethical leaders are concerned about issues of fairness and justice. They make it a top priority to treat all of their followers in an equal manner. As a rule, no one should receive special treatment or special consideration except when his or her particular situation demands it. When individuals are treated differently, the grounds for different treatment must be clear and reasonable, and must be based on moral values.
  4. Ethical Leaders Are Honest: Being honest is not just about telling the truth. It has to do with being open with others and representing reality as fully and completely as possible.
  5. Ethical Leaders Build Community: Ethical leadership demands attention to a civic virtue. Leaders and followers need to attend to more than their own mutually determined goals. They need to attend to the community's goals and purpose. An ethical leader is concerned with the common good, in the broadest sense, paying attention to how the changes proposed by a leader and followers will affect the larger organization, the community, and society.

After carefully considering the approaches of Northouse and Daft, Students are encouraged to critically evaluate these approaches, and come up with their own set of practical guidelines for ethical leadership.

Lecturer guidelines

The lecturer provides an overview of these two approaches, and a few examples of how this can work in practice. Students are asked to study the lists of activities individually, and then discuss them in small groups. Students should also consider these approaches critically. Do they agree with the lists? Invite students to prioritize items on the lists (for example by picking their top three) and also to suggest new activities that can be added to the lists. Each small group is given the opportunity to present their top three list to the entire class and indicate the reasons behind their choices. The lecturer captures this on a whiteboard in order to be able to identify common activities across the groups. After all groups have presented their lists, the lecturer summarizes and concludes the exercise.

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