Reflections on Ethical Leadership

Reflections on Ethical Leadership

Ethical leadership is an important aspect of the social work profession. Leading ethically is viewed as a standard of the social work profession and social work leaders need to understand what is appropriate and inappropriate and perform their jobs of leading in a functional manner (Northouse, 2021). Ethical leadership in the social work profession can be defined as the ability of leaders to do the right things and the understanding of following the standards and values of social work when under pressure. Ethical leadership in social work is grounded on the NASW Code of Ethics which provides critical standards and values. Ethical leadership incorporates all the standards of social work including justice, dignity, integrity, service, the significance of human relations, and competence (NASW, 2017). When social workers rise to leadership levels, their influence scope for adhering to the ethical standards grows. Executive-level social workers, managers, and supervisors carry more responsibilities including policy implementations, supervision, hiring, and overseeing their agencies.

An ethical leader in social work lives up to the standards of NASW that are critical not only to his or her organization but also to the entire society. To be ethical leaders’ individuals need to observe the values and standards of the social work profession. By leading ethically, they set a good example to all social workers and the general society concerning the importance of some actions and the injustice of specific actions. Ethical leaders engage in service and lead others in their services. Their service can be seen in activities like team building, empowerment, mentoring, guiding, and advocacy. Ethical leaders are also the ones who ensure that implemented policies serve the needs of different communities, groups, and the general society (Northouse, 2021). They have high competence in their work, show empathy, have integrity, and show compassion and benevolence.

Even though ethical leadership is critical, there are some challenges to being an ethical leader. Numerous disputes and conflicts are resulting from the conflicting ethical standards and values of social work and the standards of certain communities (Northouse, 2021). Thus it may be challenging for leaders to solve these issues. Also, some principles of ethical leadership are at the risk of violation based on individual or personal perspectives. Thus, leaders should be aware of their ethical values and standards.



















Northouse, P. G. (2021). Introduction to leadership: Concepts and practice (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Sage.


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