Can ethical leadership be taught? In the typical business school, this question would be interpreted, or “refurbished.” Can students be trained to become ethical leaders? While often conflated contemporaneously, these two questions are indeed distinct. Instructors, professors and school administrators should first decide which question is more relevant to their purposes. The question chosen should fit with the education, pedagogical method, and philosophy of education of not only the instructor or professor, but also the school itself. In this essay, I distinguish the two questions in order to unpack them with their full significance.
The question, Can ethical leadership be taught, can be interpreted as being centered on knowledge of the concept and theories of ethical leadership. Can this particular knowledge be taught? That is to say, if a student were to ask, What is ethical leadership? could the instructor or professor answer with a definition? Have scholars even come up with an agreed-up definition? More broadly, how does ethical leadership as a concept differ from that of leadership more generally? Do theories of ethical leadership explain it rather than merely being oriented to how to? Furthermore, do any extant theories relate the concept to other, related concepts such as strategic leadership or even strategy? If so, can such theories be taught to the students at a particular level of education? Last but not least, would teaching the theories toward an understanding of what ethical leadership is be in line with the approach of the particular business school? Some schools are more commercially-oriented than others. I contend that two basic schools of thought can be identified and used as pedagogical approaches for teaching ethical leadership.