Presentation Details

The Fourth International Conference on Knowledge, Culture and Change in Organisations

Ethical Dilemmas faced by Organisational Leaders: Learnings From the Public Sector

Dr Neil C. Cranston, Dr Lisa Catherine Ehrich, Dr Megan Kimber.

The paper reports on a research study investigating the way in which senior public servants identify and resolve ethical dilemmas. The study entailed conducting semi-structured in-depth interviews with six recently retired or separated senior public servants and contributed to the development of a model illustrating the components and process involved in identifying and resolving ethical dilemmas.

Four theoretical approaches to ethics and ethical dilemmas are canvassed. These approaches are consequentialism, non-consequentialism, virtue ethics and institutional ethics. Each of these provided input to the development of the model. The paper then discusses the model, the components of which include the critical situation that triggers the ethical dilemma; nine factors that impact on how the public servant views the situation and the options considered to be available in resolving the dilemma; and the implications arising from the decision that the public servant makes. We then apply the model to the interview data as a way of analysing different ethical dilemmas. Finally, we briefly consider some of the implications of the research for public sector leaders and offer suggestions for possible future research.


Dr Neil C. Cranston  (Bahamas)
Senior Lecturer
Centre for Innovation in Education Faculty of Education
Queensland University of Technology

Dr Neil Cranston is a Senior Lecturer and coordinator of the leadership and management area of interest in post-graduate programs in the Faculty of Education, QUT. His teaching and research interests include leadership and change, ethical dilemmas faced by leaders and effective management teams. He is a Fellow of the Australian College of Educators and a Fellow of the Australian Council for Educational Leaders.

Dr Lisa Catherine Ehrich  (Australia)

Dr Megan Kimber  (Australia)

  • Ethics
  • Ethical dilemmas
  • Decision-making

(Virtual Presentation, English)