Professional and Organizational Leadership Role in Ethics Management: Avoiding Reliance on Ethical Codification and Nurturing Ethical Culture


The engineering profession has experienced some ethical cases that were rarely reported, scrutinized, or discussed because: they did not necessarily represent violations of existing codes even if they breached ethical principles; those within the organization were not prepared to take steps to address the issues or impose sanction; an/or some of the personnel associated with these cases resorted to silence to avoid being labeled as trouble-makers in their organizations and, perhaps, more broadly, in society. The goal of this paper is to heighten managerial awareness of ethical issues, interrelated ethical lapses, and appropriate responsive actions within professional engineering communities. As such, the authors reviewed recent well-known professional and organizational ethical cases including impact of leadership role and existing standards, and critically analyzed interrelated literature. The paper's case studies exemplify that because ethical issues are complex, intricate, and nuanced; bylaws are insufficient for establishing the inclusive culture for handling potential ethical situations. In fact, through what is known as the codification of ethics, it is possible that someone's conduct can totally fulfill all professional responsibilities but still be unethical. As such, ethical leadership is needed to provide the means for establishing appropriate norms so as to set the proper structures for addressing the diverse ethical matters. Perceptions about the responses of leaders to potential ethical lapses are a critical factor in formulating, changing, and maintaining ethical values at the individual and organizational levels. A leader's passive attitude toward ethical issues can be the signal for the ignored lapses to become the norm at not only the organizational level but also the society. Guided by the new Code of Ethics by the American Society of Civil Engineers, this paper aims to trigger the proper ethical behavior and expectations for the welfare of the engineering profession both in the present and future.


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Bylaws; Bystanders; Codifications; Ethical Codes; Ethical Culture; Ethical Norms; Ethics; Leadership; Principles; Standards; Values

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

1471-5546; 1353-3452

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


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Publication Date

01 Aug 2022

PubMed ID