n Journal of Public Administration - Overcoming ethical dilemmas in public organisations

Volume 50, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0036-0767



Public administration has recently become a greatly discussed topic as different organisations across the world try to introduce proper governance and greater accountability into their administrative structures. Besides the need to understand the concept of organisation and structure, which remains essential for the successful implementation of the objectives of public administration, public officials also need to understand the role of ethics in their actions and decisions. A literature review demonstrates that officials in these organisations, both in the public and private sectors, are confronted with various ethical dilemmas on a daily basis both in their actions and their decision making. Ethical behaviour is crucial if public officials wish to ensure that government programmes are implemented in the most effective and enduring manner within the scope of proper governance and accountability. Leaders in these institutions, as part of management guiding the strategic direction of an organisation, play a major role in ensuring that a culture of ethical behaviour prevails. This paper examines the core concepts of ethics in relation to leadership. It then explores some approaches that have been used in explaining ethics in organisations and the benefits of an ethical organisation. Thereafter the paper focuses on ethical leadership and how it influences the ethical culture of an organisation and its officials. In this section leaders' role in promoting ethical behaviour is highlighted. The paper concludes by providing some guidelines on how ethical behaviour in public organisations can be improved and maintained.

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