Why Ethical Leadership in Healthcare is Important

James Hourihan, Author

In the healthcare industry, ethical leadership is pivotal in terms of quality healthcare delivery, patient satisfaction, staff engagement, and institutional efficiency. 

It refers to the ability of administrators, managers and practitioners to make decisions that are grounded in ethical principles and aligned with the overall mission, vision, and values of an organisation. 

To understand its importance, we will delve into the essential elements of ethical leadership and how it can bring various benefits to a healthcare environment. 

What is Ethical Leadership?

Ethical leaders can be defined as ‘outstanding role models altruistic, honest, trustworthy and fair individuals who show true concern and support for their subordinates, as well as care about their broader society’ (Treviño, L.K., Hartmann, L.P. and Brown, M., 2000). 

In healthcare, ethical leadership involves prioritising the well-being of patients, staff and the community as a whole. A good leader fosters a workplace culture of trust, collaboration, and transparency, while holding everyone accountable for their actions. 

They act with integrity and honesty even when it means making difficult decisions, sharing all possible recovery plans and taking responsibility for any mistakes. To summarise, an ethical leader ‘practises what they preach’ and inspires those they work with to do the same.

The Principles of Ethical Leadership in Healthcare 

Some primary principles of ethical leadership in healthcare include:

Respect – for all individuals regardless of position, culture, ethnicity or background and allowing patients to be autonomous regarding their own care.

Beneficence – involves healthcare leaders acting in the best interests of their patients above everything else.

Non-maleficence – a fundamental principle in medicine of avoiding harm to patients during treatment in order to maximise favourable results. 

Justice – fair allocation of resources, impartial access to healthcare services and consequences for unethical conduct.

Veracity – communicating openly and honestly among all stakeholders, including patients, employees, and government agencies.

Trust – the foundation for building healthy relationships between healthcare providers and their patients.

How Ethical Leadership Benefits Healthcare Organisations 

Develop Confidence Skills

Ethical leadership sets clear expectations and guidelines for conduct that give healthcare workers the confidence to make ethical decisions. It instils accountability and transparency, ensuring they can offer the best care possible, especially when managing difficult or challenging situations.

Support in Times of Crises

Ethical leaders handle crises with clarity and compassion, promoting calmness and security among the team members. This encourages an atmosphere of empathy and honesty, helping organisations solve problems quickly and effectively meet the needs of individuals. 

Better Employee Morale 

Leading with ethics promotes inclusivity, showing employees that they are valued and their contributions matter. Thus, fostering an environment of respect, which boosts morale and stimulates continuous learning and professional growth.

Improves Patient Outcomes 

Lastly, leaders who deploy ethical principles offer patients a greater sense of security and trust in their healthcare providers’ capabilities. By advocating for patients’ rights, this leads to better relationships and improves outcomes overall. 

An Ethical Approach to Behaviour Management 

Our Timian training programme goes beyond mere anger management. It combines trauma-informed services, neuro-sensory integration, and positive behaviour support for a holistic approach to crisis prevention. 

We empower your staff with the skills and knowledge to decrease the need for restrictive interventions and create a safe and respectful workplace for all. 

Call 0800 987 4075 to book a course and make a positive difference with our ethical and effective positive behaviour management strategies.

James Hourihan MSc Econ | FRSA | MIOD


Timian Learning and Development


Sign up to our newsletter to receive our helpful learning resources for free

Further Reading From Timian