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Ethical Leadership


Ethical leadership is knowing your core values and having the courage to live them in all parts of your life in service of the common good.

The following are reflections questions on your personal journey toward ethical leadership:

  • Will you be the same person at work? At home? In the community?
  • Will you have the courage to live out your values when there is pressure to compromise or rationalize?
  • How do your values contribute to the common good?


The 4-V Model of Ethical Leadership

The 4-V Model of Ethical Leadership is a framework that aligns the internal (beliefs and values) with the external (behaviors and actions) for the purpose of advancing the common good. The model was created by Center founder Dr. Bill Grace based on his formal leadership research and personal passions around faith and ethics.

At the Center for Ethical Leadership we have found that people who want to become leaders who make a difference need to embrace an inner journey of integrity and make an outer commitment to the common good. Our leadership development approach begins with this inner journey. Individuals discover and claim their core values, develop a vision for how the world could be different, find their personal voice for expressing their vision.

They then move to an outer commitment of living and behaving in ways that serve the community and advance the common good. They ask, “leadership for what purpose?” The ultimate purpose of leadership is to shape a future that is visionary, inclusive, and enables all members of society to fulfill their needs, dreams and potentials.
4-V model

  • Values. Ethical leadership begins with an understanding of and commitment to our individual core values. By first discovering the values at the core of our identities, we begin the process of integrating our unique values with our choice-making on all levels of our personal and civic lives. Download our self-guided Core Values Exercise here.
  • Vision. Vision is the ability to frame our actions – particularly in service to others – within a real picture of what ought to be.
  • Voice. Claiming our voice is the process of articulating our vision to others in an authentic and convincing way that animates and motivates them to action.
  • Virtue. Understanding that we become what we practice, we foster virtue by practicing virtuous behavior – striving to do what is right and good. In this way, we develop the character of virtue. In particular, virtue stands for the common good. Ethical leaders ask, “How are my values, vision and voice in keeping with the common good?”

Dr. Grace identified three additional elements that are key to the development of ethical leadership.

YLOP youth Service.  Service connects Vision to Values, indicating that when our values are tested and tried through service to others, the latent vision within them is often revealed.

Polis.  “Polis” is the Greek word for city, and the root of the English word, “politics.”  As we learn to give voice to our vision in the context of a public act, we are engaged in the art of politics.

Renewal.  As Voice returns to Values, the territory of our work changes to renewal.  As we express our voice in multiple ways, we need to break from the action on a regular basis to consider if our actions are congruent with our values and vision.


EL coverEthical Leadership: In pursuit of the common good, written by the Center's founder, Bill Grace, is an excellent primer on ethical leadership, the 4-V model, and the common good. It is full of stories, examples and practical steps to advance the common good. $6.00, available in ebook format from (link will take you to another site to order).

CV imageDownload a self- guided version of our Core Values Exercise. One of the first steps of Ethical Leadership is knowing and claiming your core values, this simple exercise can be done individually or with a group and is a great way in to larger conversations about values and leadership.