The Ethical Challenges of Surgical Leadership

  • E. Christopher EllisonEmail author


Not a week goes by without news reports of organizational events that evolve into crises. These affect all sectors of the international and national economy, including commerce, business, athletics, education, and health care. Some events are unexpected and unavoidable. Some are the result of ethical breeches. The challenge to the surgical leader, or for that matter a leader in any profession or business, is to respond to unexpected events in an ethically responsible manner and to take steps to avoid such occurrences resulting from moral deviance by building a strong ethical organization and applying the principles of ethical leadership.

Ethics is fundamental to leadership in health care. A critical factor is the leader’s character. This chapter will examine the essential attributes of an ethical leader, the dark side of leadership, the principles of ethical leadership, and the process of ethical decision-making in day-to-day management. To be an effective and moral leader requires the dynamic and balanced management of six challenges: power, privilege, information, consistency, loyalty, and responsibility. Study cases will be provided for the reader’s analysis of ethical decision-making.


Ethics Ethical leadership Ethical organizational climates The virtues of leadership The surgeon as a leader Bad leadership Management of power Privilege  Information Consistency  Loyalty and responsibility  Processes for making ethical decision 


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Suggested Reading

  1. Ferreres AR, Angelos P, Singer EA (2017) Ethical issues in surgical care. Chicago, Illinois: American College of Surgeons. Dr. Ferreres and colleagues summarize many of the issues in ethical surgical care. This book is important for ethical leadership. This includes a tool box for surgical ethics. Important considerations are that of ethical issues in surgical intervention, conflicts of interest, and relationships with industry and ethical issues in the mentor–mentee relationship.Google Scholar
  2. Johnson CE (2018) Meeting the ethical challenges of leadership (6th ed.) Thousand Oaks, Ca.: SAGE. Craig Johnson is an authority on the ethical challenges of leadership. This sixth edition text is a guide to navigating the issues in ethics as they occur in day-to-day leadership. The scope is all areas of leadership. Many case studies are presented to assist the reader in further developing their skills as an ethical leader.Google Scholar
  3. The link above is to the guide to surgical leadership published by the Royal College of Surgeons of England. This covers all the essential elements of an effective surgical leader. It is highly recommended.

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SurgeryThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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