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Ethics, Leadership and Governance

Key information

Subject area:

Public Policy, Politics & Security

Course type:

Executive Education

Credit level:


Credit value:



4 weeks

Available course dates:

To be confirmed

Course overview

Often, unnoticed, we employ ethical decision-making on a daily basis. An individual can choose to drive above the speed limit to get home faster, or an employee could lie about impending redundancies because they were asked to do so by their manager. The ethical solution to these cases might seem obvious, we can easily find cases of individuals or leaders are wilfully selecting the unethical solution, but why? And what can be done to prevent this?

“Ethical muscle memory”, as it’s sometimes called, is the idea that it is easier to do the ethically right thing if you have experienced a similar situation in which you are already familiar with the ethical landscape of the problem. 

The aim of this module is to promote and inspire this kind of engagement. We will examine how, even when equipped with appropriate ethical decision-making tools, both individuals and organisations can act in unethical ways, often without even being aware that what they are doing is wrong. It will explore the factors that can erode, mask or hide ethical decision-making that can be minimised or at least ameliorated. It will then examine how the right kinds of behaviours at the individual, leadership, and institutional levels can be promoted.

What does this course cover?

Week 1: What is ethics?

Exploring the origin of ethics, we will examine the relationship between ethics, morality, and law. Following this, we learn to identify ethical problems vs dilemmas and, why it matters for your organisation.

Week 2: Ethical Decision-Making Tools – strengths and weaknesses

In this week we weigh the strength and weaknesses of various ethical decision-making tools such as consequence-based reasoning and duty-based approaches.

Week 3: Why do things go wrong?

Apples, barrels, and barrel makers. The final week will be an investigation into reasons why ethical failures occur, drawing on psychological and environmental causes; and, subsequently, what leaders can do to prevent them.

What will I achieve?

Upon completion of this module, students will be able to:

  • Identify and apply the best ethical approach and reasoning in different institutional and organisational settings.
  • Anticipate and avoid the pitfalls of ethical failures that leaders and individuals make through practical, preventative, steps.
  • Propose actions, plans, and strategies to foster an appropriately ethical climate within an organisation.

Who will I learn with?

David Whetham

David Whetham

Professor of Ethics and the Military Profession

Olga Siemers

Olga Siemers

Senior Lecturer in Public Policy

Who is this for?

This short course is for mid-career professionals. Standard entry requirements are a 2:1 degree plus 3 years of relevant work experience. Applicants without a 2:1 or higher degree are welcome to apply and typically require 5+ years of relevant work experience.

How will I be assessed?

One written assignment, plus participation in webinars and discussion forums.

Our modules offer high levels of interaction with regular points of assessment and feedback. Each four week module is worth five Master's level academic credits and includes three webinars with a King's lecturer and peer group of global professionals.

What is the teaching schedule?

Format: Fully online, plus 3 x 1-hour weekly webinars

This module has been designed specifically for an online audience. It uses a range of interactive activities to support learning including discussion forums, online readings, interactive lectures videos and online tutorials.

Fees and discounts

Tuition fees may be subject to additional increases in subsequent years of study, in line with King’s terms and conditions.

Further information

Module Creator

Professor David Whetham, Professor of Ethics and the Military Profession in the Defence Studies Department of King’s College London, based at the Joint Services Command and Staff College at the UK Defence Academy. Before joining King’s as a permanent member of staff in 2003, David worked as a BBC researcher and with the OSCE in Kosovo, supporting the 2001 and 2002 elections. His main research interests are focused on the ethical dimensions of warfare and the development of the laws of war.

Please note that this is only indicative information. Lecturers and course content are subject to change. Please contact us directly for the most recent information.

Course status:


Full fee £950

Express interest

Discounts available

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