Date of Conferral



Doctor of Business Administration (D.B.A.)


Business Administration


Dr. Lonny Ness


From 2001 to 2010, a lack of documented standards within ethics programs inhibited decision making, management practices, and corporate strategies for corporate leaders in the United States. Seminal theories in transformational, charismatic, servant, spiritual, and ethical leadership formed the conceptual framework for this phenomenological study, whose intent was to explore how senior leaders of Fortune 500 companies in Washington, DC integrated ethics into daily business decisions and the role in organizational performance. A convenience sample of 20 Fortune 500 leaders participated in face-to-face semistructured interviews to explore the assessment, definition, and documentation of various ethical standards in the company; the different mechanisms for ensuring ethical standards influenced decision making; and whether a senior leader's moral code influences the development of a code of ethics, ethical standards, or organizational culture. Using Saldana's coding process as an exemplar, 6 themes emerged from this investigation: ethical standards, organizational culture, ethics training, role modeling, values, and moral dilemmas. Findings revealed the need for scenario-based ethical training to guide senior leaders through dilemma-oriented problems. Implications for positive social change include benchmarks for ethical integration successes in business strategy that improve corporate social responsibility and change hiring practices to help build ethical corporate cultures.