Pioneers in business ethics: Joanne B. Ciulla

Joanne B. Ciulla ( is a Professor of Leadership Ethics and Director of the Institute for Ethical Leadership at Rutgers Business School in Newark, New Jersey, USA.

Patricia Werhane ( is Professor Emerita at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Gretchen Winter (, is Clinical Assistant Professor of Business Administration in the Gies College of Business and the Grainger College of Engineering City Scholars Program and also is adjunct professor in the College of Law at the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign; she also is an invited professor at CY Cergy Paris School of Law.

Olivia Duggins ( is an Ethics Case Writer/Editor at the Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign in Champaign, Illinois, USA.

JC: My name is Joanne Ciulla, and I’m a professor of leadership ethics and the director of the Institute for Ethical Leadership at Rutgers Business School. Before joining Rutgers, I held an endowed chair at the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond, where I was one of its founding faculty. I began my career in the philosophy department at La Salle University in Philadelphia, where I taught philosophy for nine years. Then, I went to Harvard Business School as a Harvard fellow in business ethics. After Harvard, I taught at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and, along with Tom Dunfee and Diana Robertson, introduced the first required business ethics course at Wharton.

I’ve worked for many years in both the fields of business ethics and leadership studies. I got into leadership studies in 1991 as a founder of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies. It was the first degree-granting school of leadership studies. Creating an institution from scratch was the most exciting thing I’ve ever done. The university had been given $20 million for this school, and it had five endowed chairs. We created a liberal arts curriculum focused on leadership. I’ve always been a great supporter of the humanities, and I think humanities carry the most important things we can teach our students about being successful as human beings.

In my career, I’ve combined my work on leadership studies with my work in business ethics. There are many similarities between these two fields. They’re both relatively new areas of study and fundamental to how things work in society. Early on, I discovered that there had been little academic work on ethics in leadership studies. When I first looked at contemporary leadership literature, I found Kohlberg’s studies on moral development but no philosophical work on leadership and ethics. What I’ve been doing for the past 30 years or so is laying out the field of leadership ethics. In the Business Ethics Quarterly back in 1995, I published an article called “Leadership Ethics: Mapping the Territory.”[1] In it, I described some of the unique aspects of leadership ethics and how it intersects with business ethics.

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