Ethics in Project Management – Research on Values-Based Leadership in Project Driven Arenas


By William A Moylan, PhD, PMP 1, and, Loran W Walker, PhD, PMP 2

1 Eastern Michigan University, College of Technology, Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA

2 Capella University, College of Business & Technology, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA



The paper addresses the values-based leadership skills, values and concepts of ethical project management professionals, and, considers the applicability of this leadership construct to the processes of managing major projects in different industries and applications.  The purpose of the research study is to determine the suitability of a values-based leadership approach for leading project teams, with a focus on improving the partnerships within industrial programs. The main research question addressed is: “Can the application of values-based leadership skills, values and concepts improve the processes of project management, especially within project-driven industries?” A follow on to this research question is the hypothesis of: “Values-based leadership skills, values, and concepts are highly applicable to the processes of project management, in particular, in the leading of programs from concept through completion.” The study assesses the eleven leadership values postulated in the criteria for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (2013) as means to establish an ethical rubric within project-driven industries. Additionally, the paper reviews the six core principles of values-based leadership postulated by G.W. Fairholm(1998). The research study uses a quantitative approach (survey) to assess the critical elements of this topic. On previous research performed on this topic, a mixed methods approach was found appropriate to identify the values shared between the leader and followers (qualitative), review the values-base for the particular application (quantitative), and compare the leader’s ethical values with the organization (mixed methods).


Research on values-based leadership [VBL] and ethics in project-based industries and applications pose interesting challenges. In the past decade, ethics and professional conduct has become a “hot” topic in academia (especially in graduate level programs of business, engineering and management), within professional society discussion circles, and, throughout all levels of government. Unfortunately there is a paucity of substantial research available that points the way for professional conduct improvement.

In performing his dissertation research on ethics in construction and VBL (Moylan, 2005), the author noted one of the major areas requiring additional study is the topic of this research paper. The research study expands on the applicability of values-based leadership to other project-driven industries in order to show the relevance of ethics and professional conduct across the spectrum of project-driven industries. Suggested project-driven industries include information systems / telecommunications, new product development, and manufacturing. Further, the study uses a similar survey instrument following the Malcomb Baldrige (2013) criteria on interrelated core values and concepts of leadership, so that industry comparisons could be made.

The paper expands the application arena on research on ethics in project management based on using VBL as the analysis rubric. Key project-driven industries and applications are considered with the results being compared and contrasted with the original research on construction industry results. The paper summarizes the literature on VBL applicable to project management applications, and, the research study conducted by the authors.


To read entire paper (click here)

Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the 1st Annual University of Maryland Project Management Symposium in College Park, Maryland, USA and included in the conference Proceedings in June 2014.  It is republished here with permission of the authors and the Project Management Center for Excellence at the University of Maryland.

About the Authors

William-A-MoylanWilliam A. Moylan, Ph.D., PMP, FESD flag-usa

Michigan, USA

Dr. William Moylan is an Associate Professor in Construction Management with Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA. In addition, Dr. Bill is a professional trainer, consultant, and expert witness in Construction Engineering and Project Management. He has extensive professional experience in all aspects of program and project management, including over eleven years internationally with the Arabian American Oil Co. Dr. Moylan has degrees from Lawrence Technological University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Capella University. He is s active in a variety of professional societies and civic activities including the Project Management Institute, the Engineering Society of Detroit, Habitat for Humanity, and Toastmasters International. Dr. Moylan can be contacted at [email protected]

Loran-W-WalkerDr. Loran W. Walker DMIT, PMPflag-usa

Minnesota, USA

Dr. Loren Walker has worked in the Computer Science and Information Systems fields for over 28 years. He has been an Adjunct and Full-time professor in information systems and the social sciences. He specializes in consulting and teaching High-Level Programming Languages (C, C++, Java, and .Net Technologies), Systems Analysis & Design, Project Management, Web Design, Programming Technologies and Enterprise Architecture. Currently he serves as a Core Faculty and Project Management Lead for the Project Management Program in the School of Undergraduate Studies (SOUS) at Capella University in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. Dr. Walker can be contacted at [email protected].