Be the leader our world needs

In today’s complex and rapidly changing world, ethical leaders are in higher demand than ever before. Become the leader within an organization who develops ethics training and compliance programs. Play a vital role in ensuring your organization is operating ethically and responsibly. Create a culture of trust and respect throughout your organization. Inspire others to be the best they can be.

The Woods Global Ph.D. in Ethical Leadership is specifically designed to prepare you to be a leader who is ready to make a tangible difference and inspire others to do the same.

Ethical leaders are the architects of a thriving environment, cultivating powerful relationships that unleash the full potential of individuals. Armed with profound self-awareness, an expert grasp of group dynamics, and a mastery of organizational effectiveness strategies, they don’t just lead – they ignite unparalleled success and growth. Become the catalyst for positive change, where leadership is not just a role but a transformative force.

This isn’t your average online degree program. We’ve combined more than 150 years of academic excellence with up-to-the-minute topics to ensure you’ll graduate with the skills and knowledge you need to succeed. The program is designed specifically for working professionals who want to advance their careers and make a real difference in the world. Our expert faculty have created an advanced curriculum that is aligned with the needs of today’s corporations and communities.

Ignite your leadership journey with the Ph.D. in Ethical Leadership. Tailored for professionals, this program seamlessly blends ethical principles and leadership theories for immediate impact in diverse environments. Ideal for those in management, government, public service, higher education, educational administration, business, healthcare, and more, our cross-disciplinary curriculum offers project-based learning experiences. Elevate your career, infuse ethical prowess into every facet of your work, and join a vibrant scholarly community committed to making a difference. Your transformation begins here.

Career Trajectory

The Ph.D. in Ethical Leadership is designed for full-time working professionals serving or aspiring to serve organizations as:

  • Business Executives
  • Industry Professionals
  • Managers
  • Non-Profit Directors,
  • Federal, State, & Local Government Administrators
  • Leadership & Management Consultants
  • Policy-Makers & Advisors
  • School & District Administrators, Superintendents, & Principals
  • Higher Education Faculty & Administrators
  • Change Makers

Program Highlights

  • Maximum Accessibility: Fully online courses with intensive program residencies to establish professional networking opportunities and once-in-a-lifetime experiential learning opportunities create flexibility to allow learners to prioritize work and family while prioritizing their own development.
  • Affordability: An affordable price point well below our national competitors provides learners with quality without the financial burden.
  • Pace of the Program: Within a span of three (3) calendar years, the program accommodates full-time working professionals for completion (54 total credits, taken one 3-credit hour course per 8-week term).
  • Transfer Credits Accepted: Adaptive credit-transfers policies allow students to accelerate their program and graduate in a fraction of the time.
  • Rolling Admissions: Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis to ensure for convenient start dates.
  • Ease of Application: A personalized admissions advisor is provided to every prospective student ensuring consistent and timely communication, while not requiring a standardized test (e.g., GRE, GMAT, etc.) to create ease for the applicant.
  • Learner-Focused Faculty: Relational nationally renowned faculty members work with students to be adaptive to the complications of work, family, and personal obligations.
  • Dissertation Options: Three dissertation options are provided to align with the learners’ career trajectory and passions (more information below).

The Residency Experience

Imagine working side-by-side with military personnel on an integrated advance to rescue the passengers of a capsized vessel, or having a behind-the-scenes tour of an art museum with access to interview artists and musicians about how creativity creates the foundation for how we can lead better, or sitting with industry professionals and policy-makers to wrestle with the complex challenges of our world.  These are only a few of the experiences that we have carefully cultivated for you to provide a distinctive experience well beyond your expectations.  

As a hallmark of the Ph.D. in Ethical Leadership program, the Residency Experience engages students in collaborative activities that promote networking with peers, faculty, and industry professionals while creating a supportive community. Experiential learning through immersive activities creates a pathway for students’ application of theoretical knowledge in real-world scenarios that advance their organizations. The relationships forged during the residency serve as a foundation for ongoing collaboration, mentorship, and support, paving the way for persistence and success throughout the PhD journey and beyond. Residencies are the key component in shaping well-rounded ethical leaders ready to make a positive impact in their respective fields.

However, the residencies are not just for the program students.  We believe that it is important to validate the sacrifice and commitment of our Ph.D. students’ families.  As such, destination residencies allow for family vacations and specialized leadership development sessions for spouses and children that create a one-of-a-kind experience for all. 

Residencies are held at three points during the students’ 54-credit academic journey in alignment with transition points (e.g., First-Year Networking, Second-Year Career Integration, and Third-Year Dissertation).  

Program Coursework

LDR 710 – Leadership Foundations*

The purpose of this course is to provide students with an overview of theoretical foundations for the program including program expectations and core competencies.

LDR 760 – Interpersonal Leadership

Students within this course will develop capacity for self-reflection, a deeper understanding of self, personal hardiness, a more integrated philosophy of leadership, and a more transcendent perspective on how they and others can maximize individual growth and create more emotionally intelligent and psychologically safe organizations. 

LDR 750 – Decision-Making & Moral Imagination 

This course develops capacity for moral imagination aimed at advancing organizational decision-making.  Students will engage in experiential activities to improve decision analysis and leadership effectiveness.  Additionally, students will discover biases in judgment, the possibilities, and pitfalls of rapid cognition, and incorporate structured decision-making techniques to shape cultures of effective delegation, crisis management, and design thinking in organizations.

LDR 720 – Communication & Influence*

Students within this course will explore theoretical foundations for interpersonal communication, influence, and persuasion as they apply to shaping organizational growth and maximizing performance and motivation.  

LDR 715 – Culture & Inclusion*

This course focuses on the historical, cultural, political, and social influences that have shaped the systems that govern organizational practice. Strategies for advocacy and change surrounding organizational and community diversity, equity, and inclusion through leadership set the foundation for this course.  

LDR 740 – Coaching & Talent Management 

Students within this course will develop the capacity to maximize the performance of those whom they work with in organizational settings. Students will learn applied processes grounded in transitional and developmental coaching to maximize individual and organizational performance. Students will also explore the major facets of talent management from developing core competencies to the design and implementation of performance management systems to recruit, assess, and develop talent to drive employee engagement and retention.

LDR 730 – Crisis & Change*

This course explores crisis as not a single event but a series of errors involving humans.  Proactive and applied leadership practices for dealing with crisis will be analyzed and create the foundation for effective change management and enhanced organizational resilience.  

LDR 755 – Creativity, Innovation, & Disruption*

This course focuses on the processes of creativity, innovation, and disruption with respect to capturing markets, cultivating organizational support, and building organizational sustainability.  


LDR 765 – Assessment & Evaluation 

Students within this course will explore and develop formative, summative, and developmental assessment and evaluation metrics. Students will learn about, design, and apply key performance indicators (KPI) and collaboration, learning, and adaption (CLA) practices that will advance organizational projects and strategic initiatives. Additionally, students will learn about how to justify and articulate return on investment (ROI) to stakeholder groups and customer bases. 

LDR 725 – Strategic Leadership & Globalization

This course leverages strategic thinking and global leadership strategies amidst an ever-changing global landscape.  Students will develop capacities for leading across international boundaries and in a changing geopolitical arena.  

LDR 770 – Complex Problems

This course explores questions in human well-being, organizational sustainability, and community development building upon a foundation for addressing challenges associated with our most pressing global problems. Transdisciplinary experts will lead diverse and innovative experiences engaging students in discussion-based inquiry, complex adaptive problem-solving, and the integration of economic, environmental, health, political, and social systems and perspectives.

RHS 715 – Research Methods

This course focuses on applying the principles, practices, and strategies for conducting research in the social sciences, particularly dealing with the interface of the human dimension in the social and behavioral sciences.

RHS 720 – Quantitative Research

This course examines theory and practice in the design, conduct, analysis, and interpretation of experimental, quasi-experimental, and survey procedures for research and evaluation of programs. The development of basic skills required in the understanding, planning, and executing of a research study will be covered. 

RHS 740 – Qualitative Research

This course explores the methods and procedures used in qualitative research. Topics include the philosophical basis for the method, the conceptualization of research questions, and selection of appropriate research designs, data collection data, manual and computerized data analysis, and the drawing of inferences.

DIS 780 – Dissertation I 

Students will develop a doctoral research plan in collaboration with their chair. This course and the accompanying content create the trajectory for the culminating research experiences within the Ph.D. in Ethical Leadership program.  Additionally, students will develop an introduction to the problem, background, context, and abbreviated theoretical framework, the purpose of the study, research objectives/hypotheses, the significance of the study, investigator scope, definition of terms, and an organizational timeline for completion of the doctoral research process.

DIS 781 – Dissertation II 

Students will submit their IRB application and develop their literature review including theoretical and/or conceptual frameworks. Additionally, students will develop their research methodology/design including research purpose, objectives/hypotheses, data treatment, data collection, and data analysis.

DIS 790 – Dissertation III 

Students will collect and analyze data associated with research in collaboration with the chair and compose the findings and results section of the doctoral research process.

DIS 791 – Dissertation IV

Students will compose the resulting implications, recommendations, and study limitations.  Additionally, the student will prepare a formal presentation for the chair and committee members in hopes of successfully defending their dissertation or implementing the results from their applied dissertation process.  

LDR XXX – Special Topics in Ethical Leadership*

Students interested in curricula and topics not included in the Ph.D. in Ethical Leadership formal course progression can elect to develop an alternative project, research endeavor, systematic review, meta-analysis, etc. associated with expanding their knowledge for the broad fields of ethical leadership, leadership learning, leadership development, and leadership studies.  Special Topics listings are offered in concert with a faculty mentor and can be substituted for other courses to maintain the pace of the program pending approval of the faculty mentor working with the student and the Ph.D. in Ethical Leadership Program Director.

*These courses are currently undergoing title changes to align more closely with the emerging literature influencing the broad fields of ethical leadership, leadership learning, leadership development, and leadership studies.  The future titles have been provided.  

**Please note that the preceding course order follows the traditional progression for students completing the program.  Each course builds upon the previous allowing students to continually deepen their knowledge and applications of leadership theory and practice within contemporary settings.  

Dissertation Options & Process

Research can be defined as a systematic and persistent approach to answering questions (Gall, Gall, & Borg, 2007).  As such, the dissertation process is about informing passions and answering the critical questions that provide implications for the diverse fields of leadership and our world. To this end, we created three (3) dissertation options to align with the diverse students and industries that we serve.  

Traditional Dissertation – The traditional dissertation process yields a product that is generalizable to a given population or transferable to like contexts.  It provides a traditional approach to developing a five-chapter document explaining the context for the study, the theoretical and conceptual foundations, methodology, findings, and conclusions/recommendations.   

Article Dissertation – The article dissertation is a process that leads to the development of a minimum of three articles within a given line of inquiry.  The articles form a cohesive body of work that supports a theme or themes providing implications for a population or context.  This allows doctoral candidates to share their work with a much broader audience and increase the scope of their impact.  

Applied Dissertation – The applied dissertation is specifically applicable to a tangible means for advancing a given organization.  These can include but are not limited to analytic reports, white papers, design, facilitation, and evaluation of curriculum, training, etc., ROI (Return on Investment) metric development and application, strategic planning and strategic implementation framework, comprehensive marketing plans, large-scale assessments, evaluation plans, processes, and metrics, and diffusion/adoption strategies.  Doctoral candidates will work closely with their doctoral research chair and committee to choose which option can maximize benefit for the candidate and align with career aspirations.  

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