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The Impact of Leadership on the Ethical Behaviour of British Private Security Companies

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Ensuring high ethical standards for British Private Security Companies (PSCs) and their contractors is a major concern for government, civil society, and industry stakeholders. This concern is currently being addressed through regulatory efforts; however, evidence suggests that even if external monitoring and regulatory systems were improved, the ethical climates within individual companies and the actions of immediate supervisors would still have more influence over contractors’ behaviour than written regulations.

This thesis identifies and analyzes how PSC leaders at multiple levels of decision-making authority can influence the ethical behaviour of contractors in places where governments and NGOs have limited monitoring or disciplinary power. Some discussion is included of how other leaders from client and training organizations might also leverage leadership skills and behaviours to exert an additional degree of influence. In accordance with Charmaz’s (2006) constructivist grounded theory methodology, data was collected via a series of semistructured interviews with PSC leaders throughout PSC hierarchies. Interview data was then analysed using the ‘constant comparative method’ and ‘theoretical integration.’ Alternate sources of data, including existing leadership theories and PSC literature, were used to triangulate the data obtained during interviews. Sources of information external to the private security industry were used to provide additional support for the assertions of this thesis after the interview analyses were complete.

The end result of this thesis’ analyses is new information that helps to explain how, why, and to what extent leadership influences the ethical behaviour of British private security contractors in hostile environments. As such, this thesis makes original contributions to the fields of both leadership and PSC research. First, this thesis provides new information that suggests specific leadership skills and behaviours that impact on the ethical behaviour of personnel within a unique type of organization: Private Security Companies. Secondly, this thesis helps to inform contemporary debates about civil society’s ability to ensure that PSC personnel behave according to social and ethical norms; historically, such debates have not been informed by leadership research. This thesis concludes with a discussion of the wider relevancy of this research’s findings.
Original languageEnglish
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Award date2016

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