Background: Commitment to ethical behavior is considered as an essential part of occupational responsibilities of nursing, and leaders' pioneering in ethical growth and development has led to the emergence of the concept of ethical leadership.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to explain the nursing leaders' perception and experiences of pioneering in the field of ethical leadership.

Methods: In this qualitative study, data were collected through semi-structured individual interviews. A total of 14 nursing leaders at different levels who were selected by purposeful sampling method participated in the study. Latent content analysis was used to analyze the data. 

Results: Of 14 participants of the study, 8 were male and 6 were female aged 38 to 56 years old with a mean managerial experience of 12 years. In the analysis of interviews, 4 subcategories of “Role Modeling”, “Empowerment”, “Knowledge and Skill”, and “Recognition” were obtained which formed two main categories. These categories included "Leader as mentor" and "Professional insight".

Conclusion: Pioneering leaders are an important part of ethical leadership, and nursing leaders should not only be moral people, but also go a step further and actively promote moral behavior with a role as a mentor and model as well as having professional insight. Nursing leaders with a better understanding of these aspects can develop their capacity of strong ethical leadership and consider the aspects in their activities.


Keywords: Content analysis, Ethical leadership, Pioneering, Nursing, Qualitative study
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