Moral Leadership Teaching Case Set

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Kimberlyn Leary Teaching


Governing is inherently normative work. Most public leaders face difficult moral dilemmas during their tenure—from deciding whether to grant an extremist group a permit to demonstrate, to choosing where to cut budgets in times of austerity, to determining whether and when to take a moral stance and speak out on a community conflict.

This set of materials is designed to help leaders understand and evaluate challenges with highly sensitive moral dimensions. Each of the cases focuses on a city leader forced to make a particular moral choice.

These cases can be used sequentially in a curriculum or as standalone cases for specific learning objectives.

Learning Objectives

The aims of these cases are to help students and practitioners:

Recognize the need for public leaders to grapple with moral dilemmas from a:

  • Personal perspective (personal values and identity);
  • Professional perspective (role obligations and opportunities); and
  • Political perspective (community norms and stakeholder interests).

Use a conceptual framework to explore the tensions among these perspectives and guide moral reasoning and decision-making for public leaders.

Deepen their understanding of key concepts in:

  • Moral philosophy (deontological vs. consequentialist orientations);
  • Public administration (discretionary authority and role obligations, permissions, and prohibitions); and/or
  • Leadership theory (adaptive leadership and leading change).

Reflect on their own reasoning and decision-making with regard to prior, current, or anticipated moral dilemmas and leadership challenges.


1. “A Difficult Lady”: Shutting Down Pollution in Kampala, Uganda

By Gaylen Moore, Christopher Robichaud, Jorrit de Jong, and Kimberlyn Leary

2. Reckoning With History: Confederate Monuments in American Cities

By Gaylen Moore, Jorrit de Jong, Kimberlyn Leary, and Christopher Robichaud

3. Making a Statement: Mayor Libby Schaaf and the Sanctuary City of Oakland, CA

By Gaylen Moore, Christopher Robichaud, Jorrit de Jong, and Anna Burgess

4. Reducing Harm: Overdose Prevention in Philadelphia

By Gaylen Moore, Christopher Robichaud, Kimberlyn Leary, and Jorrit de Jong

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