There are several theoretical frameworks for examining the problem of unethical leadership. However, most of the analyses are tied to the individual personalities and organizational contexts creating unethical leadership behaviours and fall short of underpinning the mechanisms shaped by the social system responsible for developing individual personalities and organizational contexts connected with unethical leadership in Africa’s public sector. Furthermore, previous theoretical constructs have failed to adequately capture the holistic nature of unethical leadership, for example public corruption, which is a major issue in many African societies. Moreover, in order to address the problem adequately, a comprehensive understanding of all the key components of the problem and their interrelationships is required. Therefore, the paper adopts the sociological structural functionalism theory, which advocates for a holistic view of a social problem through a proper analysis of the causal mechanisms of the problem, in this case, unethical leadership in Africa’s public sector. The paper’s use of the theory is also supported by empirical evidence. The paper argues that unethical leadership in Africa’s public sector results from the dysfunction of the continent’s social institutions; hence, they cannot effectively maintain their functional roles as expected. Consequently, the institutions have failed to promote ethical conduct while at the same time failing to prevent unethical behaviour from the micro-level structures to the macro-level structures. In addition, the absence or weak mutual efforts between the social institutions exacerbate the problem. It is thus recommended that, African governments, as meta-institutions, should effectively organize, regulate, and coordinate other social institutions by enforcing the legislation and policies made. In addition, social institutions in every African state must effectively work in harmony under certain guidelines to address ethical issues, exposing and preventing unethical behaviour both in the formal and informal institutions.
Keywords: Unethical Leadership, African Public Sectors, Structural Functionalism Theory, African Social Institutions.