Ethics and Leadership
Figure 1: Ethical Leadership
Ethics is defined to be the code of values and moral principles which guide an individual or group behaviour with respect to what is right or wrong (Mihelič et al. 2010). In other words, these values and moral principles are displayed through our actions which are then judged as being ethical or otherwise as quoted by Jane Addams; “Action indeed is the sole medium of expression for ethics”. Leadership, on the other hand, is the ability to influence and guide others towards achieving a desired goal or vision which has been set. However, leadership can also have different meanings to people depending on the various terms of leadership which include traits, behaviours, interaction patterns, influence, role relationships as well as the occupation of an administrative position (Yuki 2013). Leaders vary depending on their individual style which stems from their personality characteristics (Mihelič et al. 2010). Good leaders set examples and often have visions which are realistic and create values for the organisation, stakeholders and customers as a whole. Most importantly, good leaders would need to sell their vision to their employees by effectively communicating and influencing employees to strive towards that vision (Chuang 2013). In addition, they acquire the abilities to recognise and connect global trends with organisational development plans (Chuang 2013). According to Brown, Trevino and Harrison (2005), ethical leadership is a demonstration of appropriate conduct through personal actions and interpersonal relationships and the promotion of such conduct to others through two-way communication, reinforcement and decision making (De Hoogh and Den Hartog, 2008). It’s also a way of enabling people in an organisation to do the right thing while respecting the rights and dignity of others. Ethical leadership is vital in an organisation because leaders who strive for ethical conduct motivate others to act in ethical ways (Butts n.d). Brown, Trevino and Harrison (2005) also described ethical leaders to be honest, fair, trustworthy and caring. As such, leaders of these kinds structure work environments fairly and do not bias when it comes to decision making.
Principle theories of Ethical Leadership
Figure 2: Approach to Ethics
The two commonly known principles of ethical leadership are identified as the deontological theory (Kantianism) and the teleological theory (Consequentialism). The deontological theory emphasizes on rules and duties whereby an action must be undertaken regardless of the consequences. This study suggests that good or bad conduct is apparent in the action itself and we should always do the right thing. Contrary to the deontological theory, the teleological theory points out that the outcomes of an act determine if the particular action is good or bad. In other words, an action whether good or bad that produces the greatest amount of good consequences is the right thing to do (BBC 2014). However, there are certain limitations with the teleological theory. This theory could lead to a conclusion whereby certain awful acts which produce good consequences are the right thing to do regardless of whether it is ethical or not but as long it produces great results (BBC 2014).
4-V model of Ethical Leadership
Figure 3: 4-V Model
Ethical leadership can be explained using the 4-V model which was developed by Dr Bill Grace. The 4-V model is a framework that lines up the internal factors comprising of beliefs and values and the external factors which include behaviours and actions for the purpose of advancing common good (Kar n.d). The 4-V’s stands for values, vision, voice and virtue. Values carry an individual’s ideas as to what is right and desirable as well as influences behavior, perception and the level of an individual’s motivation. Vision is the ability to frame our actions in service to others (Kar n.d). Voice is the process of expressing our vision to others in a convincing manner and the ability to communicate effectively (Kar n.d). Lastly, virtues are the understanding that we become what we practice, therefore we foster virtues by striving to do what is right and good (Kar n.d).
Unethical practices of leadership
Figure 4: Martin Winterkorn, former CEO of Volkswagen
Source: Fast Company
In today’s world, many individuals who have been selected as leaders or CEO’s of organisations tend to misuse their authority by defrauding and laundering money, insider trading, falsifying documents and conspiracies. These are examples of bad ethical leadership. Similarly, Martin Winterkorn, the former CEO of Volkswagen had his share of being unethical by approving the installation of a software device which failed to accurately report emissions of nitrogen oxide on its vehicles which could lead to the decrease in environmental safety (Dishman 2015).
Good ethical leadership
Figure 5: Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks
Source: Fast Company
Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks who’s a billionaire has proved himself to be preoccupied with more than just profits. Schultz involves himself in social responsibility programs and has initiated a plan to cover college tuition fees for its U.S based Starbucks employees who are working more than 20 hours per week to enroll in an online degree program from Arizona State University (Dishman 2015). Moreover, Schultz has offered comprehensive health care and stock options for his employees to create a more committed workforce (Dishman 2015).
Figure 6: Ethical leadership
In conclusion, this blog provides a brief understanding of being an ethical leader. A leader can be powerful and rich but without ethics, the method of leading would not transform individual lives or make a significant impact to an organisation. A profound ethical leader would need to examine their own behaviour and values as well as the willingness and strength to accept responsibility for the effects of their actions on others.
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BBC, (2014) BBC – Ethics – Introduction To Ethics: Ethics: A General Introduction [online] available from <http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/introduction/intro_1.shtml> [25 January 2017]
Butts, J. (n.d.) Ethics In Organization And Leadership [online] available from <https://www.jblearning.com/samples/0763749761/EthicalLeaderhip.pdf> [25 January 2017]
Chuang, S. (2013) ESSENTIAL SKILLS FOR LEADERSHIP EFFECTIVENESS IN DIVERSE WORKPLACE DEVELOPMENT [online] available from <http://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1133&context=ojwed> [25 January 2017]
De Hoogh, A. and Den Hartog, D. (2008) Ethical And Despotic Leadership, Relationships With Leader’s Social Responsibility, Top Management Team Effectiveness And Subordinates’ Optimism: A Multi-Method Study [online] available from <https://elearning.newinti.edu.my/bbcswebdav/pid-1918557-dt-content-rid-3910766_1/courses/MYI1.INTM05LON.FS1.JAN2017.IICS/MYI1.INTM05LON.FS1.SEP2016.IICS_ImportedContent_20160815022622/Ethical%20and%20Despotic%20Leadership.pdf> [25 January 2017]
Dishman, L. (2015) The 10 Best And Worst Leaders Of 2015 [online] available from <https://www.fastcompany.com/3054777/lessons-learned/the-10-best-and-worst-leaders-of-2015> [25 January 2017]
Kar, S. (n.d.) Ethical Leadership: Best Practice For Success [online] available from <http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jbm/papers/ICIMS/Volume-1/14.pdf> [25 January 2017]
Mihelič, K., Lipičnik, B. and Tekavčič, M. (2010) Ethical Leadership [online] available from <http://www.ef.uni-lj.si/docs/osebnestrani/MIhelic_Lipicnik_Tekavcic_2010_clute.pdf> [25 January 2017]
Yukl, G. (2013) Leadership In Organizations. 8th edn. Pearson Education Limited