Ethical leadership

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All leadership is responsible for influencing followers to perform an action, complete a task, or behave in a specific manner 6. Effective leaders influence process, stimulate change in subordinate’s attitudes and values, augment followers’ self-efficacy beliefs, and foster the internalization of the leaders’ vision by utilizing strategies of empowerment6. It is believed that the nurturing aspect of leaders can raise organizational cultures and employee values to high levels of ethical concern6. Ethical leadership requires ethical leaders6. If leaders are ethical, they can ensure that ethical practices are carried out throughout the organization.

Contents

Leadership

Ethical leadership is leadership that is involved in leading in a manner that respects the rights and dignity of others7. “As leaders are by nature in a position of social power, ethical leadership focuses on how leaders use their social power in the decisions they make, actions they engage in and ways they influence others”7. Leaders who are ethical demonstrate a level of integrity that is important for stimulating a sense of leader trustworthiness, which is important for followers to accept the vision of the leader7. These are critical and direct components to leading ethically4. The character and integrity of the leader provide the basis for personal characteristics that direct a leader’s ethical beliefs, values, and decisions7. Individual values and beliefs impact the ethical decisions of leaders9.

Leaders who are ethical are people-oriented7, and also aware of how their decisions impact others8, and use their social power to serve the greater good instead of self-serving interests7. In ethical leadership it is important for the leader to consider how his or her decisions impact others7. Motivating followers to put the needs or interests of the group ahead of their own is another quality of ethical leaders3. Motivating involves engaging others in an intellectual and emotional commitment between leaders and followers that makes both parties equally responsible in the pursuit of a common goal4. These characteristics of ethical leaders are similar to inspirational motivation, which is a style component of transformational leadership2. Inspirational motivation “involves inspiring others to work towards the leader’s vision for the group and to be committed to the group”7. Similarly, ethical leadership “falls within the nexus of inspiring, stimulating, and visionary leader behaviors that make up transformational and charismatic leadership4. Ethical leaders assist followers in gaining a sense of personal competence that allows them to be self-sufficient by encouraging and empowering them7.

Ethical leadership in organizations

In organizational communication, ethics in leadership are very important. Business leaders must make decisions that will not only benefit them, but also they must think about how the other people will be affected (Stansbury 33). The best leaders make known their values and their ethics and preach them in their leadership style and actions. It consists of communicating complete and accurate information, where there is a personal, professional, ethical, or legal obligation to do so (McQueeney 165). When practicing ethics, you gain the respect and admiration of employees, with the satisfaction of knowing you did the right thing. If you never make clear what you want, and expect, then it can cause mistrust.

Being unethical in the workplace can include anything from taking personal phone calls while at your desk, telling someone the "check is in the mail", when in fact it hasn't even been written yet, and even taking office supplies home for your personal use. Most organizations create an ethical code, which is usually a list of rules that tells you what behaviors are right and what are wrong in the company.

For your organization, you might want to let employees know your values right off the bat. Such values can be, teamwork, ambition, honesty, efficiency, quality, accomplishment, and dedication.

Enron Corporation

One of the most famous examples of not having an ethical leader is in the company Enron. According to Seeger and Ulmer, which is noted in Organizational Communication: Perspectives and Trends by Michael J. Papa, Tom D. Daniels and Barry K. Spiker, this is the best way to understand ethical failures.

Enron Corporation is a gas pipeline company that turned into a huge enterprise. In 2001, the company collapsed due to scandals and bad leadership. Basically, the reason why they failed was due to a set of values that employees had to agree to, but in fact executives were demonstrating a different set of values. Due to this miscommunication of values and other important facts, the company went bankrupt.

The conclusion to the Enron case, according to Wee Heesun, is that smart CEOs will realize that an honest, transparent, and trustworthy culture can also bolster employee morale and ultimately guard shareholder value.

Opposing viewpoints

Opposing perspectives surrounding ethical leadership exist. The perspectives of ethical leadership summarized above present a social learning view that involves role modeling and promotes normative and ethically appropriate conduct that is demonstrated in the decisions that leaders make4. Contrasting perspectives focus on the leaders’ cognitions and actions, and assert that ethical leadership is demonstrated through multiple levels of psychological processes7 that impact behavior and not social learning.

References

  1. Barnard, C. I. (1938). The functions of the executive. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  2. Bass, B. M. (1985). Leadership and performance beyond expectations. New York, NY: Free Press. # Bonner, W. (2007). Locating a space for ethics to appear in decision-making: Privacy as an exemplar. Journal of Business Ethics, 70, 221-234.
  3. Brown, M. E., Trevino, L. K., & Harrison, D. A. (2005). Ethical leadership: A social learning perspective for construct development and testing. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 97, 117-134.
  4. Dirks, K. T., & Ferrin, D. L. (2002). Trust in leadership: Meta-analytic findings and implications for research and practice. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 611- 628.
  5. Reilly, E. C. (2006). The future entering: Reflections on and challenges to ethical leadership. Educational Leadership and Administration, 18, 163-173.
  6. Resick, C. J., Hanges, P. J., Dickson, M. W., & Mitchelson, J. K. (2006). A cross-cultural examination of the endorsement of ethical leadership. Journal of Business Ethics, 63, 345-359.
  7. Trevino, L. K., Brown, M., & Hartman, L. P. (2003). A qualitative investigation of perceived executive ethical leadership: Perceptions from inside and outside the executive suite. Human Relations, 56(1), 5-37.
  8. Watts, T. (2008). Business Leaders’ Values and Beliefs Regarding Decision Making Ethics. Los Angeles, CA: LULU.
  9. Papa, M.J., Daniels, T.D., Spiker, B.K.(2008). Organizational Communication: Perspectives and Trends. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications.
  10. McQueeny, E.(2006). Making Ethics Come Alive. Business Communication Quarterly, 69(2), 158-170
  11. Wee, H. Corporate Ethics: Right makes might. Business Week Online.
  12. Stansbury, J.(2009). Reasoned Moral Agreement: Applying discourse ethics within organizations. Business Ethics Quarterly. 19(1), 33-56.