Debate the following statement, providing arguments for and against the point of view proposed by the authors. Discuss an organisational example from your your chosen sector of business to support this debate. What are your conclusions from this debate?
Ethical leadership, defining it as “the demonstration of normatively appropriate conduct through personal actions and interpersonal relationships, and the promotion of such conduct to followers through two-way communication, reinforcement and decision-making”… [and] the evidence suggests that ethical leader behaviour can have important positive effects on both individual and organizational effectiveness (Rubin et al 2010: 216-17).
Ethics can be typically described as the moral values of either the individual or a community as a whole. Business ethics, as described by Mullins (2010), is where general codes of ethics and conduct are also maintained in the business activities. However ‘business ethics’ as a term is also used to describe the way management and higher positions in a company relate with their employees and colleagues. When speaking in terms of business ethics there is a great difference with real world ethics and a perfectly ethical person may be considered to be working without business ethics. However, unethical people may also lack business ethics and lead to cases such as Enron, whereby the leadership was corrupt and ended up dragging the subordinates in to the corruption with them.
In order for ethical leadership to be properly understood it is important to grasp the differences between a moral person and a moral manager (Kalshoven, Den Hartog, & De Hoogh, 2011). A moral person is reflected by the personality of that person which ensures that they are trustworthy, fair etc. On the other side of this is the personality of the moral manager whose job it is to promote ethics in the work place by leading by example. A leader’s ethical behaviour can be categorised into fairness, power sharing and role clarification (Foster, 2000).
Fairness relates to how the manager entails trust and also how accountable and responsible they are for their actions. The sharing of power relates to how fair a manager is in providing staff with the appropriate authority to take their own measures and to empower them by doing so. Kezar, (2000) describes role clarification as the responsibility of properly explaining each and every person’s role so as they know exactly what is expected of them.
Mitchell and Brown (2010) state, that due to the fact that ethical leaders have prominent roles they are often considered as role models. This is mainly due to their powerful and visible positions within the organisation. This allows leaders to capture the attention of their teams and followers and according to Mitchell and Brown (2010) also sets the organisation’s tone in terms of ethics and practice. Mahsud et al. (2010) states that ethical values are quite likely to encourage organisations’ leaders to adopt more relations oriented behaviours with their staff. This also goes to show how ethical leadership can actively improve the working culture within a business by building better working relationships. According to Brown et al. (2005), ethical leaders also emphasise how important two way communication is. An ethical leader is often described by his eagerness not only to voice his own opinion but also to hear and consider the opinions of others. Brown et al. (2005) went on to describe the ethical leader as one that conveys to his subordinates true concern for their thoughts and problems.
In conclusion, it is easy to see why ethical leadership is given such emphasis as it is necessary in order to ensure that a large organisation develops and performs accordingly. It is often noted that ethics are driven from the top down. Furthermore, consumers are now more aware than ever of organisations’ ethical and social responsibility promises, due to an upsurge in consumer awareness in how large firms operate. This has led to ethical leadership now being detrimental to sales figures as well as the healthy operation of the firm overall.
Mullins, L., J. (2010) Management and Organisational Behaviour 9ed. Pearson Education Limited, Pitman imprint, England.
Brown, M. E., & Mitchell, M. S. (2010). Ethical and Unethical Leadership. Business Ethics Quarterly, 20(4), 583-616.
Kezar, A. (2000). Pluralistic leadership: Incorporating diverse voices. Journal of Higher Education, 722-743.
Mahsud, R., Yukl, G., & Prussia, G. (2010). Leader empathy, ethical leadership, and relations-oriented behaviors as antecedents of leader-member exchange quality. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 25(6), 561-577.
Brown, L. R., Gray, R. H., Hughes, R. M., & Meador, M. R. (2005). Introduction to effects of urbanization on stream ecosystems. In American Fisheries Society Symposium (Vol. 47, pp. 1-8).
Kalshoven, K., Den Hartog, D. N., & De Hoogh, A. H. (2011). Ethical leadership at work questionnaire (ELW): Development and validation of a multidimensional measure. The Leadership Quarterly, 22(1), 51-69.
Foster, B. A. (2000). Barriers to servant leadership: Perceived organizational elements that impede servant leader effectiveness (Doctoral dissertation, Fielding Institute).