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All over the world, leadership is what makes people do what they do. It enables people to have a form of governance and control. People have not done a lot of research and writing about ethical leadership. But that does not mean that the present generation should avoid it. In fact, it creates room for innovative thinking and discovery.
Ethics is all about what the leaders can do as a result of who they are (Cameron 2011). Some theories address the conduct of leaders and those that define the character of leaders. Ethics plays a significant role in leadership because it helps to differentiate between good leadership and unacceptable leadership. It is the society that defines what is good and what is bad (Cameron 2011).
The Importance of Ethical Leadership
The consequences of one’s actions would probably provide the basis upon which to differentiate between what is wrong and what is right. A leader may act for self-interest (McPherson 2012). The actions of the leader only seek to gratify his or her desires (Northouse 2013). Some leaders may incorporate other staffs and do things that help to promote the entire team and the company.
The teleological approach to leadership that embraces utilitarianism requires that the command creates the greatest good for many or more people (Michalos 2013). In this case, the decisions reached help to promote the goodness in many people. Sometimes leadership also requires one to make decisions that are for the greatest good no matter what the consequences are for the leader (Michaelson 2010). It is like self-sacrifice. It is ethical leadership that promotes the right of others even when the leadership does not benefit so much from such actions. Good ethics requires the leadership to serve the people (Northouse 2013).
The Role and Conduct of Ethics
Apart from looking at the consequences of a leader’s action, it is also important to consider the duty of a leader. The deontological theory helps to examine what duty is to ethical leadership (McPherson 2012). It is important to know whether the actions of leaders are right or bad. Real work should produce good results. The leader must have the moral right to act and that those actions must be for the well-being of others (Michalos 2013). Examples of suitable actions are telling the truth, being honest, and respecting others (Cameron 2011).
Virtue-based theories also add essential tenets of ethics to leadership (Northouse 2013). Virtues must also be in an individual’s belief and character. Even though most of the real values are not inborn, people can learn them from their families, friends and communities (Michaelson 2010). They developed in ancient Greek. Aristotle and Plato identified these virtues as being paramount not just as leadership qualities but personal attributes to success. In contemporary society, these traits can be acquired and developed through training people the moral values (Michalos 2013).
Ethical leadership should not just be about what the leaders do but also becoming the best in terms of being virtuous (Beauvais, David-Blais & Shukla 2013). Some of the virtues that leaders can inculcate in them should include temperance, integrity, benevolence and sociability. Leaders need to practice being virtuous. After some time, this becomes a habit and hence part of them.
It is not easy to identify ethical leaders in this culturally diverse and challenging global environment. Some organizations have embraced the corporate social responsibility as a way of being ethical. Some leaders promote corruption in their work and yet provide a good working standard for their workers. Some are also dictatorial but still value ethics.
Beauvais, C, David-Blais, M & Shukla R 2013, Ethical leadership and contemporary challenges, Peeters Publishers, Leuven, Belgium.
Cameron, K 2011, Responsible leadership as virtuous leadership, Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 98, no.1 S1, pp. 25-35.
McPherson, D 2012, Vocational virtue ethics: prospects for a virtue ethic approach to business, Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 116, no. 2, pp. 283-296.
Michaelson, C 2010, Revisiting the global business ethics question, Business Ethics Quarterly, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 237-251.
Michalos, A 2013, The business case for asserting the business case for business ethics, Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 114 no. 4, pp. 599-606.
Northouse, P 2013, Leadership: theory and practice. 6th ed. Sage, Thousand Oaks, California, pp. 423-450.