Your textbook identifies five principles of ethical leadership. In your initial post, discuss key components of these principles and cite at least one example of a respected leader you know or whom you have observed practicing these principles in his or her organization. Include reflections on how the perspectives about leadership of Heifetz (1994) or Burns (1978) from your readings for this unit exemplify the practice of the five ethical leadership principles.
Heifetzâ€™s Perspective on Ethical Leadership
Based on his work as a psychiatrist and his observations and analysis of many world leaders (e.g., President Lyndon Johnson, Mohandas Gandhi, and Margaret Sanger), Ronald Heifetz (1994) has formulated a unique approach to ethical leadership. His approach emphasizes how leaders help followers to confront conflict and to address conflict by effecting changes. Heifetzâ€™s perspective is related to ethical leadership because it deals with values: the values of workers and the values of the organizations and communities in which they work. According to Heifetz, leadership involves the use of authority to help followers deal with the conflicting values that emerge in rapidly changing work environments and social cultures. It is an ethical perspective because it addresses the values of workers.
For Heifetz (1994), leaders must use authority to mobilize people to face tough issues. As discussed in the chapter on adaptive leadership (Chapter 11), it is up to the leader to provide a â€œholding environmentâ€ in which there is trust, nurturance, and empathy. In a supportive context, followers can feel safe to confront hard problems. Specifically, leaders use authority to get people to pay attention to the issues, to act as a reality test regarding information, to manage and frame issues, to orchestrate conflicting perspectives, and to facilitate decision making (Heifetz, 1994, p. 113). The leaderâ€™s duties are to assist the follower in struggling with change and personal growth.
Burnsâ€™s Perspective on Ethical Leadership
As discussed in Chapter 8, Burnsâ€™s theory of transformational leadership places a strong emphasis on followersâ€™ needs, values, and morals. Transformational leadership involves attempts by leaders to move followers to higher standards of moral responsibility. This emphasis sets transformational leadership apart from most other approaches to leadership because it clearly states that leadership has a moral dimension (see Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999).
Similar to that of Heifetz, Burnsâ€™s (1978) perspective argues that it is important for leaders to engage themselves with followers and help them in their personal struggles regarding conflicting values. The resulting connection raises the level of morality in both the leader and the follower.
The origins of Burnsâ€™s position on leadership ethics are rooted in the works of such writers as Abraham Maslow, Milton Rokeach, and Lawrence Kohlberg (Ciulla, 1998). The influence of these writers can be seen in how Burns emphasizes the leaderâ€™s role in attending to the personal motivations and moral development of the follower. For Burns, it is the responsibility of the leader to help followers assess their own values and needs in order to raise them to a higher level of functioning, to a level that will stress values such as liberty, justice, and equality (Ciulla, 1998).
Burnsâ€™s position on leadership as a morally uplifting process has not been without its critics. It has raised many questions: How do you choose what a better set of moral values is? Who is to say that some decisions represent higher moral ground than others? If leadership, by definition, entails raising individual moral functioning, does this mean that the leadership of corrupt leaders is not actually leadership? Notwithstanding these very legitimate questions, Burnsâ€™s perspective is unique in that it makes ethics the central characteristic of the leadership process. His writing has placed ethics at the forefront of scholarly discussions of what leadership means and how leadership should be carried out.
The Dark Side of Leadership
Although Burns (1978) placed ethics at the core of leadership, there still exists a dark side of leadership that exemplifies leadership that is unethical and destructive. It is what we defined in Chapter 8 (â€œTransformational Leadershipâ€) as pseudotransformational leadership and discussed in Chapter 12 (â€œFollowershipâ€) in regard to destructive leadership. The dark side of leadership is the destructive and toxic side of leadership in that a leader uses leadership for personal ends. Lipman-Blumen (2005) suggests that toxic leaders are characterized by destructive behaviors such as leaving their followers worse off than they found them, violating the basic human rights of others, and playing to followersâ€™ basest fears. Furthermore, Lipman-Blumen identifies many dysfunctional personal characteristics destructive leaders demonstrate including lack of integrity, insatiable ambition, arrogance, and reckless disregard for their actions. In addition, using two different toxic leadership questionnaires, Singh, Sengupta, and Dev (2017) identified eight factors of perceived toxicity in leaders in Indian organizations. The toxicity factors included managerial incompetency, dark traits, derisive supervision, impervious despotic leadership, dearth of ethics, erratic behavior, narcissism, and self-promoting. The same characteristics and behaviors that distinguish leaders as special can also be used by leaders to produce disastrous outcomes (Conger, 1990). Because researchers have been focused on the positive attributes and outcomes of effective leadership, until recently, there has been little attention paid to the dark side of leadership. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that it exists.
In a meta-analysis of 57 studies of destructive leadership and its outcomes, Schyns and Schilling (2013) found a strong relationship between destructive leadership and negative attitudes in followers toward the leader. Destructive leadership is also negatively related to followersâ€™ attitudes toward their jobs and toward their organization as a whole. Furthermore, Schyns and Schilling found it closely related to negative affectivity and to the experience of occupational stress.
In an attempt to more clearly define destructive leadership, Padilla, Hogan, and Kaiser (2007) developed the concept of a toxic triangle that focuses on the influences of destructive leaders, susceptible followers, and conducive environments (Figure 13.2). As shown in the model, destructive leaders are characterized by having charisma and a need to use power and coercion for personal gains. They are also narcissistic and often attention-getting and self-absorbed. Destructive leaders often have negative life stories that can be traced to traumatic childhood events. Perhaps from self-hatred, they often express an ideology of hate in their rhetoric and worldview.
As illustrated in Figure 13.2, destructive leadership also incorporates susceptible followers who have been characterized as conformers and colluders. Conformers go along with destructive leaders to satisfy unmet needs such as emptiness, alienation, or need for community. These followers have low self-esteem and identify with charismatic leaders in an attempt to become more desirable. Because they are psychologically immature, conformers more easily go along with authority and engage in destructive activity. On the other hand, colluders may respond to destructive leaders because they are ambitious, desire status, or see an opportunity to profit. Colluders may also go along because they identify with the leaderâ€™s beliefs and values, which may be unsocialized such as greed and selfishness.
Finally, the toxic triangle illustrates that destructive leadership includes a conducive environment. When the environment is unstable, the leader is often granted more authority to assert radical change. When there is a perceived threat, followers often accept assertive leadership. People are attracted to leaders who will stand up to the threats they feel in the environment. Destructive leaders who express compatible cultural values with followers are more likely to succeed. For example, cultures high on collectiveness would prefer a leader who promotes community and group identity. Destructive leadership will also thrive when the checks and balances of the organization are weak and the rules of the institution are ineffective.
Although research on the dark side of leadership has been limited, it is an area critical to our understanding of leadership that is unethical. Clearly, there is a need for the development of models, theories, and assessment instruments about the process of destructive leadership.
Principles of Ethical Leadership
In this section, we turn to a discussion of five principles of ethical leadership, the origins of which can be traced back to Aristotle. The importance of these principles has been discussed in a variety of disciplines, including biomedical ethics (Beauchamp & Childress, 1994), business ethics (Beauchamp & Bowie, 1988), counseling psychology (Kitchener, 1984), and leadership education (Komives, Lucas, & McMahon, 1998), to name a few. Although not inclusive, these principles provide a foundation for the development of sound ethical leadership: respect, service, justice, honesty, and community (Figure 13.3).
Ethical Leaders Respect Others
Philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724â€“1804) argued that it is our duty to treat others with respect. To do so means always to treat others as ends in themselves and never as means to ends. As Beauchamp and Bowie (1988, p. 37) pointed out, â€œPersons must be treated as having their own autonomously established goals and must never be treated purely as the means to anotherâ€™s personal goals.â€ These writers then suggested that treating others as ends rather than as means requires that we treat other peopleâ€™s decisions and values with respect: Failing to do so would signify that we were treating them as a means to our own ends.
Leaders who respect others also allow them to be themselves, with creative wants and desires. They approach other people with a sense of their unconditional worth and valuable individual differences (Kitchener, 1984). Respect includes giving credence to othersâ€™ ideas and confirming them as human beings. At times, it may require that leaders defer to others. As Burns (1978) suggested, leaders should nurture followers in becoming aware of their own needs, values, and purposes, and as
Respect for others is a complex ethic that is similar to but goes deeper than the kind of respect that parents teach little children. Respect means that a leader listens closely to followers, is empathic, and is tolerant of opposing points of view. It means treating followers in ways that confirm their beliefs, attitudes, and values. When a leader exhibits respect to followers, followers can feel competent about their work. In short, leaders who show respect treat others as worthy human beings.
Ethical Leaders Serve Others
Earlier in this chapter, we contrasted two ethical theories, one based on a concern for self (ethical egoism) and another based on the interests of others (ethical altruism). The service principle clearly is an example of altruism. Leaders who serve are altruistic: They place their followersâ€™ welfare foremost in their plans. In the workplace, altruistic service behavior can be observed in activities such as mentoring, empowerment behaviors, team building, and citizenship behaviors, to name a few (Kanungo & Mendonca, 1996).
The leaderâ€™s ethical responsibility to serve others is very similar to the ethical principle in health care of beneficence. Beneficence is derived from the Hippocratic tradition, which holds that health professionals ought to make choices that benefit patients. In a general way, beneficence asserts that providers have a duty to help others pursue their own legitimate interests and goals (Beauchamp & Childress, 1994). Like health professionals, ethical leaders have a responsibility to attend to others, be of service to them, and make decisions pertaining to them that are beneficial and not harmful to their welfare.
In the past, the service principle has received a great deal of emphasis in the leadership literature. It is clearly evident in the writings of Block (1993), Covey (1990), De Pree (1989), Gilligan (1982), and Kouzes and Posner (1995), all of whom maintained that attending to others is the primary building block of moral leadership. Further emphasis on service can be observed in the work of Senge (1990) in his well-recognized writing on learning organizations. Senge contended that one of the important tasks of leaders in learning organizations is to be the steward (servant) of the vision within the organization. Being a steward means clarifying and nurturing a vision that is greater than oneself. This means not being self-centered, but rather integrating oneâ€™s self or vision with that of others in the organization. Effective leaders see their own personal vision as an important part of something larger than themselvesâ€”a part of the organization and the community at large.
The idea of leaders serving others was more deeply explored by Robert Greenleaf (1970, 1977), who developed the servant leadership approach. Servant leadership, which is explored in depth in Chapter 10, has strong altruistic ethical overtones in how it emphasizes that leaders should be attentive to the concerns of their followers and should take care of them and nurture them. In addition, Greenleaf argues that the servant leader has a social responsibility to be concerned with the have-nots and should strive to remove inequalities and social injustices. Greenleaf places a great deal of emphasis on listening, empathy, and unconditional acceptance of others.
In short, whether it is Greenleafâ€™s notion of waiting on the have-nots or Sengeâ€™s notion of giving oneself to a larger purpose, the idea behind service is contributing to the greater good of others. Recently, the idea of serving the â€œgreater goodâ€ has found an unusual following in the business world. In 2009, 20% of the graduating class of the Harvard Business School, considered to be one of the premier schools producing todayâ€™s business leaders, took an oath pledging that they will act responsibly and ethically, and refrain from advancing their own ambitions at the expense of others. Similarly, Columbia Business School requires all students to pledge to an honor code requiring they adhere to truth, integrity, and respect (Wayne, 2009). In practicing the principle of service, these and other ethical leaders must be willing to be follower centered, must place othersâ€™ interests foremost in their work, and must act in ways that will benefit others.
Ethical Leaders Are Just
Ethical leaders are concerned about issues of fairness and justice. They make it a top priority to treat all of their followers in an equal manner. Justice demands that leaders place issues of fairness at the center of their decision making. As a rule, no one should receive special treatment or special consideration except when his or her particular situation demands it. When individuals are treated differently, the grounds for different treatment must be clear and reasonable, and must be based on moral values. For example, many of us can remember being involved with some type of athletic team when we were growing up. The coaches we liked were those we thought were fair with us. No matter what, we did not want the coach to treat anyone differently from the rest. When someone came late to practice with a poor excuse, we wanted that person disciplined just as we would have been disciplined. If a player had a personal problem and needed a break, we wanted the coach to give it, just as we would have been given a break. Without question, the good coaches were those who never had favorites and who made a point of playing everyone on the team. In essence, what we wanted was that our coach be fair and just.
When resources and rewards or punishments are distributed to employees, the leader plays a major role. The rules that are used and how they are applied say a great deal about whether the leader is concerned about justice and how he or she approaches issues of fairness. Rawls (1971) stated that a concern with issues of fairness is necessary for all people who are cooperating together to promote their common interests. It is similar to the ethic of reciprocity, otherwise known as the Golden Ruleâ€”â€œDo unto others as you would have them do unto youâ€â€”variations of which have appeared in many different cultures throughout the ages. If we expect fairness from others in how they treat us, then we should treat others fairly in our dealings with them. Issues of fairness become problematic because there is always a limit on goods and resources, and there is often competition for the limited things available. Because of the real or perceived scarcity of resources, conflicts often occur between individuals about fair methods of distribution. It is important for leaders to clearly establish the rules for distributing rewards. The nature of these rules says a lot about the ethical underpinnings of the leader and the organization.
Beauchamp and Bowie (1988) outlined several of the common principles that serve as guides for leaders in distributing the benefits and burdens fairly in an organization (Table 13.3). Although not inclusive, these principles point to the reasoning behind why leaders choose to distribute things as they do in organizations. In a given situation, a leader may use a single principle or a combination of several principles in treating followers.
To illustrate the principles described in Table 13.3, consider the following hypothetical example: You are the owner of a small trucking company that employs 50 drivers. You have just opened a new route, and it promises to be one that pays well and has an ideal schedule. Only one driver can be assigned to the route, but seven drivers have applied for it. Each driver wants an equal opportunity to get the route. One of the drivers recently lost his wife to breast cancer and is struggling to care for three young children (individual need). Two of the drivers are minorities, and one of them feels strongly that he has a right to the job. One of the drivers has logged more driving hours for three consecutive years, and she feels her effort makes her the logical candidate for the new route. One of the drivers serves on the National Transportation Safety Board and has a 20-year accident-free driving record (societal contribution). Two drivers have been with the company since its inception, and their performance has been meritorious year after year.
sist followers in integrating these with the leaderâ€™s needs, values, and purposes.
Ethical Leaders Are Honest
When we were children, grown-ups often told us we must â€œnever tell a lie.â€ To be good meant we must be truthful. For leaders the lesson is the same: To be a good leader, one must be honest.
The importance of being honest can be understood more clearly when we consider the opposite of honesty: dishonesty (see Jaksa & Pritchard, 1988). Dishonesty is a form of lying, a way of misrepresenting reality. Dishonesty may bring with it many objectionable outcomes; foremost among those outcomes is the distrust it creates. When leaders are not honest, others come to see them as undependable and unreliable. People lose faith in what leaders say and stand for, and their respect for leaders is diminished. As a result, the leaderâ€™s impact is compromised because others no longer trust and believe in the leader.
When we relate to others, dishonesty also has a negative impact. It puts a strain on how people are connected to each other. When we lie to others, we are in essence saying that we are willing to manipulate the relationship on our own terms. We are saying that we do not trust the other person in the relationship to be able to deal with information we have. In reality, we are putting ourselves ahead of the relationship by saying that we know what is best for the relationship. The long-term effect of this type of behavior is that it weakens relationships. Even when used with good intentions, dishonesty contributes to the breakdown of relationships.
But being honest is not just about telling the truth. It has to do with being open with others and representing reality as fully and completely as possible. This is not an easy task, however, because there are times when telling the complete truth can be destructive or counterproductive. The challenge for leaders is to strike a balance between being open and candid while monitoring what is appropriate to disclose in a particular situation. Many times, there are organizational constraints that prevent leaders from disclosing information to followers. It is important for leaders to be authentic, but it is also essential that they be sensitive to the attitudes and feelings of others. Honest leadership involves a wide set of behaviors.
Dalla Costa (1998) made the point clearly in his book, The Ethical Imperative, that being honest means more than not deceiving. For leaders in organizations, being honest means, â€œDo not promise what you canâ€™t deliver, do not misrepresent, do not hide behind spin-doctored evasions, do not suppress obligations, do not evade accountability, do not accept that the â€˜survival of the fittestâ€™ pressures of business release any of us from the responsibility to respect anotherâ€™s dignity and humanityâ€ (p. 164). In addition, Dalla Costa suggested that it is imperative that organizations recognize and acknowledge the necessity of honesty and reward honest behavior within the organization.
Ethical Leaders Build Community
In Chapter 1, we defined leadership as a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. This definition has a clear ethical dimension because it refers to a common goal. A common goal requires that the leader and followers agree on the direction to be taken by the group. Leaders need to take into account their own and followersâ€™ purposes while working toward goals that are suitable for both of them. This factor, concern for others, is the distinctive feature that delineates authentic transformational leaders from pseudotransformational leaders (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999) (for more on pseudotransformational leadership see page 165 in Chapter 8). Concern for the common good means that leaders cannot impose their will on others. They need to search for goals that are compatible with everyone.
Burns (1978) placed this idea at the center of his theory on transformational leadership. A transformational leader tries to move the group toward a common good that is beneficial for both the leaders and the followers. In moving toward mutual goals, both the leader and the followers are changed. It is this feature that makes Burnsâ€™s theory unique. For Burns, leadership has to be grounded in the leaderâ€“follower relationship. It cannot be controlled by the leader, such as Hitlerâ€™s influence in Germany. Hitler coerced people to meet his own agenda and followed goals that did not advance the goodness of humankind.
An ethical leader takes into account the purposes of everyone involved in the group and is attentive to the interests of the community and the culture. Such a leader demonstrates an ethic of caring toward others (Gilligan, 1982) and does not force others or ignore the intentions of others (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999).
Rost (1991) went a step further and suggested that ethical leadership demands attention to a civic virtue. By this, he meant that leaders and followers need to attend to more than their own mutually determined goals. They need to attend to the communityâ€™s goals and purpose. As Burns (1978, p. 429) wrote, transformational leaders and followers begin to reach out to wider social collectivities and seek to establish higher and broader moral purposes. Similarly, Greenleaf (1970) argued that building community was a main characteristic of servant leadership. All of our individual and group goals are bound up in the common good and public interest. We need to pay attention to how the changes proposed by a leader and followers will affect the larger organization, the community, and society. An ethical leader is concerned with the common good, in the broadest sense. This is underscored by Wilson and McCalman (2017), who argued that leadership for the greater good is the ultimate end toward which ethical leadership ought to be directed.