Personal Philosophy in Ethical LeadershipSUIYAN SITUIntroductionLeadership is no longer merely a symbol of power. It is not only about one’s style, expertise, and technique, but also about bravely taking on the challenge of ethics. Ethical practices are essential for an organization to carry out business while remaining more viable and adaptable to changes over time. Every leader will develop his own philosophy that specifies what is important and what is not to him.
It is a personal policy about how to make sound decisions and treat people with respect. In my opinion, there are five important principles of proper leadership ethics required for me to become a more thoughtful leader in the future. They direct a leader to build up a company as a moral community, to be responsible for the employees and the society as well, to be honest to others, to serve and to treat others with respect.
1. Ethical leaders build a communityIt is a leader’s responsibility to make the corporation a flourishing place wherein people feel satisfied. A leader is also a community constructor. As Robert Solomon (1994) indicates, a corporation is more than an instrument for financial gain. It is a community, which consists of a sense of belonging, shared values, a mission, and mutual interests. Leadership has a strong influence on the groups of people achieving their common goal. It requires that the leader agrees with the direction taken by the organization, and takes everyone’s purposes into consideration.
The established common goal needs to be compatible with everyone and leaders cannot impose their own will on their followers. Leaders are not dictators, but people who use their influence to lead their team to establish a mutual faith and to move toward a goal that is beneficial for both themselves and followers. James MacGregor Burns (2003) develops transformational leadership based on this idea.
He states that leaders take the initiative to mobilize followers to participate in organizational change, encourage a sense of collective identity and build up individual’s feelings of meaningfulness in the organization.As with building a democratic organization, leaders and followers have strong interaction between one another, and leaders inspire followers instead of wielding power over them. With such leadership, everyone shares his feelings, recognizes his values, and contributes to attaining the mutual goal.
The corporation is a place for human fulfillment. While the members are pursuing their goals, they are also transforming themselves. Leaders, who are coercive and fail to take others’ interests into consideration, will negatively impact their groups and lose their credibility.
This is the case of Hitler, the former Germany leader. He abused his power to coerce his followers to satisfy his own will and meet his goal, failing to promote the goodness of humankind. Therefore, as a community builder for the organization, a leader has to attend to the community’s goal by liberating his followers rather than enslaving them.
Leaders who don’t mobilize followers to assist in the adaptation of the change of organization will make mistakes in business strategies. Nokia used to be the dominant and pace-setting mobile-phone maker, yet, its business has been shrinking since Apple and Android began competing with it. Nokia underestimated the importance of the transition to the new smartphone market. The executives overestimated the demand for hardware in the mobile phone market and the strength of the corporate brand. They also didn’t carefully listen to the suggestion made by the marketing team.
So, they were stuck with its own operating system and failed to make any transformation to adapt to the change of market. 2. Ethical leaders are servantsWhen given authority over others, it is not merely a chance for leader to enjoy the power, but to take over the burden of caring for the company.
Being a leader means one is willing to be a servant to make sure that other people’s priorities are being addressed. Senge (1990) states that it is important for leaders to be servants of the vision of the organization. It means that leaders have to clarify and nurture a vision, which is beyond oneself. Robert Greenleaf (1977) also indicates that leaders who are willing to serve can always articulate the group’s mutual goal to resolve the employees’ uncertainty and give assistance to others who may have difficulty in achieving it.
Acting as a servant, a leader should not be self-centered.Instead, they will consider their followers as priority, always place others’ interestst first, and act in ways to benefit others. My experiences in volunteer work have helped me gain a deeper understanding of how leaders act as servant. It is surprising that even though there are no monetary rewards at the end, people are still zealously engaging in volunteer work. Our team leader always considers himself a servant to the team and the community. He shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps the team develop and perform at its best. He doesn’t exercise his power over us, or put himself in the ivory tower, but participates in working towards our team goal.
Every time any of us has problems with the work, he is willing to offer help and give us direction. He has successfully gained our trust in him and made us willingly follow his leadership. As mentioned before, an organization is also a community, so a servant leader will focus on the growth and well-being of people and the community he belongs to. 3. Ethical leaders are honest“Honesty is the best policy” in business. It is important because business is all about trust, and it wouldn’t work if there are only schemes, strategies, and plans. Honesty conforms to trust and eliminates suspicions. John Stuart Mill (Honest work, 2001) states that lying is wrong, as it brings long-term bad consequences.
Many leaders want to operate a long-term business, so keeping honesty and trust in their consciousness is essential in their leadership. Besides, leaders should be honest to both their business partners and their subordinates. As Solomon states, trust is an essential dimension in a dynamic relationship (1997). A business relationship is vulnerable. Betrayals would be fatal, as customers and business partners will always have a second choice. No one is willing to work a deal with someone who is no longer trustworthy. Enron leaders made the unprecedented financial growth by illegitimate activities.Their dishonesty is shown by the refusal to disclose the corporate financial information to their investors or even their employees.
They repeatedly masked a fault with a new lie, until their fraud was too big to be covered and the empire collapsed. Within a corporation, honesty and trust are important between leaders and followers, and among the employees. Norman E. Bowie (1988) points out that the production of goods and service is a cooperative enterprise.
Dishonesty and deception, such as exaggerations, misstatements, and concealment of facts can do harm to the employee-employer relationship and cause future problems in cooperation. Once the trust among organizational members is undermined, the stability of businesses will be threatened. Norman also suggests that an executive officer should have a set of moral standards to keep his business stable.
It is significant to build mutual trust within the organization, so that members can have better communication and have better performance, and leaders can make sound decisions.Providing genuine feedback is also a key element in leadership, which enhances mutual trust within an organization. Telling peers what they want to hear, or only criticizing their defects may lead a team into dysfunction. Hence, it is essential for leaders and followers to provide effective feedback to each other to help improve performance.
Sue De Wine indicates that feedback is a way to help people improve their behavior to achieve goals and provide information about how their behavior affects others. Therefore, leaders should provide sincere feedback with the purpose of improving one’s performance, and be willing to hear others’ feedback about them. Creating a freedom of exchange of effective feedback to each other within the organization enables members to understand themselves and one another better, and foster a strong and enduring trust relationship. 4. Ethical leaders respect othersBeing an ethical leader requires us to treat our employees with respect rather than using them as a means to an end. John J. McCall (Honest Work, 2001) indicates that individuals are autonomous, have inherent values and should be treated with dignity.
It is immoral to treat employees as replaceable human resources who are managed to pursue the goal of organizational profits. Hence, leaders should develop a commitment to subordinates’ dignity, believing in their ability to control and manage their work.Philosopher Immaneul Kant believes that it is our obligation to treat others with respect, because people are the only beings who have dignity in the world.
Norman Bowie explain this further by stating that having dignity means human are capable of being autonomous and responsible, so they are able to follow their own laws. In my perspective, treating others with respect means that leaders should take other people’s decisions and values into account. It includes allowing followers to be themselves and giving credence to their ideas.Leaders should also nurture their followers to be aware of their own needs and purposes, and combine them together to create mutual values. It is also significant for leaders to respect others by listening patiently to opposing voices and having empathy for their feelings, beliefs, and values.
Subordinates can feel motivated and competent about their work, when leaders display respect for them. 5. Ethical leaders take social responsibility into accountIt is essential for leaders to both lead an organization to achieve the financial goal and cultivate a sense of obligation for taking corporate social responsibility. Kenneth Arrow (1973) maintains that it is important for corporations to have the ideas of social responsibilities in mind, which means to take on an obligation and to operate moral and legal business. The corporations need to be clear about what is right and what is wrong when they are busy making products and make sure what the safety requirements are reasonable.
The Body Shop founder, Anita Roddick was passionately concerned about social responsibility, human rights, and environment and animal protection, and all these issues were integrated into The Body Shop’s mission. Even though Milton Friedman (Honest Work, 2001) argues that the sole responsibility of business is to maximize the profit of its owners, Roddick maintained a different position in growth. She thought her company could make its growth more responsible, and she redefined the nature of business and corporate responsibility as a spiritual endeavor, which deal with global business, human rights, environmental issues, and international change.With Anita’s innovative vision, The Body Shop had become a company that could balance the level of social responsibility and the importance of financial achievements.
She didn’t urge her company to pursue giant profits and rapid development, but encouraged her employees to do more social activities to make the world better. As Irving S. Shapiro (1979) indicates, all corporations have an important obligation to operate business with respect to the environment and attention to the health and safety of people, to treat employees with respect and help realize their potentials, to assist in satisfying community needs and to help solve community problems. Therefore, as far as I am concerned, it is an inevitable trend for leaders to consider corporate social responsibility as a part of their leadership ethics. 6. ConclusionAs Joanne Ciulla (2004) states, ethical policy is about doing the right thing, the right way, with the right intentions. Business is no longer solely about money, nor about everything for sale, but about developing a set of ethics.
It requires leaders to pay attention to the significance of the well-being of people and the social world. Failing to take business ethics into account gives rise to destructive consequences of poor productivity, bankruptcy, and lawsuits. Therefore, leaders who are actively taking responsibility for their followers and the community and treating others with respect can effectively promote innovation, morale, and goodwill in the organization.ReferencesIrving S. Shapiro. (1979). “Power and Accountability: The Changing Role of the Corporate Board of Directors,” in Honest Work: A Business Ethics Reader, edited by Joanne B Ciulla, Clancy Martin, and Robert C. Solomon, (2nd, edition, page 578).
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