Ethics in Leadership Essay
The leadership-centric approaches are broken down into four parts that attempt to justify leaders in their rule breaking. The four parts are relativism and exceptionalism, reason and amoralism, power and elf interest, and traits and virtues. Each part has its very own distinctive approach and within this paper we will discuss the moral theory and what different theorists say about the different approaches. In contrast the group-centric approaches are broken down into five parts.
Thee five parts are permission and consent, situations and circumstances, membership and moral particularity, the greater good and everyday leadership ethics. Group centric approaches deal with the study of how leaders are influenced by their followers. Leaders’ are affected mentally by the ways in which their followers respond or not respond to them. The analysis of the view that leaders are beyond reproach or justified to break rules is the main theme of this paper. This leans heavily upon the Kantian view of morality.
The main point of the paper is that rule breaking cannot be justified by the everyday leader. Although moral theory that does not allow rule breaking, it is deemed acceptable in such extreme circumstances where one’s life is considered threatened (Price, 2008,). According to Price, and everyday leaders ethics can be attributed back to how they themselves and their position within society (Price, 2008). A very profound statement is made by Price in the introduction to this book, Leadership Ethics An Introduction. The book assumes that what is common to all leaders is the moral psychology of leadership. A central component of the moral psychology of leadership is a belief about justification. The point is debated that leaders are sometimes justified in doing what others are not allowed to do. To paint a clearer picture and set the parameters on everyday leadership, it is compared to the leadership ethics of villains and heroes. In order to break the very rule that you are in position to enforce, and expect no recourse to be made one must be fully convinced in their justification.
This paper does not aim to discover why a leader feels justified for it has already broken it down into the categories of leadership, & Group-Centric. The aim of this paper is to dissect what we have already discovered by comparing and contrasting the different approaches, and bring it all together in relation to every day leadership (Price, 2008). Relativism and Exceptionalism vs. Permission and Consent Relativism and Exceptionalism could possibly be the most dangerous of all the leadership-centric theories because it allows the leader the ability to not be held accountable for his actions.
When one person’s freedom imposes upon the same freedom of someone else and a justification is made for this behavior based on beliefs alone, this is relativism and exceptionalism. In this philosophy a person can justify themselves, they are the judge and the jury. In this approach what they believe to be true is beyond reproach, simply because they believe it, Whether personal or cultural in both aspects of this theory morality is determined by what specific people or individuals believe is true instead of what the majority of people believe is wrong.
Relativism and Exceptionalism are even apparent in public policy. Ethical analysis is defined as the systematic examination of ethical or normative issues in public policy. Policy analysts view ethical analysis as problematic because they are quite sure how to do it. Because of this issue policy analysis steer clear of ethical analysts to keep from compromising the objectivity of their analysis. One such example that illustrates the need for ethical analysis involves the aftermath of September 11. Federal law requires random searches of individuals and their luggage of security checkpoints in the airport.
The ethics comes into play of the possibility of passenger profiling based demographic characteristics. Groups of certain people were considered to require special screening, and civil libertarians argued that this practice is unethical. Because of this the federal government soon adopted a system of random checks without profiling (Public Policy). This example brings to mind the first phase of the group centric phase where your approach to leadership which includes Permission and Consent. In Relativism and Exceptionalism the leader holds all the cards, ut in Permission and consent the power of influence is in the hands of the followers. Just as the civil libertarians stepped to federal government and said what they could not do, because it violates our rights, Permission and Consent allows followers to mandate what a leader can do. The Leader-Centric approach is considered interior to the group-Centric approach because it does not incorporate the people who are being led into the make up or the leadership model. Within the Permission and Consent approach the leader is made out to be exceptional.
In search of an absolute truth, followers create their own leader that is “beyond reproach,” on a basis of collective perception of individual competence. According to Price, “deception serves as the Kantian Paradigm of immorality,” (Price, 2008, p. 122) The consent based justification is that because the followers said it is ok for us to break the rules, it is ok. This philosophy stands on the ground that where there is no resistance, there is no wrong. Permission and Consent can also be known as contracterian ethics. “Contractarian ethical theories see morality as the result of agreement’ (Price, 2008, P. 123).
Price says that followers who promote leaders to “beyond reproach” status also willingly accept some sacrifices of their own in hopes to gain greater gains within their personal group. From the outside looking in seems as if this permission and consent approach is only appealing because it leaves little to the imagination. The bar for leaders is set so low in this approach that the people cannot fail by whom they select. The people cannot be held accountable for the leader they have selected and the leader cannot be held accountable for his actions because has been given permission and the irreversible gold stamp of approval.
Reason and Amoralism vs. Situation and Circumstances Reason and Amoralism deals with the concept of leaders who break the rules simply because they do not care about morality. This philosophy stands on the ground that a person’s decision to break or follow rules in leadership is being unreasonable. According to Kant, “leaders cannot justify rule-breaking behavior by appealing to its effects on followers or anyone else for that matter” (Price, 2008 p. 38). Kant’s perspective on leadership is a spin of the “the golden rule,” which tells us to treat others as we would like to be treated.
Instead Kant confers that we should treat everyone like we would like them to treat each other. This is the same philosophy, just a bigger picture. The Reason and Moralism approach is an attempt to universalize the golden rule. The general role to help others is so broad with this approach that it allows moral discretion on the part of those who help others. According to the Kantian philosophy, what we out to do depends largely on what we are able to do. Leaders however are usually in position to do more, and set standards for behaviors so it is less unreasonable for them to help.
One leading theorist, Gary Yukl believes that reward power also has a place in leadership (Price, 2008) Leaders must be role models for acceptable behavior or some else they will be encouragers for unacceptable behaviors by default. Reason holds an important position in all leadership because leaders are often into positions that have not already been governed by policy. On the other hand those who have not experienced any morality toward them will most likely be amoral, because they have no reason to be moral.
However, according Price, “there is no need to characterize individualist as amoralist to explain behavior that might be morally permissible in the first place. Situation and circumstances are the playgrounds of those who hold fast to the approach of moral situationism. This theory is one that believes that the leader is justified in her rule breaking if the situation calls for it. This is a contrast of the reason amoralism approach. Where Amoralism does not submit their decision to any law or influence, situation and circumstance approaches are tossed to and fro by the seriousness of every individual situation.
The problem with moral situationism is its lack of uniformity in its application. Without some sort of consistency that determines the features of the situations that provoke the morality of actions, moral situationism gives no direction to leaders. A leading theorist by the name of Joseph Fletcher makes an interesting argument. Fletcher feels that actions can only be judged in light of their consistency with the fulfillment of love (Price, 2008).
Although this theory is not presented as a theory of leadership ethics, it is presented as the ‘new morality” within the Christian walk of faith. What one can definitely find intriguing in the study of leadership ethics is the paradox of moral situationism among lead theorist. Niccolo’ Machiavelli, a military strategist along with Joseph Fletcher, a follower of Christ both seem to agree with the foundational belief of moral situationism. According to Machiavelli: Everyone will acknowledge that it would be most praiseworthy for a ruler to have all the qualities that are held to be good.
But because it is not possible to have of them, and because circumstances donor permit living a completely virtuous life, one must be sufficiently prudent to know how to avoid becoming notorious for those rules that would destroy one’s power… Yet one should not be troubled about becoming notorious for those vices without which it is difficult to preserve one’s power, because if one considers everything carefully, doing some things that seem vicious may strengthen one’s position and cause one to flourish. Machiavelli, 1988. ) Power and Self-Interest vs. Membership and Moral Particularity Price goes on to say, “without the motivation of self-interest there is a question as to whether we would need moral rules at all “ (Price, 2008, p. 66). Ethical failures are usually the result of selfishness, and power. Power equips leaders with the ability to overstep boundaries and by pass processes. With enough power leaders can disrupt the lives of ordinary people. People in positions of power simple break the rules because they can.
Self-interest is the basis for morality in this theory and the justification is one that holds to the belief that everyone is at the same integrity level and would have the same reactions. The power and Self Interest approach to leadership implies that leaders are justified in rule breaking because they are in power. In a sense what is just to the people becomes what is the advantage of the ones in power. The leader-centric approach of Power and Self-Interest also holds to the view that leaders should use the “boys will be boys” approach to leadership.
Egoism plays a huge role in this leadership approach because it basically gives the leader impunity of action. The Power and Self-Interest approach to leadership allows the leader to become immune to the same rules by which she governs her followers. In contrast the Membership and Moral Particularity group-centric approach holds to the belief that a leader can only break the rules if it is in the interest of the community of which he is a leader. Although the differences are apparent those two approaches are also both similar in the fact that self-interest gives the leader consent to break the rules.
Traits and Virtues vs. the Greater Good and Everyday Leadership Ethics The leader-centric approach of traits and virtues basically gives impunity to the leader because she is so “virtuous. ” In a sense the leader is not bound to the moral code of others because she “walks on a higher plane. ” This leader centric approach puts the leader above everything, even that are set in place to govern society. Morality is a state of being; not doing therefore these rules can be broke without the breaking of the rule blemishing the character of the “virtuous leader. In comparison the group-centric approach of the greater good applies no virtue to the leader but applies all virtue to the cause in which the leader’s followers believe in. The similarity in these two approaches is that they both give consent for rule breaking on the grounds of personal beliefs. (Price, 2008) Traits and Virtues leadership-centric approach reflects that of authentic leaders. According to Hellriegel and Slocum, authentic leaders are more likely to be trusted by followers and others (Hellriegel, D. , Slocum, J, 2012).
In contrast, according to Johnson, transformational leaders speak to higher level needs, such as esteem, competency, self-fulfillment, and self-actualization (Johnson, 2012). Ghandi’s approach to leadership demanded that leaders considered the moral aspects of their leadership. This style of leadership ethics differs from the leader-centric approach of relativism and that or permission and consent. Morals are the main focal point of this leader’s style, not the leader or the followers’ mandate. (Beck, 1995) According to Sontag, most colleges and universities are now offering courses in leadership ethics.
Because of the depth of leadership he feels the approach to the study can often be difficult (Sontag, 2011). However with the proper sources ethics in leadership can be an enjoyable research experience for those who have a passion for being an ethical leader that considers ethics in their leadership experiences. Conclusion In conclusion it is apparent that at no time is it acceptable to break the rules in leadership. Many leaders over the years have made justifications for their actions to separate themselves from the people they lead.
However this lack of uniformity of rule only weakens the internal structure of leadership. Only in extreme cases is it ok to break the rules. These extreme circumstances could include times when your life is threatened or when one is in the position that is far beyond everyday leadership. The everyday leader should not face extreme circumstances in his every day leadership role therefore she is not given the privilege to break rules in order to preserve that which has been threatened by times of intense pressure.
Business ethics fall into the role of everyday leadership therefore no business leader can be an exception to the rules they enforce. He or she must abide by the policies that they enforce to their subordinates. Ethics is a very tricky field to study because we can never come to a solid “solution” because of the difference of beliefs and society but we can come to the conclusion that no one person is the same society is justified to break a common rule that applies to everyone because they simply feel like it.
Although every leadership approach is a matter of opinion, we must agree that the followers must be in agreement with the leader in order for the leader to be in power to some degree. No leader comes into power strictly by him self, there has to be a process in place to promote us into positions of power. Business ethics definitely has a place in our society and increasing our knowledge in this area will only help to stop the ignorance and insensitivity of business practices throughout the U. S. and abroad.
From Niccolo’ Machiavelli to Terry Price there are many leading theorist who have spoken on the issues of ethics but it is ultimately up to us to walk in our own shoes and seek to improve the ethics of leadership one leader at a time by using sound judgment and critical thinking skills for all situations.
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