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Ethical Leadership

In: Business and Management

Submitted By bionix61
Words 913
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Introduction

In recent years, there are many corporate ethics scandals, which raised significant enquires about the roles of leadership in shaping ethical conduct (Brown, Trevino & Harrison 2005). Leaders by nature are responsible for motivating their subordinates to carry out a task or to behave in a certain manner. According to Starratt (2005), ethical leadership requires ethical leaders, as it is believed that how the leaders conduct themselves have direct impact to the organization in terms of organizational culture and employee values. Also mentioned by Resick et al. (2006), ethical leadership focuses on how leaders use their social power in decision-making, influencing others as well as the actions they engage in. Therefore, if leaders are ethical, they can maintain high level of ethical awareness and ensure that ethical practices are carried out throughout the organization.

Often, ethical leaders display a high level of integrity that is important to stimulate a sense of leadership trustworthiness. These factors provide the foundation for personal characteristics, which directly impact a leader’s ethical beliefs, values, and decisions. However, studies also show that leadership integrity only accounts for one minor portion of a person’s trait. In this essay, we attempt to provide insights and discuss ethical leadership and also attempt to prove that ethical leader is mostly about leadership integrity.

Moral Person and Moral Manager

While production and profitability goals are often being taken as a leader’s primary objective. There are also other essential aspects such as the responsibility in ensuring standards of moral and ethical conducts are met in the organization. Recent studies done by Trevino, Hartman & Brown (2000), indicate that the reputation for ethical leadership is reliant on two essential pillars; Moral Person and Moral Manager. Moral Person is defined in terms of 3 components, firstly, individual traits such as honesty and integrity. Secondly, behavior such as doing the right things and personal morality. Lastly, decision-making in terms of objectivities, fairness and holding to values. Whereas for Moral Managers, they being seen as ethics officers of the organization who create strong ethics message to capture employees’ attention and influences their thoughts and behavior through the different aspects such as role modeling, Rewards and Disciplines and communication of ethics and values.

In order to be seen as a reputable ethical leader, Trevino, Brown & Wall (2004) studies also identified that it is insufficient for leaders to be perceived as just being a moral person. Being a moral person only conveys messages to followers on what to do, building connections that are based on trust, respect, integrity, honesty and support for their subordinates. However, it does not express to them what the leader expects them to do. Therefore to be seen as a reputable ethical leader, one must also be seen as a moral manager, that is able to guide and led others on the ethical aspect. Hence, the concept of the two pillars indicated that only when someone who is strong in both the dimension of Moral Person and Moral Manager, could that person be viewed as ethical leader.

In addition to the two pillars concept, Trevino, Hartman & Brown (2000) came up with the two-by-two matrix by combining the moral person and moral manager aspect. These led us to another notion, which are the four types of leader respectively. Firstly, the unethical leader is a leader who is weak in both the dimension of moral person and moral manager aspect will be viewed as unethical leader. Secondly, the Hypocritical Leaders is a leader who ‘pretended’ to be someone with strong ethical beliefs and attempts to put ethics and values in the forefront. Whereby according to Trevino, Brown & Wall (2004), these leaders ‘talk the ethics talk’ but do not ‘walk the ethics walk’ and is undoubtedly worst then not doing anything at all. The subordinates in such cases would become skeptical and doubt everything their leader ask or told them to do and therefore most probably would follow-suit their leaders and ignoring the entire ethics standard. Thirdly, The ethically neutral leaders also known as ‘silent Leader’, is being seen as someone who is not visibly unethical, however, also not strongly ethical. These leaders tend to be more self-centered, less compassion and tend to be not open to any suggestion from their subordinates. They are narrow minded and most likely to based their decisions upon the short-term outcome as compared to decision that might help to improve the organization and making it a better place to work in. Lastly, ethical leaders as mentioned in earlier paragraph, are leaders who are strong in both the moral person and moral manager aspect. These leader followed strongly according to their personal values and ethics and also influences their subordinates to follow and aware of the ethics standards in the organization.

Many may wonder why is it so important for leaders to be seen as a reputable ethical leader. This is because, many times, followers and subordinates need evidence of the positive ethics traits, behavior and decision-making. Without this awareness, followers or subordinates might think that it is not important to follow or in cultivate these ethics standards and hence, simply ignoring it. Therefore according to Trevino, Hartman & Brown (2000), it is essential that a leader not only must possess high moral ethics (moral person), they must also be able to influence and demonstrate (moral manager) the ethics standards so that followers and subordinates are aware of these positive attributes and realize the importance of business ethics.

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