04 Apr What does it mean to be an ethical leader? How is ethical leadership demonstrated in social work practice? As a leader in the s
What does it mean to be an ethical leader? How is ethical leadership demonstrated in social work practice? As a leader in the social work profession, you have to achieve a balance between your professional and personal ethics. At times, these may be aligned with each other, but there may be situations in which they conflict. Because leadership includes value and moral dimensions, your character, actions, and goals as a social work administrator should reflect ethical leadership.
For this Discussion, consider the characteristics of ethical leadership and the challenges associated with practicing ethical leadership.
By Day 4
Post your definition of ethical leadership as it relates to the social work profession. Explain what it means to be an ethical leader and describe the challenges of being an ethical leader.
Support your post with specific references to the resources. Be sure to provide full APA citations for your references.
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This chapter is different from many of the other chapters in this book. Most of the other chapters focus on one unified leadership theory or approach (e.g., trait approach, path-goal theory, or transformational lead ership), whereas this chapter is multifaceted and presents a broad set of ethical viewpoints. The chapter is not intended as an “ethical leadership theory,” but rather as a guide to some of the ethical issues that arise in leadership situ ations.
Probably as long ago as our cave-dwelling days, human beings have been concerned with the eth ics of our leaders. Our history books are replete with descriptions of good kings and bad kings, great emp ires and evil emp ires, and strong presidents and weak presidents. But despite a wealth of biographical accounts of great leaders and their morals, very little research has been published on the theoretical foundations of leadership ethics. The re have been many studies on business ethics in general since th e early 1970s, but these studies have been only tangentially related to lead ership e thi cs. Even in the literature of management, written primarily for practitioners, there are very few books on leadership eth ic s. This sug gests that theoretical formulations in this area are still in their infancy.
One of the earliest writings that specifically focused on leadership ethics appeared as recently as 1996. It was a set of working papers generated from a small group ofleadership scholars, brought together by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. These scholars examined how leadership theory and practice could be used to build a more caring and just society. The ideas of the Kellogg group are now published in a volume titled Ethics, the Heart of Leadership (Ciu lla, 1998).
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Interest in the nature of ethical leadership has continued to grow, par ticularly because of the many recent scandals in corporate America and the political realm. On the academic front, there has also been a strong interest in exploring the nature of ethical leadership (see Aronson, 2001; Ciulla, 2001, 2003; Johnson , 2011; Kanungo, 2001; Price, 2008; Trevino, Brown, & Hartman, 2003).
From the perspective of Western tradition, the development of ethical theory dates back to Plato (427-347 B.c.) and Aristotle (384-322 B.C.). The word ethics has its roots in the Greek word ethos, which translates to cus toms, conduct, or character. Ethics is concerned with the kinds of values and morals an individual or a society finds desirable or appropriate. Fur thermore, ethics is concerned with the virtuousness of individuals and their motives. Ethical theory provides a system of rules or principles that guide us in making decisions about what is right or wrong and good or bad in a particular situation. It provides a basis for understanding what it means to be a morally decent human being.
In regard to leadership, ethics has to do with what leaders do and who leaders are. It is concerned with the nature of leaders’ behavior, and with their virtuousness. In any decision-making situation, ethical issues are either implicitly or explicitly involved. The choices leaders make and how they respond in a given circumstance are informed and directed by their ethics.
For the purposes of studying ethics and leadership, ethical theories can be thought of as falling within two broad domains: theories about leaders’ conduct and theories about leaders’ character (Table 16.1 ). Stated another way, ethical theories when applied to leadership are about both the actions of leaders and who they are as people. Throughout the chapter, our discus sions about ethics and leadership will always fall within one of these two domains: conduct or character.
Ethical theories that deal with the conduct of leaders are in turn divided into two kinds: theories that stress the consequences of leaders’ actions and those that emphasize the duty or rules governing leaders’ actions (see Table 16.1). Teleological theories, from the Greek word telos,
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Table 16.1 Domains of Ethical Theories
Consequences (telelogical theories) Virtue-based theories
• Ethical egoism
Duty (deontological theories)
m ea ning “ends” or “p urpo ses,” try to answer questions about right and wrong by focusing on whether a person’s conduct will produce desirable consequences. From the teleological perspective, the question “What is right?” is answered by looking at results or outcomes. In effect, the conse qu ences of an individual’s actions determine the goodness or badness of a parti c ul ar behavio r.
In assess ing consequenc es, there are three different approaches to mak ing deci sions regarding moral conduct (Figure 16.1): ethical egoism, utili tarianism, and altruism. Ethical egoism states that a perso n should act so as to create th e greatest good for herself or himself. A leader with this ori entation would take a job or career that he or she selfishly enjoys (Avolio & Locke, 2002 ). Self-interest is an ethical stance closely related to transac tional leadership th eo ries (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999). Ethical egoism is common in some business contexts in which a company and its employees make decision s to achieve its goal of maximizing profits. For example, a midlevel, upward-aspiring manager who wants her team to be the best in th e company could be desc ribed as acting out of ethical egoism.
A second teleological approach, utilitarianism, states that we should behave so as to create the greatest good for the greatest number. From this viewpoint, the morally correct action is the action that maximizes social benefits while minimizing soc ial costs (Sc humann, 2001). When the U.S. government allocates a large part of the federal budget for preventive health care rath er than for catastrophic illnesses, it is acting from a utilitar ian perspective, putting money where it will have the best result for the largest number of citizens.
Closely related to utilitarianism, and opposite of ethical egoism, is a third teleological approach, altruism. Altruism is an approach that suggests that actions are moral if th eir primary purpose is to promote the best inter ests of others. From this perspective, a leader may be called on to act in the
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Figure 16.1 Ethical Theories Based on Self-Interest Versus Interest for Others
I High • Ethical Egoism
CONCERN FOR Medium • Utilitarianism
Low • Altru ism
I Low Medium High
CONCERN FOR THE INTEREST OF OTHERS
interests of others, even when it runs contrary to his or her own self interests (Bowie, 1991 ). Authentic transformational leadership is based on altruistic principles (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999; Kanungo & Mendonca, 1996). The strongest example of altruist ethics can be found in the work of Mother Teresa, who devoted her life to helping the poor.
Quite different from looking at which actions will produce which out comes, deontological theory is derived from the Greek word deos, which means “duty.” Whether a given action is ethical rests not only with its consequences (teleological), but also with whether the action itself is good. Telling the truth , keeping promises, being fair, and respecting others are all examples of actions that are inherently good, independent of the con sequences. The deontological perspective focuses on the actions of the leader and his or her moral obligations and responsibilities to do the right thing . A leader’s actions are moral if th e leader has a moral right to do them, if the actions do not infringe on others’ rights, and if the actions further the moral rights of others (Schumann, 2001).
In the late 1990s, the president of the United States, Bill Clinton, was brought before Congress for misrepresenting under oath an affair he had
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maintain e d with a White House intern. For his actions, he was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives, but then was acquitted by the U.S. Senate. At one point during the long ordeal, the president appeared on national television and, in what is now a famou s speech, declared his inno cence. Because subsequent hearings provided information that suggested that he may have lied during this televi sion spe ech , many Americans felt President Clinton had violated his duty and responsibility (as a person, lea der, and president) to tell the truth. From a deontological perspective, it could be said that h e fail ed hi s ethical responsibility to do the right thing-to tell the truth.
Whereas tel eological and deontological theories approach ethics by look ing at the behavior or conduct of a leader, a second set of theories approaches ethics from the viewpoint of a leader’s character (see Table 16.1 ). These theories are called virtue-based theories; they focus on who leaders are as people. In this perspective, virtue s are rooted in the heart of the individual and in th e individual’s disposition (Po jman, 1995). Furthermore, it is believed that virtues and moral abilities are not innate but can be acquired and learned through practice. People can be taught by their families and communities to be morally appropriate human beings.
With their origi n traced back in th e Western tradition to the ancient Greeks and the works of Plato and Aristotle, virtue theories are experiencing a resurge nce in popularity. The Greek term associated with these theo ries is aretaic, which means “excellence” or “virtu e.” Consistent with Aristotle, current advocates of virtue-based theory stress that more attention should be given to the development and training of moral values (Velasquez , 1992). Rather th an telling people what to do, attention should be directed toward telling people wh at to be, or h elping th em to become more virtuous.
What, then , are th e virtues of an ethical person? There are many, all of which see m to be important. Based on the writings of Aristotle, a moral person demonstrates the virtues of courage, temperance, generosity, self control, honesty, soc iability, modesty, fairnes s, and justice (Velasquez, 1992 ). For Aristotle, virtues allowed people to live well in communities. Applying ethics to leadership and management, Velasqu ez has suggested that managers should develop virtues such as perseve rance , public-spiritedness, integrity, truthfulness, fidelity, benevolence, and humility.
In essence, virtue-based ethics is about being and becoming a good, worthy human being. Although people can learn and develop good values, this theory maintain s that virtues are present in one’s disposition . When
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practiced over time, from youth to adulthood, good values become habit ual, and part of the people themselves. By telling the truth, people become truthful; by giving to the poor, people become benevolent; by being fair to others, people become just. Our virtues are derived from our actions, and our actions manifest our virtues (Frankena, 1973; Pojman, 1995).
Centrality of Ethics to Leadership
As discussed in Chapter 1, leadership is a process whereby the leader influences others to reach a common goal. The influence dimension of leadership requires the leader to have an impact on the lives of those being led. To make a change in other people carries with it an enormous ethical burden and responsibility. Because leaders usually have more power and control than followers, they also have more responsibility to be sensitive to how their leadership affects followers’ lives.
Vhether in group work, organizational pursuits , or community proj ects, leaders engage subordinates and utilize them in their efforts to reach common goals . In all these situations, leaders have the ethical responsibil ity to treat followers with dignity and respect-as human beings with unique identities . This “respect for people” demands that leaders be sensitive to followers’ own interests, needs , and conscientious concerns (Beauchamp & Bowie, 1988) . Although all of us have an ethical respon sibility to treat other people as unique human beings, leaders have a spe cial responsibility, because the nature of their leadership puts them in a special position in which they have a greater opportunity to influence others in significant ways.
Ethics is central to leadership, and leaders help to establish and rein force organizational values. Every leader has a distinct philosophy and point of view. “All leaders have an agenda, a series of beliefs, proposals , values, ideas, and issues that they wish to ‘put on the table”‘ (Gini, 1998, p. 36). The values promoted by the leader have a significant impact on th e values exhibited by the organization (see Carlson & Perrewe, 1995; Schminke, Ambrose, & Noel, 1997; Trevino, 1986). Again, because of their influence, leaders play a major role in establishing the ethical climate of their organizations.
In short, ethics is central to leadership because of the nature of the process of influence, the need to engage followers in accomplishing mutual goals, and the impact leaders have on the organization’s values .
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The following section provides a discussion of some of the work of prominent leadership scholars who have addressed issues related to ethics and leadership. Although many additional viewpoints exist, those pre sented are representative of the predominant thinking in the area of ethics and leadership today.
Heifetz’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, Mohanclas 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. Heifetz’s perspective is related to ethical leadership because it deals with values: the values of workers and the values of the organizations and com munities 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 speaks directly to the values of workers.
For Heifetz ( 1994), leaders must use authority to mobilize people to face tough issues. The leader provides a “holding environment” 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 infor mation, to manage and frame issues, to orchestrate conflicting perspectives, and to facilitate decision making (Heifetz, 1994, p. 113). The leader’s duties are to assist the follower in struggling with change and personal growth.
Burns’s Perspective on Ethical Leadership
As discussed in Chapter 9, Burns’s theory of transformational leadership places a strong emphasis on followers ‘ needs, values, and morals. Transfor mational leadership involves attempts by leaders to move followers to higher standards of moral responsibility. This emphasis sets transformational leader ship 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, Burns’s ( 1978) perspective argues that it is important for leaders to engage themselves with followers and help them
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in their personal struggles regarding conflicting values. The resulting con nection raises the level of morality in both the leader and the follower.
The origins of Burns’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 emphasiz es the leader’s role in attending to the personal moti vations and moral development of the follower. For Burns, it is the respon sibility 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 wi ll stress values such as liberty, justice, and equa lity (Ciulla , 1998).
Burns’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 rep resent higher moral ground than others? If leadership, by definition, entails raising individual moral functioning, does this mean that the lead ership of corrupt leaders is not actually leadership? Notwithstanding these very legitimate questions , Burns’s perspective is unique in that it makes ethics the centra l 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.
Principles of Ethical Leadership
In this section, we turn to a discussion of five principles of ethical lead ership, the origins of which can be traced back to Aristotle. The impor tance of these principles ha s 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 16.2).
Ethical Leaders Respect Others
Philosopher Immanuel Kant ( 1724- 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 en ds. As Beauchamp and Bowie
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Figure 16.2 Principles of Ethical Leadership
( 1988, p. 3 7) pointed out, “Pe rsons must be treated as having their own autonomously estab lished goals and must never be treated purely as the means to another’s personal goals.” These writers then suggested that treating others as ends rather than as means requires that we treat other people’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 cre ative wants and des ires. They approach other people with a sense of their unconditional worth and valuable individual differences (Kitchener, 1984). Respect includes giving credence to others’ ideas and confirming them as human beings. At times, it may require that lead ers defer to others. As Burns ( 1978) suggested, leaders should nurture followers in becoming aware of their own needs, values, and purposes, and assist followers 111 integrating thes e with the leader’s need s, values, and purposes.
Respect for others is a complex ethic that is similar to but goes deeper than the kind of respect that parents teach littl e children. Respect means that a leader listens closel y to subordinates, is empathic, and is tolerant of opposing points of view. It means treating subordinates in ways that con firm their beliefs, attitudes, and values. When a leader exhib its respect to
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subordinates, subordinates 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 tvvo ethical theories, one based on a concern for self (ethical egoism) and another based on the interests of oth ers (eth ical altruism). The service principle clearly is an example of altruism. Leaders who serve are altruistic: They place their followers’ 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 leader’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 profes sionals, ethical leaders have a responsibility to attend to others, be of ser vice to them, and make decisions pertaining to them that are beneficial and not harmful to their welfare.
In the past decade, 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 ), DePree ( 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 we ll-recognized writing on learning organi zations. 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 vis ion that is greater than oneself. This means not being self centered, but rather integrating one’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 themselves-a part of the organi za tion 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
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altruistic ethical overtones in how it emphasizes that leaders should be atten tive 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 Greenleaf’s notion of waiting on the have-nots or Senge’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 “greater good” has found an unusual following in the business world. In 2009, 20% of the graduating class of th e Harvard Business School, consid ered to be one of the premier schools producing today’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. Simi larly, 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 others’ interests foremost in their work, and must act in ways that will benefit others .
Ethical leaders Are Just
Ethical leaders are concerned about iss ues of fairness and justice. They make it a top priority to treat all of their subordinates 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 differentl y, the grounds for different treat ment 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.
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When resources and rewards or punishments are distributed to employ ees, 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 jus tice 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 Rule- “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” 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 impor tant 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 princi ples that serve as guides for leaders in distributing the benefits and burdens fairly in an organization (Table 16.2 ). Although not inclusive, these prin ciples 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 subordinates.
To illustrate the principles described in Table 16.2, consider the fol lowing hypothetical example: You are the owner of a small trucking com pany that employs 50 drivers . You have just opened a new route, and it
Table 16.2 Principles of Distributive Justice
These principles are applied in different situations.
To each person
• An equal share or opportunity • According to individual need
• According to that person’s rights • According to individual effort • According to societal contribution • According to merit or performance
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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). Tvo 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 Safety Board and has a 20-year accident-free driving record (societal contribution). Two drivers have been with the company since its inception, and th eir performance has been meritorious year after year.
As the owner of the company, your challenge is to assign the new route in a fair way. Although many other factors could influence your decision (e.g., seniority, wage rate, or employee health), the principles described in Table 16.2 provide guidelines for deciding who is to get the new route.
Ethical Leaders Are Honest
When we were children, grown-ups often told us we must “never tell a lie.” 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. Dis honesty may bring with it many objectionable outcomes; foremost among those outcomes is the distrust it creates. vVhen leaders are not honest, oth ers 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 leader’s impact is compromised because others no longer trust and belie·e 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 relati onship 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 ah ead of the relationship by saying that we know what is be st for the relationship. The long-term effect of this type of behavior is
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that it weakens relationships. Even when used with good intentions, dis honesty 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, howe
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