Unethical Versus Ethical Leadership
Unethical Versus Ethical Leadership
Leaders greatly influence culture of the organization and the ethical environment, this in turn, influences behavior of employees. Ethical leadership promotes a conducive environment where values and objectives of employees align with the organization’s mission. Employees are encouraged to apply right paradigms when determining appropriate actions that result in positive ethical conduct. There are various ways which when implemented together can assist leaders to strengthen ethical leadership across all sectors in the organization.
How a leader portrays his/her values and character to other colleagues and employees greatly matters. This element determines the amount of impact the leader has on the organization. Regardless of the actions taken by the leader, the leader’s personality will determine how his/her actions are received. If the leader is thought to have the right moral character and has integrity, his/her actions will have more influence than if the leader is perceived to have questionable character. There are five ways through which a leader can find courage to act ethically.
One way of finding courage is through creating community. Ethical leaders must invest in the creation of a community by using the shared values and mission of the organization to act as the foundation in the decision making process. The leaders recognize agreements made between stakeholders and strengthen their commitment to implementation of these agreements at the appropriate time. They also advocate for appropriate behaviors that lead to strong culture (McQueeny, 2006).
Another way for a leader to find courage is through encouraging ethical behavior in the workplace. Such leaders gain courage and are comfortable with their responsibilities when they actively encourage ethical behavior. They reinforce awareness of ethical behavior at work environment. The leader finds courage when he/she focuses on action and is always alert to distractions that reduce the employee’s ability to behave appropriately. Examples of ethical missteps are falsely identifying ethical decisions, and forcing employees to work non-stop even when they are tired.
The third way of finding courage is by being disciplined as they perform their roles and responsibilities. Effective leaders play their roles relentlessly and are always aware of conflicting roles and responsibilities they have in the work place. This enables them to be disciplined when making critical decisions that affect the organization. The fourth way of finding courage is through clarifying culture. Things sometimes go wrong despite tremendous effort being invested to ensure that they go as smoothly as planned.
When things go wrong, effective ethical leaders must pause in order to clarify the organization’s culture. It is done by revisiting and strengthening the organization’s mission and shared values and identifying the gaps between actual and stated values. The organization’s culture can also be clarified by allowing employees in the organization to find out for themselves if the organization values and personal values align.
The last way of finding courage is through designing ethical systems. Effective ethical leaders accept the responsibility of coming up with ethical systems in the workplace that use mission and values to implement decision about rewards and compensation such as bonuses and promotions. Such ethical leaders put more effort in personal and individual development, this improves the morale of the leader thus making him/her more courageous.
The following business situation presents a dilemma for the leaders: the director of community-based organization is responsible for the management of several site in different towns. The state budget crisis has reduced the organization’s funding by forty percent. It is then recommended that at least two sites must be closed down in order to maintain optimum operations of the organization. This means that dedicated employees will have to be laid off and discontinuing services to communities who rely on the organization’s operations (Reilly, 2006).
This is an example of an ethical question that the leader must answer before making any decision. The methods employed by leaders to make decisions determine whether they are effective ethical leaders or not. It is impossible for leaders to avoid dealing with issues of effective ethical leadership. The best counsel that I would give the leader is to practice ethical leadership when determining the sites that are to be closed down.
How can ethical leadership be practiced? Ethical leadership is acquired through hard work and experience. It requires a coherent and clear ethical framework that will act as a reference point during decision making process and when taking appropriate action. Coherent and clear ethical framework develops gradually through experience. This means that the leader’s ethical framework is as a result of everything he/she has experienced.
For some leaders, ethical standards are not as a result of what they have experienced or encountered. However, for others, it is as a result of religious or cultural teaching, or in academic learning through literature, psychology or philosophy. Ethical structure is important it provides a reference point for making effective ethical decisions. The standards contained in the ethical structure vary from leader to leader or from one situation to the other.
The most important thing is coming up with an ethical framework that enables a leader to have a basis from which he/she can make difficult ethical choices, instead of leaving him/her in a dilemma. It can be compared to developing a product from a predetermined set of materials to developing it from guesswork, with no idea of the type of materials to be used. It is obvious that planning results in the development of the best product.
The above business example problem does not allow for straight forward solutions. Since two sites must be closed in order for the organization to remain operational, communities are going to be hurt regardless of the decision to be made. Coherent and clear ethical framework will not present the leader with clearly outlined decision but will instead inform him/her the factors that are to be considered and also help them determine the most important factors.
The following is a description of how I would prepare myself to lead ethically. The first step is to give the organization a higher priority before personal interests. True test of effective ethical leaders is developing solutions appropriate for the organization even when they do not serve personal interests or even go against them. The leader must not however sacrifice his/her time and effort beyond the point of being effective.
The second step is to encourage employees to discuss ethics in general as the culture of the organization. Each employee must be able to analyze ethical implication of their action or decision and determine whether the implications should affect their approach. The third step is to institutionalize methods for employees to question authority. Feedback information is necessary for effective decision making process.
The last step is determining consequences of the decisions being made and looking for means to minimize their effects on the employees. Real challenge faced by ethical leaders is determining the priorities of situations where the gain of one thing leads to a loss of another.
McQueeny, E. (2006). Making Ethics Come Alive. Business Communication Quarterly, 69(2), 158-170.
Reilly, E. C. (2006). The Future entering: Reflections on and challenges to Ethical Leadership. Educational Leadership and Administration, 18, 163-173.
Seidman, D. (2010). Ethical Leadership:An Operating Manual. Bloomberg Business Week, 10, 1-2.
Stansbury, J. (2009). Reasoned Moral Agreement: Applying discourse ethics within organizations. Business Ethics Quarterly, 33-56.
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