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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Pruning the Debris Off Ethical Leadership

As business practitioners grapple with the intangible yet potentially valuable notion of ethical leadership, it is left to scholars to assess whether those practitioners are “coloring within the lines.” It is admittedly all too easy to draw in exogenous material that is pleasing to the eye; it is all too easy to deem such material required for ethical leadership rather than ballast weighing it down, unnecessarily. 

              As you reflect on these examples of unethical leaders in business and government, ask yourself whether you have a gut reaction that ethical content must be part of ethical leadership. 
One business practitioner characterizes ethical leadership as that which “inspires the behaviors in people necessary to create competitive advantage.” As achieving a sustainable competitive advantage is the task of strategy, inspiration alone can be extracted as that which is particular to leadership. Strategy is what is left once one has extracted inspiration from the characterization.
As though to isolate the concept of ethical leadership on a petri dish, the practitioner adds that ethical leaders “distinguish themselves by doing that which is inconvenient, unpopular, and even temporarily unprofitable in the service of long-term health and value.” These stipulations may be dogmatic in the sense of being arbitrary, however, rather than intrinsic to the concept.

To continue reading this essay, please go to: "Shaking the Ideological Debris from Ethical Leadership"

Related Essay: "Toward a Theory of Ethical Leadership Without Ideology"

Dov Seidman, “Ethical Leadership: An Operating Manual,” BloombergBusinessWeek, December 17, 2010.