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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Transforming Transformational Leadership: Foundations over Ideology

James Burn’s concept of transformational leadership is in essence a process in which “one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality.”[1] This includes a moral commitment to develop followers, especially morally. To Burns, transformational leadership is therefore “an ethical, moral enterprise.”[2] I contend that the term transformation is not inherently ethical, and so it can apply to leadership in an amoral sense. Freed up from the limitations of being viewed primarily or even exclusively as moral, transformation can be seen to apply to leadership in at least two, much more direct—or central—ways than morally: as referring to a leader’s own transformation and to a leader’s vision being transformational.

The full essay is at "Transformational Leadership."


1. James M. Burns, J. Leadership (New York: Harper & Row, 1978): 20.
2. Ken W. Parry and Sarah B. Proctor-Thomson, “Perceived Integrity of Transformational Leaders in Organizational Settings,” Journal of Business Ethics 35, no. 2 (January, 2002): 75.


Friday, November 11, 2016

Getting an Election So Wrong: The American Media and Pollsters in 2016

“After projecting a relatively easy victory for Hillary Clinton with all the certainty of a calculus solution, news outlets like The New York Times, The Huffington Post and the major networks scrambled to provide candid answers.”[1] The dynamics likely went beyond even candid answers from the media, with major implications for how much reliance Americans should place on their media-establishment for political information.

The full essay is at "Getting an Election So Wrong."


1. Jim Rutenberg, “News Outlets Wonder Where the Predictions Went Wrong,” The New York Times, November 9, 2016.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

California and Britain: “Calexit” and “Brexit”?


Nearly six months after a majority of British voters voted to secede from the E.U., interest was building among Californians on the possibility of a “Calexit” from the U.S.[1] In fact, supporters were proposing a referendum to take place in 2019. Although the two exits would be comparable—two large states of empire-scale unions (California’s economy being larger than that of France, and California’s population being larger than that of Poland)—the reasons for a Brexit are more fundamental than those for a Calexit. As a result, the secession of Britain from the E.U. would have a firmer foundation in terms of political theory.


The complete essay is at Essays on Two Federal Empires.



1. Eugene Scott, “Interest in #Calexit Growing after Donald Trump Victory,” CNN, November 10, 2016.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Societal Norms Understating Unethical Corporate Cultures: The Case of Wells Fargo


The case of Wells Fargo suggests that even when a massive scandal is revealed to the general public, the moral depravity of a company’s culture is skirted rather than fully perceived. Wells Fargo was fined a total of $185 million by regulatory agencies including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which had accused the bank of creating as many as 1.5 million deposit accounts and 565,000 credit-card accounts that for which consumers never asked. The bank fired 5,300 employees over the course of about five years after it was revealed those employees had opened the accounts and credit cards.[1] Wells Fargo's CEO at the time, John Stumpf, "opted" for a cushy early retirement after an abysmal performance before a U.S. Senate committee; he walked away from the bank with around $130 million[2], and none of the other members of senior management were fired, or "retired," obliterating any hope societally that any of the senior managers would be held accountable. This result is particularly troubling, given the true extent to which that management had turned the bank into an ethically compromised organization.

The full essay is in Cases of Unethical Business, available in print and as an ebook at Amazon.com.  


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Organizational Conflicts of Interest and National Interest: The Case of Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation

Organizational lapses, such as in non-profits or companies, regarding institutional conflicts of interest can extend in impact as far as distorting or impairing government policy and national interest if a principal of the organization also holds a high government office. Relying on whether a position in such a dual-role has scruples of character against exploiting conflicts of interest is vulnerable because people differ substantially in character. As a result, I contend that even the appearance of such conflicts should not be permitted. I use the case of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation to make my point.


The full essay is at "Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation."