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Ethical Leadership Within Organizations

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This article examines the literature regarding the topic ethical leadership within organizations. The article is focused on four main topics which include definition of ethical leadership, the personal integrity and morality of a leader, how a leader ethically influences followers, and current challenges facing ethical leaders. The literature review was conducted by utilizing databases such as, academic search complete, the library of congress database and the Barnes and Nobles bookstore. In this article the author brings up an interesting question stating that how is ethical character developed within a leader. The discussion points like how and when do we learn ethics, is ethics measurable and an example which explains how someone’s ethical behaviour has influenced you helps to summarize and find solutions  helps to inculcate ethical leadership in organizations. Overall it was found that ethical leadership is complex and relatively newer field of study and can be established by trust and gaining ethical knowledge by way of study and application. the literature review examines each of the four topics as mentioned above in greater depth and considers the findings in the end.

Keywords: ethical leadership, ethics, morality, virtues, values, morals and management.

Ethics is the discipline within philosophy concerned with right and wrong human actions. Ethics comes down to a choice to influence one and others in doing the right thing. The following article explores the literature regarding the topic of ethical leadership.   The study of ethical leadership is growing in relevancy, as once well known organizations have fallen from grace. The collapse of Enron, Lehman Brothers and the housing market crash are all exposed all in due, in part, to unethical behaviour. Green and odom (2003) found that lack of ethical leadership caused harm to thousands of employees, invoked the government regulation and crippled consumer confidence of the financial industry (Thomson, 2010) Darcy (2010) confirms that the present situation of organizations is doubtful regarding ethics. According to the study completed by author it was found that the biggest problem in organizations and individuals today is lack of trust. According to frank (2002) what he calls lack of trust as the shadow side of leadership. These shadows include the negative influence of power, privilege, deception, inconsistency, irresponsibility and misplaced loyalties.  Yukl (2006) summarizes the ethical leader as one who promotes honesty, and mirrors his or her actions with their values and beliefs.

Ethics develop standards by which a leader can judge the effects different behaviour have on one another (Hickman, 1998). In conclusion, ethics comes down to a choice to influence one and others in doing the right thing. Ethical leadership is not about a process but a way of being and making the right choice (Darcy, 2010). Which in turn examine the inner morality of a leader will be examined.

This brings up the question how is ethical character developed within a leader??? Following points elaborates on how ethical character is developed within a leader. Different authors have different view points on how ethical character can be developed within a leader.

 Frank (2002) argues that ethical leadership flourishes when one examines his or her inner character. Inner character is developed by personal trauma, career setbacks, mistakes and failures and when a leader is able to examine one’s inner self during tough times, one is able to grow in character. Thus ethics is developed in the suffering.

Lewis (1944) on the other hand argues that man must be taught proper values. According to the author ethical behaviour is not intrinsically known to man but rather must be learned. For example if a leader only learns with his head but not his heart the value of ethics, he is like a man without a chest. Therefore, an ethical leader must first by way of knowledge learn values and then by way of heart apply them in everyday life.

Malphurs (2004) implements the practice of values within an ethical leader’s life. Values come by means of practice. The author notes that followers are watching more what one does rather than what one says and if the behaviour is inconsistent then the leader’s integrity is lost. In summary a person grows through action which in turn proves that a leader is produced with practice.

Binns( 2008) notes that, with knowledge, leaders are better able to shed their incorrect ways of thinking and are liberated to think ethically and without bias.  According to King (2008) those who integrate faith into workplace were more often considered ethical leaders. Therefore, the author argues that ethics derive from a place of faith.



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