Ciulla, Joanne. The State of Leadership Ethics and the Work that Lies Before Us
2005, Business Ethics: A European Review 14 (4): 323-335.
Added by: Carl Fox
Conclusion: As you can see, this paper raises far more questions than it answers. I do, however, believe that the relationship between ethics and effectiveness (or technical and moral excellence) is at the core of leadership ethics and, for that matter, all areas of professional ethics. The question of how ethics is related to effectiveness lurks behind the problems with studying leadership that I mentioned earlier – the problems of language and definition, descriptive and normative confusions, the discussions about altruism and self-interest and the question of causation and history. Ethical assumptions are deeply embedded in the leadership literature and the way that people think about leadership. Leadership ethics requires scholars to first critically read the leadership literature, separate the normative ideas from the descriptive and then put the two back together again. Like most philosophical endeavors, digging for the questions is the most difficult part. Once the questions are unearthed, the task becomes slightly easier. For thousands of years, moral philosophers have wrestled with questions about the relationship between knowledge and morality, free will and determinism, etc. In our libraries reside the works of some of the greatest minds in history to help us with these questions. We should use them. When we consider the horrendous problems caused by leaders today and in the past, it is extraordinary that there are not more scholars working in the area of ethics and leadership. Most people agree that leaders should be ethical, but few have delved into what this means. How do we prepare leaders who have the capacity to responsibly use power, to carry out moral obligations to followers, make sound moral decisions and serve their organizations and constituents well, etc.? And, how do we develop followers, organizations, systems and institutions that support good leadership and do not tolerate bad leadership? These are questions faced by people everywhere and we will need the help of scholars around the world to answer them.
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Comment: A useful sketch of the ethical issues that arise in the context of leadership, particularly in the business sphere.