Ethical decisions are made by applying a leader’s personal values to their leadership styles. Ethics and leadership are linked by power; leaders have the ability to act, thus solving ethical issues. Corporate leaders should understand the systems in which they lead and how they can improve the decision-making process in order to make effective ethical decisions. This essay first discusses the head of Starbucks, Kevin Johnson, who demonstrates excellent ethical leadership in mitigating discrimination in the workplace and then provides a personal example of being a leader.
This spring, the company was involved in an incident of racial discrimination. On March 15, Bryce Ward, who is Black, was discriminated against by a manager at Bay Area Starbucks (Starbucks, 2021). The company’s authorities quickly responded to that case by apologizing for the incident and stating their human rights values. Indeed, the company is considered one of the most ethical entities around the world, suggesting its effective leadership. A similar case was three years ago when two Black men were arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks (Orso, 2019). By using his legitimate power, Kevin Johnson commented that a manager was removed from the position due to violating the company’s code of conduct.
Quick response and strictly following the company’s mission and values demonstrate Johnson’s ability to conduct effective, ethical leadership. His leadership style can be characterized as democratic, as he listens to employees and treats them as partners. His charismatic power attracts stakeholders and customers, making them support his actions. Johnson understands that the company and he are in the public’s eye and that every effort matters in mitigating such topics as discrimination. He shows a strong emphasis on moral values, projecting them to the business structure. Additionally, his move to apologize and comment on the situation was a good tactic, as he, as CEO, represents and creates values.
As a leader, Johnson applied some tactics of effective, ethical leadership when dealing with these situations. By restating its values, he illustrated that the company supports the community and cares about its well-being. He also showed good discipline and obedience to rules critical to an ethical leader by responding on time and not ignoring the incidents. This also reduced the chances of scandal, suggesting the leader’s ability to effectively manage the work of the PR team. One more tactic that was used is the clarification of the culture of Starbucks and making people feel optimistic about the entity. It seemed that his personal beliefs aligned with the ones of the company that, further contributed to the brand’s image. Starbucks is less likely to lose customers as ethical leadership is an integral part of the brand.
The cases of racial discrimination did not disrupt the brand but instead made it looks more problem-oriented than it was before. Kevin Johnson was able to demonstrate that the company cares about social issues and that it is willing to help to eliminate any forms of societal discrimination. Relating it to the concept of conscious capitalism, there are four pillars, namely purpose, stakeholder, culture, and leadership, that instruct leaders on how to make socially responsible and ethical decisions (GCU, 2021).
I think Johnson’s leadership style, along with his power sources, enable him to exercise those pillars at a maximum level, as the company successfully mitigates the ethical issues.
Starbucks has a well-written code of conduct with clearly established purpose and values regarding human interaction inside and outside of the company. Moreover, it has strong company policies on ethics at the workplace and on the interaction between employees, suggesting the company’s concerns about its stakeholders. The response of Johnson to the incidents of discrimination showed how they value their stakeholders and care about their culture. As such, it can be said that Kevin Johnson is a great example of effective, ethical leadership in action.
When it comes to me as a servant leader in charge of such an ethical situation, I assume that I will act exactly the same way using my legitimate power along with charismatic power. However, my reaction will be different in the way how I will apologize. I will have a speech and ensure material help for the victims, as it is more practical and contributes to the brand image. I also think that employees should be partners in a business structure. Stakeholders are a crucial part of any organization, and satisfying their needs should be a priority for a successful business. However, a leader should not betray the initial values and mission of the company to please the stakeholders. Therefore, rechecking and reminding the code of conduct is extremely important to the leader.
Once I realize that my company is on the edge of a scandal that can significantly hurt the brand’s image, I will try to communicate with the public. Due to the charismatic power source based on admiration and identification with a leader, I think I will turn the situation to the company’s side (GCU, 2021). The public wants to see how a high-positioned person will also feel as they are when facing discrimination. By using such power, it will be more accessible to me to establish a connection with the public, keeping them loyal to the brand. It was illustrated by Starbucks that responding on time reminds people about the company’s and leader’s values. Moreover, by giving a quick response, the leader will ensure solving ethical issues effectively, thus demonstrating concern about the problem. I also would offer material compensation to the victims of discrimination to lessen the effects of the cases.
As it was seen, the leadership style that I will apply is democratic, as I want to engage with employees and see their views of the problem. Brainstorming and regular meetings would be an essential part of my leadership practice. The four pillars of conscious capitalism should be embedded in the company’s business plan. For example, a higher purpose of the business, along with the mission of the statement, would be identified in the program. Although many companies target profitability as their primary purpose, there should be many reasonable goals of the business structure to sustain in a social and ethical context.
To conclude, effective, ethical leadership is a requirement of the modern world. Leaders should wisely apply tactics when dealing with ethical issues and making a code of conduct. Kevin Johnson demonstrates an ability to react timely and properly to social and ethical issues. I, as a practitioner, would emphasize the stakeholders, particularly employees, when addressing ethical problems. Applying four aspects of conscious capitalism is extremely important to ensure effective, ethical leadership for a business structure.
GCU. (2021). The tenets of conscious capitalism. Web.
Starbucks apologizes to Black San Francisco for alleged discrimination incident in its San Jose retailer. (2021). Daily California Press. Web.
Orso, A. (2019). One year later: A timeline of controversy and progress since the Starbucks arrests seen ’round the world. Web.