Ethical Team Leadership in Organizations

Abstract

Leadership is present in daily life in the form of decisions people make. It is the form of choices that people make in very different environments and situations every day. There are various theories explaining different aspects of leadership and its influence on business and personal life. It is necessary to understand how leadership could be applied and should be applied in the situation of a different kind to have the best output.

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The paper explores the existing theories of ethical leadership in organizations and team leadership to combine the most efficient practices into one concept that could have been used to provide the existing team with chances for success. The leadership concept is called ethical team leadership.

Introduction

Leadership is an integral part of life. It is one of the most important factors of success in life and business. Some scientists believe that leaders are born. Others think that leadership can be mastered. In any case, the variety of theories about leadership has been created and developed. Leadership exploration is a continuous process, and the concept of leadership cannot be limited by the available theories only.

The reason is in the evolving and changing nature of leadership. Technological changes have made possible things that were not possible to imagine in the past. Therefore, the environment for leadership has changed, as well. Modern leaders must have much more qualities to be called true leaders than it was needed two or three decades ago. Ethics in leadership became one of the critical issues these days.

Teamwork and effective distribution of efforts are other areas requiring very effective leadership. Considering the existing theories of ethical leadership in organizations and team leadership, the paper is aimed at exploring these theories in-depth, evaluating their peculiarities in terms of leadership, and presenting the personal experience through the lens of blending the theories into one practically-applied concept.

Ethics and Leadership

Ethics is the core concept of any civilized society. It the basis of the laws and rules in all areas, would it be business, the healthcare industry, science, or politics. Ethical leadership is the merger of two concepts that are aimed at applying leadership qualities in the ethical context (Mullane, 2009). Thus, for example, a good leader cannot be dishonest to anyone because it destroys the trust that allows a leader to lead people.

Ethical leadership in an organization is a rather complex and multisided issue. The idea of being good with all the parties involved can be hardly implementable for an ethical leader in an organization or a company. It is not possible to be good in cases when employees are released from their duties. However, it is possible to remain ethical and honest. According to Monahan (2012), “executives at large organizations define ethical leadership as “simply a matter of leaders having good character and the right values or being a person of strong character” (p. 57).

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It is clear that such an explanation is not full and requires a more scientific approach to understanding ethical leadership in-depth. Thus, for example, “a leader is considered ethical when inward virtues direct the leader’s decision-making process” (Monahan, 2012, p. 58). In this case, the concept of ethical leadership is simple to understand and use.

The following leadership theories can be named as the closest to the ethical leadership concept: transforming leadership, servant leadership, and authentic leadership (Monahan, 2012). The first theory explains the process of transforming a leader as well as the people led by this person in the situation requiring moral decisions that raise the ethical level and increase morale in the given environment. The second theory is based on the idea that devotion to serving others in the process of their development is the greater good for such type of a leader.

Finally, the third theory explains the idea of ethical leadership as the leadership based on the concept of being honest with oneself (Mullane, 2009). The combination of these theories can serve as the background for understating the ethical leadership concept as the core idea for being a good, true leader.

Ethical behavior is vital for effective leadership, especially in teams. Multiple interactions and interconnections influence the effectiveness of teamwork substantially. It is the case when a deceptive but soft leader can be worse than an honest tyrant. The hardest task for a team leader is to gain the trust and respect of the team. Failure in this aspect usually leads to poor effectiveness and bad climate in a team (Mullane, 2009; Monahan, 2012). Ethical team leadership is the greatest contributor to the success of a company or an organization.

Team Leadership

The idea of the benefits of a team in terms of the outcomes was checked by Meredith Belbin in the 1970s. The individual differences of the team members Belbin had studied played a more important role in the case of combining the strengths of each team member than when each team member tried to solve the given task individually (Bolden, Gosling, Marturano & Dennison, 2003).

The balanced combination of the various individual strengths allowed the successful teams to mitigate the weaknesses of the team members or avoid them. Belbin discovered the fact that people tried to avoid the roles they were uncomfortable with embracing. At the same time, the participants of the experiment tended to choose several roles (about three), mix them, and act accordingly (Bolden et al., 2003).

During the research, Belbin was not able to find a team member who would be successful in performing the entire range of roles needed for the team’s effective functioning. The conducted research became the background for determining two major roles of a leader in its teamwork environment. Belbin called these roles as “Solo” and “Team” roles (Bolden et al., 2003). These roles are fundamental for the team leadership theories.

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The “Solo” role presupposed the inability of a leader to admit his/her weaknesses, the ability to make urgent decisions under the pressure of unfavorable circumstances, and, in general, act according to one’s vision of each situation, disregarding the opinions of others around. Such a model of leadership can be very advantageous for certain businesses where the speed of the decision-making process is critical, and the personnel performs a very limited set of specific functions. In such cases, a solo leader embraces the responsibility for decisions and makes those decisions solely (Bolden et al., 2003). However, such an approach is not suitable for the majority of modern businesses.

The “Team” role is more preferable in the realities of the modern work environment. It requires a very diverse workforce that can evolve and develop according to the upcoming changes (Bolden et al., 2003). A team leader performs the following duties in the team. The true team leader prefers to delegate the duties to the most qualified members of the team rather than concentrate all duties in his/her hands. Such a leader tends to build the team on the principles of diversity, valuing the existing differences of the team members (Bolden et al., 2003).

The people who have special abilities or qualities that distinguish them from others are no threat to the team leader because talent search is one of the duties of the team leader. The key role of the team leader in the development of the best qualities of the employees to increase their strengths and work on the mitigation of weaknesses (Bolden et al., 2003). Finally, the team leader must be able to create such a vision that the team members would be able to clearly see and pursue their goals within it.

Ethical Team Leadership

Considering the explored theories, ethical team leadership would be the best choice for the modern business. The times of the rigid hierarchical structures of management of the corporations and large businesses have already passed. Today, the balanced teams of different sizes are capable of completing tasks of any difficulty much more effectively in terms of the outcomes, times spent, and the efforts applied. Teams must have the appropriate leaders to be effective.

The major values of such leaders should be based on the principles determined by Belbin (Bolden et al., 2003). However, true team leaders must follow the principles of ethical leadership to be as effective as possible. Such ethical leadership should include the mix of all three theories (transformational, servant, and authentic) to assure the best approach of such a team leader to the delicate process of team management.

Transformational leadership should help team leaders to adapt to the rapidly changing work environment in the case of appointment to the new team, for example. Servant leadership should provide the subordinates with help provided by the team leader. Such help would be utterly useful for the new members of the team, for example, who have come to it just recently and who require additional efforts to make the adaptation process less stressful.

Finally, authentic leadership must be embraced by the team leader personally as the background for the decision-making process. Only the combination of ethical leadership practices and the appropriate team leadership can provide the most appropriate result these days. Additionally, the modern teams experience substantial pressure due to the need for adaptation to the emerging trends in the variety of areas, so the help of the team leader, based on the presented principles, can be utterly useful.

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Personal Experience

There was a situation in my practice that could have been resolved differently if to analyze it through the lens of the new model. It was the case when ethical team leadership would have saved the job for me and my good relationships with colleagues. However, it did not happen. Some time ago, I applied for the job of the sales agent to one of the large insurance companies. Our division was focused on life insurances.

The work of the sales agent was successful for me because I believed in what I was doing, so the number of insurance policies grew as well as the desire to move up the career ladder. My boss was a middle-aged fit man, Josh. We called him J per his request, as he seemed like a rather nice, funny, and friendly person. It looked like he was one of us. His behavior could have been called the approach of the true team leader.

However, after a while, I started to notice that J was too focused on himself while we were having work-related and sometimes, work-unrelated conversations. He usually interrupted any of us, would that had been talking a sales agent or a manager and started to talk about him and his successes. We could have left it unnoticed to the moment when J decided to change the policy of the calls, their structure, and the script.

He called the meeting one morning and informed us about this fact. It was not a negotiation process, no matter how we tried to persuade him that the changes J had made were not entirely appropriate and sometimes even unethical. J listened to us and said to go back to the stations and start making calls, using his new policy. We had nothing to say against the word of the boss and complied. The sales dropped because out efforts to appoint a meeting according to the script of J were hopeless. He changed his mind after two weeks of unsatisfying results, yelling at us and saying we were not professionals.

In six months, I became the unit manager. My duty was to interview new candidates to my sales team, hire, and fire them, coach them, and do whatever necessary to make them make sales. I thought I was a good leader until one day when J summoned me to his office and asked about my results and the time I spent with my team daily. I described my daily schedule and said that the results were not good enough yet since the team was not ready to work in full. J said it was nonsense and demanded to increase sales and decrease the time I usually used to coach my sales agents to provide them with more time for meetings.

I tried to object, but it did not help. I did as he said and was the end of my career as the team leader and, eventually, the employee of the insurance company. The sales did not go up, of course, because agents were not professional enough to complete as many successful deals as it was required. One by one, they decided to go. Eventually, I could not hire the new team, and I was released from the duties of the unit manager and had to leave the company as well. Reflecting afterward, I realized that I was not a true leader. I was not true to myself, and I had failed people who trusted me because of the inappropriate management. It was the lesson for the entire life of me.

Conclusion

Summing, the paper considered the existing theories of ethical leadership in organizations and team leadership and explored them in-depth, evaluated their peculiarities in terms of leadership, and presented the personal experience based on blending the theories into one practically applied the concept. The concept is called ethical team leadership, and its idea is in leading a team using ethics as the basis for building an effective team.

The personal experience showed that only the ethical approach to the team-building process could provide the best results in the long-term perspective. Any other approach resulted in short-term successes, but the team had failed to maintain both integrity and high results after several months of work. It supported the idea that only ethical team leadership could give the team chances to develop appropriately and succeed as a result.

References

Bolden, R., Gosling, J., Marturano, A., & Dennison, P. (2003). A review of leadership theory and competency frameworks. Web.

Monahan, K. (2012). A review of the literature concerning ethical leadership in organizations. Emerging Leadership Journeys, 5(1), 56-66. Web.

Mullane, S.P. (2009). Ethics and leadership. Web.

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