Leadership has become one of the most frequently discussed concepts over the last several decades. It has been treated as an important subject ever since ancient times. However, it is the modern scholars who have explored a variety of aspects and types of leadership applying it to various fields such as politics, economy, finances, healthcare, and business. Today, leadership is studied at the universities and colleges all around the world as one of the most vital aspects of management and organization. Leadership as a skill and set of knowledge is required in the majority of workplaces and is considered highly valuable for a professional. Finally leadership is viewed from the ethical perspective as a way to impact the followers, workplaces, and create organizational cultures that could contribute to the future development of business and the society in general.
This paper explores my philosophy of proper leadership ethics in the field of mid-level business management. My philosophy of proper leadership ethics includes such components as ethical decision-making, moral values, integrity, proper attitude, and relationships. This philosophy is oriented to people and is based on the belief that the positive long-term outcomes depend mainly on the connections and interpersonal relationships a leader manages to build with the stakeholders, employees, and executives.
The first component in the discussion is ethical decision-making. It refers to the selection of viable solutions and making organizational choices based on a particular ethical framework that is adopted by the workplace, and the decision maker personally. Decision making is an action that one has to face every day. In decision making processes, ethic norms and requirements are frequently confused with religious and legal ones (A Framework for Making Ethical Decisions, 2015). Even though theoretically these notions stand apart, in the contemporary world business ethics are tightly connected with legal norms.
This connection has formed due to the advanced complexity and diversity of the modern society and its integration into the world of business and organizational cultures of various companies. For example, a company’s and the managers’ hiring choices and practices are a good illustration of this connection.
A complex ethical choice of firing and hiring the most suitable candidates based on objective evaluation today is complicated by the issues of gender, race, and ethnicity diversity. In cases where among three different applicants – a gay black female, an Arabic male, and a white male – the most suitable person is the white male, the managers, and the company may face accusations concerning their bias. So, their code of ethics is to be legally outlined as a part of organizational culture and hiring rules, because in this ethical dilemma (hiring a privileged candidate vs. hiring the most suitable one) simply acting based on good intentions or common good framework is not enough (A Framework for Making Ethical Decisions, 2015).
Besides, ethical decision making of mid-level managers is impacted by two main kinds of factors, environmental and personal ones (Dean, Beggs, & Keane, 2010). Interestingly, some researchers also include contextual factors and the sources of significant impact. Dean et al. (2010) states that the workplace behaviors of employees depend on “how employees perceive their direct manager might respond” to the problem they are dealing with. In other words, their response to similar situations at work and in other environments will differ.
For example, at a workplace where errors are judged, regarded as a major failure, and severely punished by managers, the employees who are honest in everyday life may start to avoid reporting their mistakes. That way, an attitude of a mid-level manager may disrupt the organizational culture and prevent the cases of errors from reaching the top levels of management where they would know what to do about these mistakes and how to address them.
As stated by Chmielewski (2004), “values vary between individuals and, because values govern behavior, they color the way individuals view and respond to their world. It is important to understand the impact values have on choice” (para. 7). Besides, moral values have a tendency to shift under the influence of experiences and age. That is why, leaders, such as mid-level managers are to demonstrate self-awareness and clearly distinguish their personal values and the values of an organization. In fact, Mullane (2009) points out that the majority of individuals select their workplaces based on the compatibility of the workplace ethics and values with their personal ones.
Speaking about values promoted by an organization and the mid-level managers namely, I would like to stick with those outlined by Chmielewski (2004); they include the preference of collective values to individual ones, the use of collective behavior to evaluate unethical deeds and behaviors, and the measurement and comparison of gains and burdens. To be more precise, the first rule refers to the value of the common benefit for the group of collaborators, or a company in general instead of personal gain. In my opinion, the example of Enron’s failure may be used to illustrate this scenario. The employees of Enron were paid based on how well the company looked at the stock market, as a result, when Enron began to have financial issues, the employees fabricated the data to maintain the superficial image of the company and keep the investments coming.
As a result, the truth was revealed when it was too late, and Enron imploded taking all the funds. The second value the use of collective behavior to measure the ethics of behaviors can be illustrated with the help of the same example. One fabrication of data and income of Enron provided personal gain for the workers, but the same behavior repeated on the regular basis for a long while led to the opposite result – the crush of the company. That way, asking “what if everyone did this?” helps one determine whether or not a particular behavior is ethical and fair. Finally, the last rule falls under the definition of common sense and responsible actions as following it a manager is required to evaluate and compare the pros and cons of a solution and decide whether or not they should follow through with it knowing all the possible positive and negative outcomes.
Loyalty and Integrity
Loyalty and integrity at a workplace can be characterized by a variety of qualities such as thorough task accomplishment, fair reports, honest and respectful relations with other employees, to name a few. For a mid-level manager, loyalty and integrity are also determined from the perspective of devotion to the team, the executives, and the subordinates. In this case, the theory of morality without hubris can be applied when it comes to the manager’s treatment of their workers and the evaluation of their performance. It is highly important that the manager demonstrates their fairness treating them with “sensitivity to human nature” (Determining Effective Leadership, 2015).
In other words, the superior is to treat the other employees remembering about the human factor and the environments that may have facilitated the errors. A manager following the theory of morality without hubris is a fair leader whose workers are no afraid to report negative outcomes because they know the leader will evaluate them critically and objectively. In fact, this ability will require a manager to possess a high level of emotional intelligence to be able to recognize their own emotions, the emotions of the employees, and the actual facts and provide an impartial judgment.
Attitude is an important component of organizational culture. It determines the environment in an organization and promotes the selected set of values and behaviors. Overall, the choice of attitude may rely on the utilitarian approach that of “the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number” (Perspectives in Ethical Theory, 2015). Establishing a peaceful and safe environment at work by means of choosing the most appropriate attitudes, a leader secures future cooperation, harmonious workplace relations between the workers, and generally, a stress-free organization. An example of the formation of such attitude by the leader is the approach within Aetna Corporation where the employees are required to follow such principles as “Attack the issue, not the person” and “Assume positive intent” (DuBrin, 2008). It is easy to notice that the leaders and managers of Aetna reduce hostility at the workplace and facilitate a peaceful and safe, but competitive culture.
Finally, the relationships a manager builds with the people around determine their future professional success and development. That is why, following ethical principles, treating the individuals around kindly and fairly is the key to positive long-term outcomes. In other words, a manager who orders, raises their voice, and threatens is likely to improve the results right away by forcing the employees to work harder and raise their performance. However, a manager of this kind also ensures a negative relationship with the employees and, as a result, creates such potential issues as the workers’ failure to report errors, dishonesty, fabrication of positive results, job dissatisfaction, misunderstandings, high turnover, and a stressful working environment. In the most severe cases such interactions may even result in strikes of the employees fighting for their rights.
To sum up, a variety of components, principles, and practices are required for an ethical leader or a manager to facilitate a safe and harmonious organizational culture that would encourage a fair working environment. The components discussed in this paper are ethical decision-making, moral values, integrity, proper attitude, and relationships. They were chosen as the most meaningful aspects due to the fact that, in my opinion, an organizational culture and management style oriented to people and relationships is the best way to ensure business success based on fair operations and interactions. In the contemporary world, people are the basis of any organization, and that is why they are to be treated with respect regardless of their positions and duties. The selected philosophy of ethical leadership is founded on the theory of moral beliefs without hubris, sensitive attitudes, friendly and safe workplace, collectivist values promotes integrity and strong relationships that would generate benefits for the leaders, executives, managers, workers, and stakeholders.
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