Analyze One's Own Ethical Leadership Framework
OLB 7005, Assignment 8
DuBose, Justin Z.
Dr. Jamiel Vadell
24 June 2018
This signature assignment articulates best practices for ethical leadership from current research. This assignment includes ethical leadership from multiple perspectives: ethical leadership characteristics, ethical communication, the leadership theory I most associate with, viewpoints on ethical social responsibility, ethical global leadership, and a personal leadership assessment. The purpose of this assignment is to help isolate personal leadership strengths and weakness in order to become a more effective ethical leader. The concluding self-assessment will address these issues.
Organizational Citizenship Behavior
Current research on ethical leadership delineates several characteristics leaders need which will be addressed throughout this paper. These characteristics are best encapsulated by the ethical leadership model of Organizational Citizenship Behavior (Caldwell, 2011). Caldwell (2011) noted that ethical leaders who model Organizational Citizenship Behavior embody and model characteristics which serve the primary purpose of building trust throughout the organization. This is modeled both in personal communication and behavior toward employees. While there are other benefits resulting from Organizational Citizenship Behavior – such as improved profit margins, a more flexible, dynamic, and adaptable working environment, and the development of ethical employees – each benefit is built upon the foundation of trust established by ethical leadership.
Research on organizational leadership has consistently demonstrated the importance of trust building in every organization (Caldwell, 2011). Despite this fact, trust building seems to be the one aspect of leadership that is proven to have been neglected when an organizational crisis rises to the surface. Research would suggest that this is more than mere opinion. Robinson and Rousseau (1994) found that a lack of trust is the norm rather than the exception in the work environment, even though trust building is acknowledged to be essential for organizations. The implications of these findings are staggering for leaders of all organizations, regardless of size. These findings suggest that most employees in organizations do not actually operate on the basis of trust in their relationships with employers and organizational leaders. This highlights the need for intentional and ethical trust building by organizational leaders. Organizational Citizenship Behavior is a model which proves to be effective in accomplishing this important and necessary objective. Specifically, Organizational Citizenship Behavior builds trust throughout organizations by including employees in the organizations decision-making processes (Caldwell, 2011) and paying the moral debt owed by leadership to employees (Lennick & Kiel, 2007).
Caldwell (2011) noted that one of the most effective ways of building trust in an organization is to include employees in organizational decision-making processes. This communicates to them that you value their opinion as well as their expertise. They become an integral part of the team. It also communicates trust in more ways than one. It demonstrates to them that you trust them enough to allow them to speak into the decision-making process. It also communicates and demonstrates transparency to allow them to be directly involved with the leadership.
Lennick & Kiel (2007) and Caldwell (2011) associate certain moral debts owed by employers to employees. These include doing no harm, creating value in the present, and creating value for the future (Lennick & Kiel, 2007). By recognizing that, as organization leaders, you owe a moral debt to your employees, you create an ethical climate in which they are valued. When employees are valued, the working environment becomes a place of which they are proud and in which they will seek to benefit the employer who values them so much. Organizational leaders who embody these characteristics by modeling Organizational Citizenship Behavior will build the necessary foundation of trust with their employees and stakeholders. Research also points to additional organizational benefits for leaders who model Organizational Citizenship Behavior.
Developing ethical employees
Organ (1988) noted that employers who implement a culture of Organizational Citizenship Behavior, characteristically modeled by leadership, develop employees who model the desired behavior. When organizational leaders begin to display and model ethical behavior as an expectation and institutional norm, employees themselves begin to follow suit. This creates an ethical climate where ethics are not a theoretical, abstract concept, but a practical part of everyday life. Organ (1988) concluded that much of the reason that employees begin to develop an ethical code for themselves is that they witness their organizational leaders modeling such ethics. When employees observe their leaders sacrificing for their good and the good of the company, they begin to internalize such behavior. Jurkiewicz (2012) also concluded that employees are much more likely to sacrifice for the organization when leaders do. When employees are daily in an environment where Organizational Citizenship Behavior is modeled, valued, and adhered to, research has demonstrated that they soon follow suit in their own behavior and personal as well as professional codes of conduct.
Dynamic working environment
Jurkiewicz (2012) noted that when ethical leadership is modeled through trust-building and the development of ethical employees, organizational working environments become increasing dynamic, flexible, and adaptable. This inevitably culminates in financial stability and growth. One example of such an environment was reported by Collins (2015) and his research findings on organizational surveys. The organizational surveys and the ethical model reported by Collins (2015) are both intended to be flexible in nature. Every department within an organization has the freedom and latitude to personalize their survey to that which best suits their departmental structure. Because a foundation of trust has been established throughout the organizations, such flexibility to adapt is granted and even expected.
Once this occurs throughout an organization, flexibility and dynamism become the norm and potential problems are able to be identified and addressed at lower levels within the organization. This entire system comes about as a result of an ethical culture of Organizational Citizenship Behavior which is modeled by the leadership. As the leadership trusts those within the organizations, and grant the flexibility to adapt, a dynamic working environment is created in which growth can occur rapidly without breaking the organization.
Organizational wealth creation
An ethical foundation of trust, which leads to the development of ethical employees and the creation of a dynamic working environment will lead to organizational wealth creation (Hosmer, 1994). Hosmer (1994) noted in his research that wealth creation occurs in organizations where Organizational Citizenship Behavior is practiced within an ethical framework. Employees are valued by their company and organizational leaders, and thus are enthusiastic about their work. Soon, they begin to develop and adopt the ethical system practiced and espoused by the organization, making them more focused and productive employees. This sense of being valued is reinforced when they are allowed and encouraged to speak into the decision-making processes of the organization. When this occurs, their voice becomes a meaningful part of uncovering the best practices of the organization. As a sort of consummation of this entire process of Organizational Citizenship Behavior, they begin to reproduce themselves by recruiting, hiring, and training employees who will be inculcated with those same values and expectations.
Research has highlighted that not only are leaders integral in establishing ethical climates, but that establishing ethical climates drives those within the organization to increase their own ethical standards and behavior. This establishes an organizational climate where employees are not only motivated to perform and behave well, but also to continually raise the standard of their performance and behavior. Leaders are poised to not only tap into stakeholder motivation and personal values, but, more importantly, to increase and expand motivation and personal values by motivating them to take such values to higher levels (Singh, 2011). These characteristics of ethical leadership – valuing employees, personally investing in others, creating a dynamic working environment – are best modeled by Organizational Citizenship Behavior and provide tangible and intangible benefits.
None of these benefits associated with the embodiment of ethical leadership characteristics will be accomplished apart from ethical communication. Ethical leaders must consider the consequences of communication if ethical culture is to be created and trust established. Current research indicates important considerations for organizational leaders including employee tendencies and best practices.
Kiyomiya (2012) conducted a research study of Japanese organizations to determine the tendencies of employees regarding ethical communication. Kiyomiya (2012) concluded that employees were likely to carry through an unethical order if given by a superior. Furthermore, employees were very likely to follow work-place customs even if those customs were knowingly unethical. This research is important for ethical leaders in relation to ethical communication because it highlights the unintended consequences of unethical communication. Employees are not likely to challenge organizational norms, even if those norms are unethical. It is imperative, then, that organizational leaders take a proactive approach to ethical communication with employees and stakeholders. It further underscores the importance of ethical communication in direct communication with employees. Since employees are not likely to disregard or disobey an unethical order from superiors, it places the burden on organizational leaders to ensure orders are ethical.
Padgett, Cheng, & Parekh (2013) concluded from their research that ethical communication from organizational leaders can help organizations successfully navigate crises. Building trust with stakeholders prior to a crisis is necessary to ensure organizational stability and success through a crisis (Padgett, Cheng, & Parekh, 2013). They cite as a recent example the communication efforts of BP’s CEO Anthony Hayward following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Hayward not only took blame for actions which were not directly his responsibility, but he also established a social media presence to proactively engage stakeholders during the crisis (Padgett, Cheng, & Parekh, 2013). Ethical communication is necessary for establishing and building trust, but research has also concluded that ethical communication must be proactive. Organizational leaders must seek out their stakeholders and communicate directly and ethically.
Personal leadership theory
While many leadership theories exist, the leadership theory of servant leadership is most compelling for the author. In 1977, Greenleaf developed the theory of servant leadership (Landis, 2014). Servant leadership states that leaders who serve others make the most effectual leaders (Landis, 2014). Servant leadership espouses the idea that leaders who genuinely care about the people they lead will generate the greatest level of motivation and dedication throughout all echelons of the organization.
Servant leadership best aligns with the characteristics espoused by Organizational Citizenship Behavior. Servant leadership establishes trust by genuinely caring for those within the organization. As concluded by Landis (2014), this trust will generate the greatest level of motivation in followers to excel as members of the organization. Due to the building of trust between leader and stakeholder, servant leadership also creates open and honest lines of communication. As employees are encouraged to communicate, their input is invited into the decision-making processes of the organization. Servant leaders will also relationally invest in their employees as a result of their genuine care for their well-being. This will more effectively create not only ethical organizations but individual ethical employees as well. As noted earlier, research indicates that this will lead to the retention and recruitment of further and additional ethical employees.
Servant leaders who demonstrate a care for those within their organization will base such care upon ethical stances and values rooted in compassion and empathy. Singh (2011) concluded that servant leaders are integral in establishing ethical climates, and that establishing ethical climates drives those within the organization to increase their own ethical standards and behavior. Servant leaders establish an organizational climate where employees are not only motivated to perform and behave well, but also to increase their continually raise the standard of their performance and behavior. Leaders are poised to not only tap into stakeholder motivation and personal values, but, more importantly, to increase and expand motivation and personal values by motivating them to take such values to higher levels (Singh, 2011). These reasons highlight for the author that servant leadership is not only the most effectual means of motivating employees to perform, but also are the most likely to establish an ethical climate and develop ethical employees.
An integral component of ethical leadership includes developing socially responsible employees and organizations. Collins (2015) concluded that modern organizational leaders must emphasize Corporate Social Responsibility in their efforts. The benefits of being socially responsible as a corporation are obvious. Organizations perceived as socially irresponsible frequently receive negative publicity and suffer financially. Collins (2015) gave as an example of Corporate Social Responsibility the United Nations who, in 1999, established principles for conducting business globally. These includes principles regarding anticorruption, labor, and human rights. Collins (2015) also provided examples of corporations establishing objective requirements for suppliers which encourage social responsibility. Wal-Mart recently instituted such a certification for their suppliers to ensure that everyone they do business treats employees ethically and is involved with sustainability initiatives as a company (Collins, 2015). This has served to change the perception of the company by those who have disparaged them for what have been perceived as socially irresponsible practices. Corporate Social Responsibility is a necessary component of ethical leadership in the modern world and has been proven to increase profit as well.
Current research also addresses ethical leadership on a global scale. As technology makes communication easier, broader, and more widely accessible, more organizational leaders must consider their impact globally (Alas, 2006). Best practices indicate that ethical leadership take a values-based approach to global organizational leadership. The research of Alas (2006) demonstrated that, although there are various cultural conceptions of ethics, certain cross-cultural values do exist. Ethical leaders must rely on such values in their approach to cross-cultural leadership.
Pertinent to this recommendation is the research of Werhane (2014) who concluded that even though certain operating environments are unethical, operating ethically in an unethical environment can produce good, ethical results. In other words, values-based ethical leadership can have a positive effect on the surrounding culture even when that culture is generally unethical. Global organizational leaders must set ethically objective, measurable barometers for their global organizations. Such barometers may include a reduction in the frequency of certain crimes in and around areas where the organization operates. One specific example from research comes from (Cateora, Gilly, & Graham, 2011) who noted that bribery is common and accepted in many cultures. In fact, it was specifically concluded that global organizations are at a greater risk of bribery because of their cross-cultural operations. It is important to note the research of Lestrange (2013) who concluded that a strong ethical reputation is itself a deterrent for bribery, even in areas where bribery is common. This may serve as one barometer of whether a values-based approach to ethical leadership is positively impacting the area of operations. An additional barometer to consider would be the degree to which the organization is successfully retaining and attracting employees with similar value sets. If such retention is occurring, then such a values-based approach to leadership is resulting in positive cultural change.
Sadri (2013) noted that conflict resolution is one of the most important skills that global organizational leaders can develop as an ethical consideration. This is primarily since different cultures resolve conflict very differently. The failure by global leaders to take this important cultural distinction into account could have catastrophic results. Sadri (2013) gave the contrast of the Chinese culture of indirectness in conflict resolution and the American culture of directness in conflict resolution. A global leader and organization operating in these two environments needs to build in and allow flexibility for culturally appropriate methods for conflict resolution.
While many tools for leader evaluation exist, Showry (2014) provides a “Style Questionnaire” designed to offer one type of assessment tool for leadership evaluation. To help increase awareness of personal leadership traits and characteristics, three style questionnaires were completed independently by subordinates and the three assessments were all within 2-3 points of one another. Each questionnaire categorized responses as either “task” or “relationship” and delineated leadership styles as either primarily task-oriented or relationship-oriented. Each category was scored on a scale from very low to very high, with categories including very low, low, moderately low, moderately high, high, and very high. These categories provided a baseline for the leader to understand their leadership style within the larger spectrum of leadership styles. This style questionnaire served as an assessment tool for the leader as a means of increasing self-awareness for the purpose of increasing ethical leadership effectiveness in relation to both people and tasks. The three scores from subordinate assessments were as follows:
Table 1. Style Questionnaire Scores
The three scores from these assessments did not yield any unexpected results. The leadership strength of the author has always been relationship development over task fulfillment. When people are treated as the greatest and most valuable resource, relationships will be valued over tasks. This has always been the leadership philosophy of the author and, thus, the results did not provide any surprises. Furthermore, similar assessments and evaluations have previously been submitted to the author by other followers and subordinates which yielded results similar to this questionnaire.
Nevertheless, while relationships receive priority from the leadership, ethical progress will not be achieved without the accomplishment and fulfillment of individual and organizational tasks. To become a more effective and efficient leader, an equilibrium must be achieved in balancing the development of relationships and the accomplishment of tasks. In the future, steps need to be taken to bring up the consistently “moderately low” score of task-oriented leadership. These steps could and should include intentionally and strategically developing a leadership team with task-oriented individuals as well as relationship-oriented individuals, centered on personal and organizational ethics. On a personal level, cultivating an openness with subordinates and followers to communicate honestly about specific times and instances when task-oriented leadership is needed or lacking will prove to serve as a positive development to overall leadership.
This assessment is useful in that it positively contributes to awareness on the part of the leader and how his/her actions are perceived by those around them. As with all feedback from human subjects, one must keep in mind that no feedback is completely objective. However, the leader can use discernment and judgment to receive feedback from those around them to become self-aware of “blind spots” and, thus, increase in effectiveness. Showry (2014) notes that awareness is not learned in isolation but in dynamic relationships with others and with an accompanying openness on the part of the leaders to receive feedback from those with whom he/she has a relationship.
Each leader is unique and must recognize and acknowledge their own strengths and weaknesses. Leaders come in a variety of personalities and styles, but impactful leaders will exercise their own style with confidence and seek to minimize and develop their weaknesses. In my case, servant leadership suits my personality and leadership style. It is a leadership style that research has proven to be effective, but it also develops relationships with stakeholders, which is a personal strength of mine.
Knowing weaknesses is equally important as knowing strengths for organizational leaders. My self-awareness, combined with the style assessment completed by multiple subordinates, allows me to acknowledge my shortcomings in task-oriented relationships and cultures. To address and correct this weakness, I must be intentional in surrounding myself with others who possess strengths in these areas where I am weak. Due to the inherently relational elements involved in communication, I do excel in direct communication with employees and stakeholders. This is an area which I can lean on as a strength, but also leverage to continually develop my task-oriented weaknesses. As I invite others to provide input into my life and leadership, this feedback will provide continual input about strengths and weaknesses which I can use to continually develop into a more effective organizational leader. The characteristics discussed in this paper will provide the criteria for assessment as they serve as personal and professional developmental objectives.
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NG, LR, NCU, USAR
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