Synthesize Ethical Components of Leadership Theory
OLB 7005, Assignment 3
DuBose, Justin Z.
Dr. Jamiel Vadell
20 May 2018
Five Leadership Theories
This paper will examine five leadership theories, their primary theorist, and the development of the theory since its inception. The five leadership theories chosen for this paper are transformational leadership, servant leadership, transactional leadership, situational leadership, and charismatic leadership. These theories will be overviewed in the chronological order in which they were theorized. Following an overview of these five leadership theories, each will then be synthesized with ethical stances and the impact of ethics on leadership. Finally, current real-world examples will be provided that highlight the importance of and need for ethical leadership.
The oldest of these five theories is that of charismatic leadership. The leading theorist for charismatic leadership is Weber, who first formulated the theory in 1947 (Landis, 2014). The central tenet of charismatic leadership is that leaders inherently possess a charisma which is visionary and inspiring to those within the organization (Landis, 2014). Following charismatic leadership, the theory of situational leadership was developed in 1952 by Gerth & Mills (Landis, 2014). The central tenet of situational leadership is that leadership is a combination of an individual and their leadership in unique situations (Landis, 2014). In other words, leadership develops in unique situations by bringing out leadership qualities within the leader. 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. Following servant leadership, the leadership theory of transactional leadership emerged in 1981 by Bass (Landis, 2014). Bass theorized that a leader’s primary method of motivating stakeholders is through reward and punishment incentives (Landis, 2014). Transactional leadership theorizes that through a system of punishment and rewards a leader motivates stakeholders throughout the organization to perform effectively. The fifth and final theory of transformational leadership was theorized in 1998 by Bass (Landis, 2014). Transformational leadership theorizes that leaders transform both the expectation and reality of followers throughout the organization by their personal behavior and values as well as their interactions with followers.
Leadership theories provide an insight into personality and character traits which make a leader effective. However, they do not provide any ethical framework in which a leader operates. Therefore, leadership theories need to be synthesized with ethical stances in order to establish ethical climates. Yazdani (2014) provides an overview of ethical stances which provides the data which are utilized in this section. Following this examination of these ethical stances, the importance of ethical leadership and ethical organizational climate will be looked at considering current issues.
Yazdani (2014) delineates ethical stances by looking at both the leading philosopher as well as the major ethical stance. These ethical stances extend from Confucius and his stance of virtue ethics to John Rawls and his stance of deontological ethics (Yazdani, 2014). In considering these various ethical stances, Yazdani (2014) applies these ethical stances to organizations, noting that leaders will exhibit some form of ethical stance through their leadership style. These ethical stances range from virtue ethics – certain virtues are valued and are to be lived out – to utilitarian ethics, which provide an ethical framework where the end justifies the means.
While leaders will possess different strengths and subscribe to different leadership theories, each will also establish an ethical climate for the organizations they lead. This can be either through conscious and intentional effort or through their behavior. Kouzes & Posner (2002) noted that leaders must first model the behavior which they expect of their stakeholders. What is presupposed within such an expectation is that leaders themselves know and model the principles they expect others within the organization to embody. Leaders must be aware of the ethical climate they establish and be conscious of the behavior and values they exhibit to stakeholders.
Theories in Practice
While each leader will have their own leadership style, they must also consider which ethical stance or framework they will utilize in setting the ethical climate of the organization. There are many recent examples of failures in business which highlight the need for ethical organizations, leaders, and climates. More specifically, the importance of ethical leadership and ethical organizational climates are highlighted two highly visible corporate problems: the increasing number of scandals (such as Enron) and the growing pay inequalities within organizations (Yazdani, 2014). These are just two problems highlighted by researchers which illustrate this need.
Schwepker (2015) noted that ethical climate is important because it establishes the expectations for behavior for members of the organizations. Furthermore, Schwepker (2015) noted that ethical climate is a stronger motivational factor than organizational climate. While many leaders may give much thought as to the overall climate of the organization, research indicates that motivating employees and other stakeholders is best accomplished by the establishment of a strong ethical climate. This can be accomplished using any of the five chosen leadership styles.
Singh (2011) noted, for example, that transformational leaders must meet three important leadership objectives: vision development, mobilization of organizational assets, and institutionalizing changes so that they endure over time. Each of these three objectives are best accomplished by establishing a strong ethical climate through consistent ethical leadership. However, these same objectives could easily be imposed upon any form of leadership as these are broad targets for any organizational leaders. Thus, whether leaders espoused transformational leadership, servant leadership, transactional leadership, situational leadership, or charismatic leadership they would be seeking to accomplish these same organizational objectives.
While organizational leaders are aiming at the same targets, they are also addressing the same problems. In looking at the two problems mentioned – corporate scandals and pay inequalities – leaders of any style must combat such problems. Establishing an ethical climate is a proven and effective way of combating these issues and this can be accomplished by leaders of all styles. Singh (2011) noted that one way of establishing an effective ethical climate and motivating stakeholders throughout the organization is to link individual values with organizational values. Additionally, research suggests that leaders not only shape the ethical climate of the organization but of the individual as well (Hood, 2003). Organizational leaders must consider not only the organizational values they will espouse, but also personal values. Embodying personal values will not only shape the ethical climate of the organization, but of the individual stakeholders. This linkage between personal values and organizational will not only make the organization more effective and efficient and motivate stakeholders, but it will also mitigate these problems and others by establishing an ethical climate which makes an inhospitable environment for unethical behavior. This can and should be accomplished by leaders of all styles.
Regardless of a leader’s unique leadership style, research demonstrates the need for ethical leadership. Leaders who are transactional in nature must base their system and rewards and punishments upon ethical standards and values which are objective in nature. Leaders who find themselves in difficult situations in which leadership is needed (situational leadership) will discover that the establishing of an ethical climate will provide them the trust necessary to lead effectively in such situations. Leaders who seek to transform their followers by their behavior will do so most effectively if their behavior is rooted in established ethics and principles. Similarly, servant leaders who demonstrate a care for those within their organization will base such care upon ethical stances and values. Likewise, charismatic leaders will maximize the power of their charisma if their employees and stakeholders are motivated by working in an ethical climate.
Research has highlighted that not only are leaders integral in establishing ethical climates, but that establishing ethical climates actually 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 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). Organizational leaders of every style must give honest, careful, and thoughtful consideration to the ethical climate of their organization.
Hood, J. N. (2003). The relationship of leadership style and CEO values to ethical practices in organizations. Journal of Business Ethics, 43(4), 263-273. Retrieved May 20, 2018, from https://link.springer.com/journal/10551
Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2002). The leadership challenge. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Landis, E. A., Hill, D., & Harvey, M. R. (2014) A synthesis of leadership theories and styles. Journal of Management Policy and Practice, 15(2). Retrieved May 20, 2018, from https://www.researchgate.net/journal/1913-8067_Journal_of_Management_Policy_and_Practice
Schwepker, C. H., & Schultz, R. J. (2015). Influence of the ethical servant leader and ethical climate on customer value enhancing sales performance. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 35(2), 93-107. doi:10.1080/08853134.2015.1010537
Singh, K. (2011). Develop Ethics at the Workplace through Transformational Leadership: A Study of Business Organizations in India. Journal of Knowledge Globalization, 4(2), 31-58. Retrieved May 20, 2018, from http://www.kglobal.org/journal.html
Yazdani, N., & Murad, H. S. (2014). Toward an Ethical Theory of Organizing. Journal of Business Ethics, 127(2), 399-417. doi:10.1007/s10551-014-2049-3
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