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Leadership Essential To The Development Of Ethical Decision

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Discuss about the Leadership essential to the Development of Ethical Decision making in Modern Organisations?


Is leadership essential to the development of ethical decision making in modern organisations? 

Leadership is not something that you acquire by heredity or is followed by the family legacy. One cannot guarantee that if you graduate from a well to do business school you would be imbibing all the qualities that a leader ideally possesses. Although there can be a possibility that the experience gained might prove to be helpful in the future. Leadership is something that comes to a person naturally and is pretty much intentional that helps the person in his process of growth and development as an individual. A person can only be a leader or show his leadership skills when he has a mass following him. A leader can show off his abilities to plan, lead, organise and control only if he has a group that follows and listens to him religiously.

Having understood the meaning of leadership we now go on to describe as to what going by the general term is ‘ethical’. If we strictly go by the modern definition of the Oxford Dictionary, it defines ethical as the term that ‘relates to moral principles’. (Sandis and Taleb, 2015). It could also be the ‘branch of knowledge dealing with these principles’. However the question that tends to arise here is what exactly is termed as a moral act or principle. The concept of a moral act or the principle of morality is something that is very subjective in nature and differs from person to person. However some virtues that are universally recognised and accepted are honesty, loyalty, generosity, kindness, and respect for one another and so on.


Once we have a clear idea regarding the important terms that are used in the topic, we would now go on to debate upon whether leadership plays an important role in development of ethical decision making, and I would be writing for the motion. Leadership definitely plays a very important role in an organization in context to the decisions taken, keeping in mind the ethical actions that are to be considered. Leadership helps in the development of ethical decisions that will have a direct impact of the efficiency, productivity and growth of the organization. For the sole purpose of improved efficiency and increased profitability many modern business centres have tried to restructure their strategic business acumen under the influence of leaders. The leaders or in case of the organizations, help in taking such decisions that not only lead them to profitable situation but also those decisions are morally right. Here morally right implies those decisions that would help in the betterment of others along with the growth of the institution. (Selart and Johansen, 2011)

The crux of organizational behavior lies in the principles of virtue and values of what is right and wrong. This lays down the foundation for the leaders, which they can utilize to the fullest to positively influence the decisions that are undertaken in an organization. The essential element for taking decisions which in all probability are morally correct or at least be virtuous is the presence of an effective leader. A leader is responsible for bringing about change in any organization with his effective leadership. (Jones and Millar, 2010). Without a proper leader who does not have the requisite leadership qualities in him, however is not fit for leading a business organization. There are some basic qualities that a leader ought to possess which would enable him to take ethical decisions in an organization. However it should be kept in mind that a leader himself should be following the principles of ethics or should be for that matter a good human being who follows a code of conduct in his life. (Griffin and Moorhead, 2011). He should be a man of principles who improvises the correct and just decisions in an organization. The key for successful leadership are:


  • Sense of mission – The leaders a very well aware of the reason as to why the organization exists and what is expected out of the people and the organization. His thoughts should be well articulated, knowing exactly regarding the steps that are to be taken or the kind of strategic planning that should be adopted for the organization. This should however be planned in such a way that it does not jeopardize his moral principles or the code of conduct that is set forth in the organization.
  • Vision – An effective leader clearly knows where he wants to see his business few years down the line. A vision that should be so enigmatic that the people in the organization themselves are encouraged to work towards the vision. (Collins, 2014).
  • Goal- A practical leader will know how to measure the specific progress is made in terms of the goals the organization achieves in a span of time. What is the mission for and what will the vision lead to? All this can be measured with the help of goals or the measurable productive work that has been done by the organization.
  • Competency-A leader is like the role model for everyone in the organization. The employees, the stake holders and the public in general believe him to be an expertise in his respective field. Thus he should be capable enough to manage things the people and the organization smoothly and effectively. Leaders mostly acquire competency in the process of learning and experiences they gain from the organization.
  • Communication skills- A leader has the potential to get his work done through the people. This is only possible when he can get his thoughts across the people. Even if nothing works out well for him, the head of any organization should ensure that he is in constant touch with his employees. (Ford and Richardson, 2013). Here, I would avoid using the term ‘subordinates’ as an ethical rather good leader would never view his employees to be under him, instead he would perceive them to be working along with him.
  • Inspiration – One of the most important characteristic of a leader is that he should be like the ideal role model in front of the people. He should be like the mitochondria or the power house of the organization, constantly encouraging, guiding and directing the employees. This is the most important point while we consider the development of ethical decision. The leader himself should try and idealistic setting an example for the people. If the leader has qualities like he is just, is kind, is honest, is loyal to the organization , is helpful , is righteous etc., then it is very likely that other members in the organization would try to follow his foot step and try to be like him. This would therefore help him making ethical decisions with the support of the people in the organization. (Craft, 2013).

Having done so, we would now highlight the ‘six golden pillars of character’ that every leader possesses in a business setting in order to ensure that the decisions that are taken are ethical. This can be only done as stated above only if the leader has the capability of differentiating between the right and wrong and is determined to only work on those principles that will result in the benefit for all.


  • Fairness – ability to be just and fair without any prejudices or favouritism, Keeping everyone informed about all the decisions, going by the rules of the game.
  • Trustworthiness- not being deceptive, loyal, reliable, honest and not going against your words.
  • Respect – one of the most important mantra that needs to follow is treat others how you wish to be treated by them, being polite, respecting the differences of opinions amongst the people and being patient enough to listen.
  • Responsibility – being accountable for your own actions, having self-control, always aiming for excellence and thinking before acting.
  • Caring – being helpful, kind, compassionate towards others, being altruistic whenever possible.
  • Citizenship – trying to bring an improvement in one’s own community and environment around us, trying to operationalize democratic institutions and always works within the boundaries of law. (Donlevy and Walker, 2011).

Going by these virtues, if a leader, the executives or the managers adhere to these principles while carrying out their daily activities, it would lead to a creation of a healthy yet ethical environment which would also motivate the employees to work in the same manner.

An organization without proper leadership is like a herd of cattle, with no direction, no goal or mission. They would go all haywire if their herder does not come and lead the way. Ethical decisions can be developed in an organization only when there is a leader supervising the whole system. The leader is the backbone of the organization on the basis which it stands upright. This goes without saying that every organization has a leader of some sort or the other. However history is witness to the fact that those leaders who got involved in unethical practices brought catastrophe on themselves as well as the organization. For instance, the Lehman brothers in the U.S, Enron and his fraudulent schemes of accounting, Salomon Brothers and their false auction scandal of the treasury  and many others. (Ciulla, 2014).

This brings up two points vividly before us; first, any organization without a leader without ethics and principles is bound to face a downfall. Second, no organization can survive for long if the leader does not have the capability to take ethical decisions. This clearly states our motion that without a proper leadership there can be no development of any ethical decision in the modern organization. Even if there are decisions taken without a leader or a coordinator it cannot be trusted with as the company would be able to sustain for long. As given in the examples, if the leader himself is unethical, then again the outcome is the same.  Not only leadership is a basic necessity for ethical decision but also ethical leadership. This is the key for sustenance of any successful modern organization. (Ferrell and Fraedrich, 2015).

To the arguments put forth, there are counter questions that are likely to arise. There could be a question where someone can bring up that ‘In today’s contemporary business organization, something that plays a very important role in taking ethical decisions is the opinion of the masses. How does leadership play a role there?


To this the response could be that, undoubtedly opinion plays a very important role in decision taking mechanism. Nothing can go unnoticed from the public eye or the opinion of the majority. However, as already described that there is a need for someone who would channelize these opinions in a proper direction and articulate in such a way that the just demands are accepted and in turn executed. Thus even if opinion holds more important in the ethical decision making, there is least possibility of it being properly vented out or implemented if not for the presence of a leader who would act like guiding light leading the path.

Another question that could be raised is ‘In a world where nobody is even near to perfect, how can one expect a leader to be ‘idealistic’, unmoved by a biases always taking ethical decision? To this, the response could be what we are try to put across this piece is that leaders should try and be idealistic in the sense that they should  try not set any wrong examples in from of the employees. It is human nature to make mistakes but it is also human nature to learn from mistakes. Thus the leader should make an extra effort to be careful in his moves, not to behave in a hasty manner that can prove to be a bad influence in front of people. The people are guided by their leaders whether good or bad, so the leader should make an attempt to be a good example.

The argument above clearly brings out the need for a proper leadership for the development of decision making in an organization. The leaders need to keep a positive approach towards the organization in order to execute the ethical decisions that are made. (By and Burnes, 2013) The ethical behavior should be practised on a regular basis by the leaders and the others around him. Ethical decisions should be respected and also rewarded. Ethics and leadership are like the two sides of the same coin. Leadership has no meaning without ethics. We must try to instil this philosophy and make ethics a way of life.



By, R.T. and Burnes, B. eds., 2013. Organizational change, leadership and ethics: Leading organizations towards sustainability. Routledge.

Ciulla, J.B. ed., 2014. Ethics, the heart of leadership. ABC-CLIO.

Collins, D., 2011. Business ethics: How to design and manage ethical organizations. John Wiley & Sons.

Craft, J.L., 2013. A review of the empirical ethical decision-making literature: 2004–2011. Journal of Business Ethics, 117(2), pp.221-259.

Donlevy, J.K. and Walker, K.D., 2011. Leadership and ethics. In Working through ethics in education and leadership (pp. 9-20). SensePublishers.

Ferrell, O.C. and Fraedrich, J., 2015. Business ethics: Ethical decision making & cases. Nelson Education.

Ford, R.C. and Richardson, W.D., 2013. Ethical decision making: A review of the empirical literature. In Citation classics from the Journal of Business Ethics (pp. 19-44). Springer Netherlands.

Goetsch, D.L. and Davis, S.B., 2014. Quality management for organizational excellence. Upper Saddle River, NJ: pearson.

Griffin, R. and Moorhead, G., 2011. Organizational behavior. Nelson Education.

Jones, M.T. and Millar, C.C., 2010. About global leadership and global ethics, and a possible moral compass: An introduction to the special issue. Journal of business ethics, 93, pp.1-8.

Sandis, C. and Taleb, N.N., 2015. Leadership Ethics and Asymmetry. Leadership and Ethics, p.233.

Selart, M. and Johansen, S.T., 2011. Ethical decision making in organizations: The role of leadership stress. Journal of Business Ethics, 99(2), pp.129-143.


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