“The said truth is that it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong” ― Jeremy Bentham
A leader in our organization was part of a hiring committee. He participated in the interview process and his input was vital to the selection of the new candidate. The concern he was faced with was the fact that one of the candidates was a good family friend. He knew this individual well and also was aware that he was not as qualified as other candidates in the applicant pool. Should he place the candidate in this position over other well qualified candidates given that he was a close friend? What are the potential impacts if he opts for this decision? Other candidates should be given an opportunity to promote themselves for this position.
Making ethical decisions requires sensitivity to the ethical implications of problems and situations. It also requires practice. Having a framework for ethical decision making is essential (Bonde, et al., 2011). Two categories of ethical thought will be explored to help describe the leader’s behavior. Concepts involving normative and meta-ethics will be examined in this case. Normative ethics will be analyzed initially. Ethical theories that deal with the conduct of leaders are in turn divided into two kinds: theories that stress the consequences of leaders’ actions and those that emphasize the duty or rules governing leaders’ actions (Northouse, 2015, p. 333). Furthermore, meta-ethics, which refers to how we balance rights of and individual with the rights of the masses will also be reviewed. The ability for the leader to leverage the considerations of normative and meta-ethics allows the leader to apply ethical standards in decision making and incorporate consequential and non-consequential approaches to provide a solution that benefits the greater good.
To begin with, the idea of normative ethics will be synthesized to help explain how the leader potentially derived the decision. The leader in this case elected to promote fairness in the decision making process. Normative ethics in general suggests that there is a right way of behaving based on what behavior is best for the majority (PSY 533, 2018). Within the framework is the concept of deontological ethics. Duty or obligation as the foundation for moral decision-making is the basis for deontological ethics (King, 2017). The leader felt compelled to create an atmosphere in which fairness to all was prevalent. Furthermore, the duty to do what is right for others is evident as in the case of right theories which is displayed in this scenario. This approach stipulates that the best ethical action is that which protects the ethical rights of those who are affected by the action. It emphasizes the belief that all humans have a right to dignity (Bonde, et al., 2011). The leader can also leverage the considerations of consequential theories, in particular the utilitarian approach. The leader is faced with benefiting one or benefiting others at the cost of not considering his under qualified friend. The leader elected to make his choice for the benefit of the overall cohort. One technique to approach an ethical dilemma is to assess it in light of the theory of utilitarianism. This theory posits that the “right” thing is the one that provides the most good, or “utility.” (McDunnigan, n.d.).
Upon further analysis an additional concept that helps to explain this dilemma is meta-ethics which indicates that one needs to have standards of what is right or wrong before one can act in a manner that either aligns with or violates those standards (PSY 533, 2018). The impartial decision by the leader results in a fair assessment of all candidates. The leader is seeking a means to do what is right for the entire group. Ethical universalism, refers to the idea that concern for society or groups at large is paramount for determining what is right or wrong. This leads to common sayings such as “Sacrifice one for the good of all” (PSY 533, 2018). The leader’s own ethical standards contributed to his decision to promote fairness and remain impartial in the selection process.
In this case normative and meta-ethics help illustrate the behaviors of the leader. As previously noted, both consequential and non consequential theories also help to explain the decisions afforded by the leader. Leaders have the ethical responsibility to treat followers with dignity and respect — as human beings with unique identities (Northouse, 2015, p. 336). He chose an approach that provided fairness to all. Because leadership has a moral dimension, being a leader demands awareness on our part of the way our ethics defines our leadership (Northouse, 2015, p. 349).
Bonde, S., Firenze, P., Green, J., Grinberg, M., Korijin, J., Levoy, E., Naik, A., Ucik, L., & Weisberg, L. (2013, May). A framework for making ethical decisions. Retrieved from
King, G. (2017) Doing the Right Thing: Deontological Ethics – Part 2. Retrieved from
McDunnigan, M. (n.d.). Techniques Used to Solve Ethical Dilemmas | Synonym. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Northouse, P. G. (2015). Leadership: Theory and practice (7th ed., pp. 333, 336, 349). Los Angeles: SAGE Publications
PSY 533 (2018). Meta-Ethics. Retrieved from
PSY 533 (2018). Normative Ethics. Retrieved from