It is important when discussing morals and ethics to remember that there is some level of subjectivity as to what is appropriate or not. People are not perfect, in fact they are often far from it. People may alter their ethical standards as necessary for reasons that they deem appropriate. For example, most of society would deem theft is unethical. However, someone may be stuck in such a position that they are willing to be unethical for the greater good. Similar in nature to the tale of Robin Hood, with that idea that one can steal from the rich and give to the poor. The heart of the matter is that there is more than one side to consider in terms of ethical decision making. “A code of ethics that is created without leaders who commit to “ingraining honesty and integrity into the corporate culture is an empty ideal,” he said. “And leadership that doesn’t ground itself in a commitment to doing the right thing is destined to fail.” (Prutzman for Nick Valeriani, 2009).
In the book Leadership, by Peter Northouse, ethics is described as “the kinds of values and morals an individual or society finds desirable or appropriate.” Values are influenced by many different factors through the stages of development. In Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development, the there are three levels of development that illustrate some of the influences on moral development. In the earliest stage, pre-conventional, the focus is on obeying authority and is often present in childhood and early adolescence. The moral influence in this stage is derived from those who are in positions of authority in the child’s life and therefore, the moral development during this stage can vary greatly based on each individual influence. During the conventional level of moral development, the individual seeks the approval of others and addresses obligations and duties and is mostly seen in adulthood. There is also some variance during this stage of development as approval is sought in many ways by many different people, and the lengths to which one person may go to address their duties and obligations may also vary greatly. These stages of moral development lay the groundwork of who each person will be in terms of ethics and ethical decision making.
With the constant stream of social media and the scrutiny of the public opinion, it is crucial that leaders and their subordinates act ethically. Long gone are the times when someone had nothing more than their words when facing ethical dilemmas. Through email, text, social media and various types of recording, everything that someone does could potentially be visible to the public at large. One might think that this should not affect how a person behaves, or alter their on the job behavior, but this is not always the case. To be an ethical leader, one must act with moral standards all the time, whether people are paying attention at that time or not. Leaders must lead by example.
Northouse, P. G. (2018). Leadership: Theory and practice. Los Angeles: SAGE.
Prutzman, D. (2009). A Leaders Perspective on Ethics. Retrieved from: https://www.jnj.com/our-company/a-leaders-perspective-on-ethics
PSU. (2019). PSY 833: Ethics and Leadership. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1963919
Schindler, J. (2019). Leading with Ethics. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2019/01/07/leading-with-ethics/#31c2145a568a