Ethical Leadership in 2013



If you can’t trust people with your mother, we are in trouble!  My 74-year-old mother was in the market to buy another car.  She finally bought it at a used car dealership (mom n pop).  They convinced her that this used car (PT Cruiser) was great!

In a few days, the car had problems. She took it back to the used dealership; the owner told my mother she had purchased bad gas. Eventually, my mother took it to an independent car repair shop. The computer was dead! To date, the used car dealership has not returned any of my mother’s calls. 

Situations like this undermine the public trust in human beings.  We have become cynical of our leaders, public or private.  With the number of high profile scandals with government officials and business executives, many people would describe ‘ethical leadership’ as an oxymoron.   Can you have ethics and leadership side by side?  

Denis Collins, author of Business Ethics, further explains, “Subordinates are constantly evaluating the ethics of a manager’s decisions and behaviors. Actions speak louder than words.”  Therefore, any meaningful ethic program must start with senior management behavior.

Trust is the foundation of any meaningful corporate structure.  Gareth Jones and Jennifer George, management experts maintain that when leaders are ineffective chances are good that workers will not perform to their capabilities. 

Mark Johnston and Greg Marshall, authors of Relationship Selling, further suggest senior management style (do their actions match their words), the established culture of the organization and external forces can create a climate where unethical or even illegal behavior is tolerated. Therefore, senior managers should lead the way by example. 

Furthermore, organizations must evaluate their current corporate culture. There are both written and unwritten rules and behaviors that come into play. For example, Enron senior management demonstrated a lack of moral and ethical judgment that played a critical role in its decision-making (i.e. breaking laws).                                     


Enron in the boom days of the late 90’s

In addition to analyzing an individual’s personal behavior, individuals need to analyze the organization’s leadership and culture climate to see the big picture.  Therefore, ethical leadership becomes an essential ingredient for making a highly effective organization.    

State your professional experience with ethical leadership or lack of.


 © 2013 by Daryl D. Green


Sustaining Ethical Behavior

Americans are increasingly worried and cynical of today’s leaders. Traditional institutions are losing favor, leaving citizens unable to trust their neighbors, churches, and government.

Additionally, America has a history of unethical behavior by leaders. The private sector has been riddled with tons of examples (i.e. Enron, Exxon, etc.) of unethical behavior on Wall Street. Furthermore, political parties market family values and personal integrity like they are selling used automobiles.

In the quest for power and their own personal ambition, many government officials have been drawn to deadly vices that have led to their personal self-destruction. Graham Tomblin, The Seven Deadly Sins, notes this natural selfish behavior has destroyed families, friendships, happiness, and peace of mind.

These moral break downs can seep into other factions of the political landscape. For example, in 1998, the media reported the sexual exploits of Democratic President Bill Clinton with Monica Lewinsky. However, political scandals are nothing new for the federal government. During the months of May to August of 2007, Republican President Ronald Reagan’s administration was suspected of trading weapons for hostages in the Iran-Contra hearings.

This topic explores the American political environment and how amoral behavior associated with ‘seven-deadly sins’ impact contemporary organizational culture.   For this discussion, we evaluate Congressman Mark Foley’s scandal. Foley was a Florida congressman, who was reported to have sent sexually explicit emails to male pages who were high school students.

He abruptly resigned on September 29, 2006, which set-off a political landmine. House Republicans had to do damage control, whileDemocrats went on the attack. Some Democrats claimed that some House leaders knew for months of Foley’s inappropriate behavior. House SpeakerDennis Hastert found himself on the political hot seat. Hastert declared he knew nothing about Foley’s actions, but others disagreed with his proclamation. Hastert continued his claim of innocence as he asked the JusticeDepartment to investigate this matter.

Because of Foley’s resignation, he couldn’t be punished by his peers. Foley also apologized publicly, sought treatment for his alcoholic addicted, and pointed to a childhood abuse experience by a priest as a cause of his problem. Once again, Americans were asked to address another ethical issue among government officials.

In many cases, unethical decisions made by individuals who allow their ethical principles to influence their decision-making, led to laws being broken or the compromise of organizational values.  Moral principles, values, or beliefs about what is “right” or “wrong” are known as ethics.

Consequently, individuals who make decisions outside of the organization’s values sustain their moral principles internally. Ethics and organizational culture can impact the success of an organization. In fact, ethical behavior is directly related to culture.  

In the long-term, unethical behavior impacts an organizations ability to function effectively.  Employees watch what leaders do more than what they say.  Therefore, organizations that want to sustain future success must pay attention to their ethical behavior, at all levels.

Describe your professional experiences with ethical behavior by executives as well as others in the organization. Discuss what can be done to instill good ethical behavior throughout the organization

© 2011 by Daryl D. Green