role of Leadership in Organizational Integrity, and
five modes of Ethical Leadership
July 16, 2005
of Ethical Leadership.
leadership begins with the way leaders perceive and conceptualize
the world around them. Ethical leadership, organizational
ethics, and social responsibility are inseparable concepts.
They are developing concepts, to be sure, but inseparable.
How ethical leaders relate to and come to understand the
world around them involves judgment and action. These can
be developed. In sum, the leader's role is to guide the
human potential of the organization's stakeholders to achieve
organizational aspirations in ways that liberate rather
constrain their imaginations and judgment.
leadership must, then, be effective, efficient, and excellent
if it is not to waste human potential. It is not enough
to be ethical in one's individual actions to be an ethical
leader. To be effective, efficient, and excellent, four
components of ethical leadership must be understood and
developed: purpose, knowledge, authority, and trust.
relationship between these four components can be visualized
as interrelated components, as described in the figure opposite.
Attention to any one component alone is incomplete and misleading.
Purpose-The ethical leader reasons and acts with
organizational purposes firmly in mind. This provides
focus and consistency.
ethical leader has the knowledge to judge and act prudently.
This knowledge is found throughout the organization and
its environment, but must be shared by those who hold
ethical leader has the power to make decisions and act,
but also recognizes that all those involved and affected
must have the authority to contribute what they have toward
ethical leader inspires-and is the beneficiary of-trust
throughout the organization and its environment. Without
trust and knowledge, people are afraid to exercise their
among Equals, a Word about Purpose
Before we proceed further, let me make the radical claim
that all ethics and policy principles and practices are
derived from or can be explained by four concepts that lie
at the root of applied ethics: shared purpose, informed
choice, responsibility, and learning and growth. As a guiding
principle, moreover, the first among these four equals is
shared purpose. The challenge to applied ethics is to integrate
ethics and policy theory and practice to be consistent with
it simplistic to base all applied ethics on just four concepts?
I think not because these four concepts reflect the evolved
commonalties found among our human natures and support the
drives that spur us to action. Consider, for example, why
almost everyone values honesty, or would urge that people
be, more often than not, honest:
and honesty. Purpose gives meaning to our visions of a
desired life. If those we deal with are not honest with
themselves and others, we can never be sure that our purposes
are shared. If purposes are not shared, we will often
find, over time, that we are working at cross-purposes
and that our efforts have been for naught. Virtually any
decision or action can be accurately guided by simply
asking, if I do this, will I be contributing to achieving
my/our purpose in being?
and honesty. Choice is the essential activity that defines
us as human beings. If those we deal with have not been
honest with themselves and others, we may be making choices
based upon bad information, or worse, our choices may
have been made for us through the dishonesty of others.
One is unlikely to achieve one's purpose where the stakeholders
in achieving one's vision are not fundamentally honest.
and honesty. Responsibility, in the sense used here, means
to be chargeable with being the author, cause, or occasion
of something. We have authority to the extent we are the
authors of our own lives. If we are the authors of our
own lives, we are the cause of them, and responsible for
them. If those we deal with have not been honest with
themselves and others, they will be unable to exercise
their authority prudently, and we will be unable to fix
responsibility for the actions and consequences that affect
us. Where authority is not exercised prudently, and we
are unable to fix responsibility, we find ourselves in
that twilight world where we can count on neither individuals
nor communities: where we lose that sense of authorship
of our own lives that makes us fully human.
and growth and honesty. Learning and growth are how the
world evolved, developing the complexity of life and living
that permitted human evolution. If those we deal with
have not been honest with themselves and others, they
cannot have that sense of brutal reality that compels
action when reality differs uncomfortably from their visions
of a good life. Moreover, they cannot have a realistic
sense of the possibilities of human action. Without such
an honest grasp of reality, others cannot learn and grow
at a pace that leads to the diversity and integration
that permits balance and harmony in a complex, evolving
of Ethical Leadership. It is often thought that ethical
leadership must be "soft" leadership. Nothing could be further
from the truth. Being an ethical leader means applying the
right amount of authority in each situation. Sometimes the
situation requires leadership that is anything but gentle.
Gratuitously tough leadership, however, cannot be maintained
for long without developing resentment and cynicism.
helpful to think of the ethical leader as exercising authority
within five modes or levels of intervention into the judgments
and actions of followers:
Inspiration-Setting the example so that other committed
members will contribute their fullest capabilities to
achieve organizational purposes. (the lowest degree of
other committed members, and guiding them where necessary,
so that they are able to contribute their capabilities
as fully as possible.
to reason to convince other members to contribute toward
achieving organizational purposes.
incentives other than the intrinsic value of contributing
to the achievement of organizational purposes, where commitment
other members to contribute some degree of their capability
where they have little or no commitment to do so on their
own. (The highest degree of intervention).
also helpful to consider the components of ethical leadership
together with the modes of intervention.
Components and Modes. The leader must employ the authority
granted him or her by the organization to achieve the purposes
of the organization, all the while recognizing that the
knowledge needed to exercise this authority resides throughout
the organization and its environment.
firmly believe that any organization, in order
to survive and achieve success, must have a
sound set of beliefs on which it premises all
its policies and actions.
I believe that the most important single factor
in corporate success is faithful adherence to
those beliefs. . . . Beliefs must always come
before policies, practices, and goals. The latter
must always be altered if they are seen to violate
J. Watson, Jr.
she must ensure that the purposes of the organization are
known and shared, that it has the capacity to support its
members' exercising their capabilities, and that communication
between mangers and other employees is open and honest.
mode of intervention selected will depend upon the health
of the organization and the pressures in its environment.
The ideal is to inspire others as a steward of the vision,
values, and excellence of the organization, as reflected
in its culture.
persuasion and facilitation are required of otherwise
capable and committed members, where they are unsure of
their own capability.
even manipulation and coercion are appropriate, where
the organization is not healthy and the pressures are
modes of ethical leadership intervention depend in large
part on the organizational culture. If the culture allows
the organization to learn and grow within its environment,
leadership may be largely inspirational.
culture does not support organizational learning and growth
within that environment, then manipulative, even coercive,
leadership would be necessary. Somewhere in between
is leadership that is facilitative or persuasive. In any
event, leaders must make their roles as integrity champions
larger than life. Otherwise they and their examples will
be lost in the pressures of day-to-day life. They must speak
in terms of vision, values, and integrity. And, when the
leader is not involved in a part of the organization's business,
he or she must know who speaks for values and integrity.
the style of ethical leadership will vary with the degree
to which it reflects the Organizational Culture and the
urgency of its situation in the environment.
In its least demanding sense, ethical leadership is a
stewardship that preserves the aspirations and culture
of the organization.
its most demanding sense, it scans the community and develops
and communicates organizational aspirations: the organization's
core purpose, core values, and vision of a desired future
and persuades, manipulates, and coerces its stakeholders
to comply until the culture has adapted.
between these extremes, ethical leadership balances (1)
achieving the organizational aspirations that are realistically
attainable at this time with (2) developing the organizational
culture over time.
table in Appendix
2 (Styles of Ethical Leadership) suggests that different
styles of leadership are necessary to maintain or implement
change in the organizational culture that is optimal for
it to survive and thrive within the organization's context.
specific culture required, and the challenges it must face,
will be suggested by the nature of its essential social
responsibility and dynamics of its larger community.
There is no "one-size-fits-all" style of leadership
for all organizations. For that matter, there is no such
style for any one organization at all points in its organizational
leadership addresses the components of leadership through
the mode appropriate to the occasion. These components are
dynamic; they are systemic and fluid. Achieving organizational
purpose through coercion, for example, where seen as an
illegitimate exercise of authority, results in employees
withholding information and the deterioration of trust.
Trusting in the exercise of authority where knowledge is
not captured and shared is blind.
appropriate leadership style, then, depends upon the ethical
context of the organization, its organizational culture,
and the situation it finds itself in at any point in its
organizational life. The specific organizational culture
required, and the challenges it must face, are a function
of its essential social responsibility [this links to another
article] and the dynamics of its larger community.