Moral leadership essay

The Importance of Ethics in Leadership

Given the opposition of other world leaders and the U. Congress, it would have been politically expedient for Wilson to call for the imposition of a victor's peace upon Germany; yet, he held fast to his beliefs and continued to fight for the ideals encapsulated within his "Fourteen Points. Consequently, as the treaty negotiations wore on, Wilson found himself losing more and more ground to his increasingly jingoistic partners.

Despite these setbacks, Wilson never gave up his struggle for a world united by peace and defined by democratic brotherhood. As soon as the Treaty was ratified by Germany, Wilson devoted the rest of his life to lobbying for American ratification—which would have resulted in the inclusion of the United States into the newly formed League of Nations. Unfortunately, his efforts were rebuffed by a reactionary Congress—thus dooming the League to failure. With Wilson's death in , it had appeared that the fight for international democratic idealism was doomed to fade into obscurity, much like the Civil Rights Movement appeared doomed to deteriorate into violence after the death of Martin Luther King Jr.

Contrary to expectations, the moral strength of the ideals that Wilson fought for, much like those of King's, inspired the luminaries at the San Francisco Conference to usher in a new era of global cooperation with the drafting of the United Nations charter. Thus Wilson's valiant efforts for the institution of a sustainable global peace, though stymied by the conservatism of his time, provided the beacon by which future generations were inspired to finish what he had started.

The lofty standards by which moral leadership is judged are not solely to be found within the domain of historical paradigms. Davis's potent act of defiance successfully delayed the bill's passage and sparked a national dialogue about the rights of women to maintain sovereignty over their own bodies.

In directly challenging the status quo with her filibuster, Davis took an immense political risk. The State of Texas is currently one of the most conservative in the United States, with Republicans in control of both houses of the State Legislature and the governorship. However, during President Barack Obama's re-election campaign in , Texas showed signs of turning Democratic thanks to a growing Latino population and the success of voter-mobilization efforts.

In short, the Texas Democrats were forced to remain silent on certain issues lest they trigger a conservative backlash and risk losing the state completely. Even in the face of this political dilemma, Davis made the bold move to break the silence on women's issues and uphold her ideals, thus cementing her status as a moral leader in political system that favors compliance over an ethical choice.

The work of such visionaries as Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi show that when ethical choice is denied to an entire nation, moral leaders find it imperative to stand up for those who have been silenced. As a member of the African National Congress since the s, Nelson Mandela courageously fought against the oppressive apartheid regime in South Africa.

His outspoken defiance of the government resulted in countless arbitrary and unjust measures taken against him, culminating in the infamous Rivonia Trial. As a result of this show trial, Mandela spent 40 years imprisoned on Robben Island, where he became an international symbol of the struggle for justice and equality. After the force of his moral position shook the South African establishment to the point of breaking, Mandela was freed and later became the country's first democratically elected president.

In power, Mandela again took up the mantle of moral leadership by refusing to give in to any temptations for revenge, and instead championed racial harmony and reconciliation of former enemies within South Africa, thus fulfilling his lifelong ideals.

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Mandela, and King as well, had been inspired by the example of Mahatma Gandhi, who had led the successful nonviolent struggle for India's post-Second World War independence from Great Britain, becoming the embodiment of moral leadership for millions of people around the globe. It can thus be seen that moral leadership can take on many forms: the activist openly defying an oppressive government, the idealist fighting political inertia, the politician risking his or her career to defend equality.

We extend a special thanks to the conference sponsors, Henry R. Kravis and the Vincent de Roulet family, and the faculty and staff who have provided support, as well as the faculty and staff of the Kravis Leadership Institute, who were instrumental in putting together the conference: Ron Riggio, Susan Murphy, Sandy Counts, Lynda Mulhall, and student interns Yoon-Mi Kim and Kate Oppenheimer. We also owe a debt of gratitude to the Jepson School Research Assistant, Cassie King, for the care and attention to detail that she put into helping prepare this manuscript.

The Importance of Ethics in Leadership

Ciulla The greatest strength and the greatest weakness of leaders is that they are human beings. As such, they are unpredictable creatures, capable of extraordinary kindness and cruelty. They are wise, foolish, careless, reckless, arrogant, and humble — sometimes all at the same time. There are, however, two distinctive factors that make the ethics of leadership different from the ethics of other individuals.

The first is power — the way that leaders exercise it and the temptations that come with it. The second is the special moral relationship that they have with followers and the range of people with whom they have moral relationships and obligations. Leaders have to care about and consider the wellbeing of more people than the rest of us. They have moral obligations to people that they do not know and maybe do not even like. Morality requires this of everyone, but for leaders it is central to the special role that they play.

The moral obligations of leaders are painted on a large canvas. Leaders are responsible for the big picture and everything in it.

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Leadership is morality and immorality magnified, which is why we search and hope for moral leaders. Today, quite a bit of popular and scholarly work centers on extraordinary leaders, on how to be a great leader, and on transformational and charismatic leadership. Our focus is on the complex ethical relationships that are the core of leadership.

The quest for moral leadership is both a personal quest that takes place in the hearts and minds of leaders as well as a quest by individuals, groups, organizations, communities, and societies for leaders who are both 1 2 Introduction ethical and effective. Some look into the hearts and minds of leaders, and others examine the body of leadership — the way that it is practiced in various groups and organizations. We begin by looking at the hearts of leaders, which includes their virtues, vices, emotions, and religious beliefs.

People search for moral leaders only when they have some say in the matter.

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When they have no say, they can only hope for moral leaders or for leaders who will overthrow their bad leaders. Woodruff argues that the ancient Greeks not only developed a concept of democracy, but also a concept of democratic and, one might argue, moral leadership. The Greeks defined leadership by clearly characterizing its opposite, the tyrant, who holds total power and rules by fear.

Poets, playwrights, and philosophers of the ancient Greek world had a clear understanding of the human frailties of leaders. At one end of the moral spectrum they identified hubris as the main occupational hazard of leaders. Hubris is the pride and arrogance that comes from power and often motivates the strong to take advantage of the weak.

At the other end of the spectrum we find reverence, the antidote for hubris. Woodruff tells us that the democratic poets of ancient Greece celebrated reverence because it was the virtue of leaders who recognized the difference between the human and the divine. A reverent leader understands that we all share a common humanity and is conscious of his or her limitations.

Reverence, says Woodruff, is the virtue that prevents leaders from abusing their power. Questions concerning hubris and reverence run through all of the chapters in this book. Power is one characteristic that differentiates leaders from others. It is the key factor that makes ethics particularly difficult for them. The ethical challenges faced by leaders are both intellectual and emotional. In common usage, we only call people leaders because they have willing, or at least not unwilling followers. Leadership is not a singular concept; it is a complex relationship.

As Robert C. Solomon explains, this relationship is not only an ethical relationship but it is also an emotional one — emotions are part of ethics. Solomon argues that emotional integrity is the super-virtue of leadership. In some ways, it resembles the Greek virtue of reverence. In his chapter, Solomon talks about the relationship between emotions, ethics, and reason.

Emotions mask or enhance the way people understand the morality of an action. Solomon notes how difficult it is for leaders to have emotional integrity when the media and professional consultants literally mediate and repackage their emotions. He points out that charisma is not really a quality of a leader, but a set of emotions.

Leadership Ethics

These emotions are not necessarily irrational emotions. In the case of good leaders, they are reasonable emotions. We all want leaders whom we can trust and leaders want to be trusted. Solomon notes that this is not simply a matter of finding leaders worthy of trust, but rather a matter of finding leaders who are able to give trust. Often leadership scholars talk about leaders as moral role models. Solomon extends this idea to emotions. Similarly, Solomon says, leaders who project their trust of followers usually have it projected back to them by followers.

He says that in the end, the burden of trust is on followers who, like leaders, also need emotional integrity.