Leadership and Ethics

Leadership and Ethics

Baker indicates that ethical issues are complicated and they are not just black and white analysis. In traditional standpoint, leaders in business organizations are those managers who represent the interest of the owners in achieving economic success for the organization. From this point of view, ethical leadership could be ahieved as long as economic outcomes is maximized which benifits the owners while fully comply with the laws and moral standards(Mullins, 2013).

The two principle areas of study: Deontological Ethics (rules, morals, values & virtues) and Teleological Ethics (consequences, results, outcomes)

Deontological Ethics are defined mainly by a focus upon adherence to independent ethic rules or duties. Therefore, in order to make the correct moral choices, we simply have to understand what our moral duties are and what correct rules exist which regulate those duties. When we follow our duty, we are behaving morally. When we fail to follow our duty, we are behaving immorally(Ethics: Deontological, Teleological, 2010).

The strengths of Deontological theory are motivation is valued over consequences, which are beyond our control. Justice is always an absolute, it ensures that everybody is treated equally. There is also less hypocrisy, which means it is more true(Haines, 2010). Weakness would be It is difficult to be objective because we are humans and social and cultural factors do affect us(Haines, 2010).

Teleological Ethics are defined mainly by a focus on the consequences which any action might have (for that reason, they are often referred to as consequentalist moral systems, and both terms are used here). Thus, in order to make correct moral choices, we have to have some understanding of what will result from our choices. When we make choices which result in the correct consequences, then we are acting morally; when we make choices which result in the incorrect consequences, then we are acting immorally(Ethics: Deontological, Teleological, 2010).

The strengths of Teleological theory could be those of which it allows us to be more open-minded towards other ethics applied by different cultures, it presents a more realistic way of using ethics(Haines, 2010).

The 4-V model demonstrates the framework of an organization internal factors(beliefs and values) and the external factors(behaviors and actions).

Below is the framework of the model, it serves as the organization approaches the common good.


(The center for Ethical Leadership, 2014)

  • Values – Ethical leadership begins with an understanding of and commitment to a leader’s core values. By discovering the values which make up the core of our identities and motivators, we begin the process of integrating our unique values with our choices in our personal, professional, and civic lives.
  • Vision – Ethical leadership requires the ability to frame our actions within a picture of “what ought to be” – particularly in the area of service to others.
  • Voice – Ethical leaders must be able to articulate their vision to others in an authentic way that enlivens them into action.
  • Virtue – Ethical leaders strive to do what is right and good. They practice virtuous behavior by asking “How are my values, vision and voice in alignment with and supporting the common good?

A good example of an organisation who demonstrated typical core value is Apple. “Build the best product for people” is the core value of Apple Corp. It can inspire people, but also represents the spirit of the Apple Corp. Every historic change apple’s have benefited from the company’s core value. Just like what Steve Jobs said about there’s nothing that makes my day more than getting an email from some random person in the universe who just bought an iPad over in the UK and tells me the story about how it’s the coolest product they’ve ever brought home in their lives.

According to Brown and Mitchell unethical leadership can be defined as “behaviors conducted and decisions made by organizational leaders that are illegal and/or violate moral standards, and those that impose processes and structures that promote unethical conduct by followers.”(Brown, Mitchell, and Philosophy Documentation Center, 2010) Trafigura is a multinational formed in 1993, trading in base metals and energy, including oil. It makes almost 80 billion USD a year. In 2006, it caused a health crisis affecting 108,000 people, after a ship leased by the company was told that, due to toxicity levels higher than expected, the price of transferring the waste on board to the processing plant in the Netherlands had increased twenty-fold. To avoid the charge, Trafigura ordered the ship to dock at other seaports until they could find someone who would dump the waste. At Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, one of Africa’s largest seaports, the waste was handed over to a newly formed dumping company, Compagnie Tommy, which illegally dumped the waste, instead of processing it. Many people there became sick due to exposure to the waste, and investigations began to determine whether it was intentionally dumped by Trafigura. Trafigura said in a press statement that their tests showed the waste not to be as toxic as had been claimed.
This was proven false by a 2009 UN report posted by Wikileaks.

Ethical leadership is relevant to all the managers. It could make one become ambitious, hardworking and aspirational, it also makes them more broad-minded and more competent. It provides courageous, loyalty and hope to those who has sense of responsibilities and make them more capable of being an ethical leader, a good leader.

Daniel Goleman discusses how setting ethical norms and ground rules is an important task in leadership and plays a major role in positive collaboration.

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Brown, M. E., Mitchell, M. S. and Philosophy Documentation Center (2010) ‘Ethical and Unethical Leadership’, Business Ethics Quarterly, 20(4), pp. 583–616. doi: 10.5840/beq201020439

Canal de stevenote (2012) Steve Jobs talks about Core Values at D8 2010. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mKxekNhMqY (Accessed: 5 May 2015)

Copp, D. (2006) The Oxford handbook of ethical theory. 1st edn. New York: Oxford University Press

Ethics: Deontological, Teleological (2010) Available at: http://atheism.about.com/library/FAQs/phil/blfaq_phileth_sys.htm (Accessed: 6 May 2015)

Haines, N. (2010) Kant’s Ethical Theory. Available at: http://www.rsrevision.com/Alevel/ethics/kant/strengths_weaknesses_kant.pdf (Accessed: 6 May 2015)

Leigh, D. (2009) How UK oil company Trafigura tried to cover up African pollution disaster. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/sep/16/trafigura-african-pollution-disaster (Accessed: 6 May 2015)

MoreThanSoundnet (2011) Ethics in Leadership. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4W0933uFIE (Accessed: 4 May 2015)

Mullins, L. J. (2013) Management and organisational behaviour. Tenth edn. UK: Pearson Education Limited

Steenkamp, J.-B. (2014) ‘How global brands create firm value: the 4V model’, International Marketing Review, 31(1), pp. 5–29. doi: 10.1108/imr-10-2013-0233

Top 5 – The Four V’s of Operations Management (no date) Available at: http://www.managersdoor.com/topic/top-5-the-four-vs-of-operations-management/ (Accessed: 3 May 2015)


12 thoughts on “Leadership and Ethics

    • Thanks for your compliment Mr. Zheng. I think a good leader should be able to generate profit in a ehical way, in the case that there is a conflict between the two, a good ethical leader should take the opstion of sacrificing some profit.


    • I think Apple can improve their ethical leadership by icrease their employee’s benefit, such as less overtime working, because there are cases like suicide happened in Apple factory in China.


  1. Could you give more examples and detail information about how did the Apple Company apply The 4-V model to the operating activities. For instance, what is the actual value ethical leadership involved. What is the efficient way to protect their voice and make sure the voice consistence with their actions. How did the ethic leadership monitor the employees’ behavior and what the procedure and relevant policy.

    Liked by 1 person

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