Eithics in Leadership – Short Answer Essay Questions – Midterm
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Eithics in Leadership – Short Answer Essay Questions – Midterm
Lesson One: Ethics Introduced In this first lesson, we will discuss an introduction to the topic of ethics, what they are and how they are derived within the individual and the society. According to Merriam-Webster, ethics are defined as “rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good and bad” (Merriam Webster, n.d.-b). This is a workable definition of ethics for the purpose of our introduction in this lesson and our future discussions. However, in order to truly understand what it is that we’re talking about when we discuss ethics, we need to dive a bit further and ask the next logical question: what does it mean to be “moral”? Merriam-Webster defines “morality” as “beliefs about what is right behavior and what is wrong behavior” (Merriam Webster, n.d.-c). The word “right” is defined as “morally or socially correct or acceptable” (Merriam Webster, n.d.-d). “Correct” is defined as being in conformance with “standard”, “fact”, or “a set figure” (Merriam Webster, n.d.-a). I suspect you can see by now that this line of attack proves unfruitful. We’ve arrived at a rather nebulous conclusion that ethics are essentially a codification of conduct which is in conformance with either a) that which is factually accurate, or b) that which conforms with social standards. How do we reconcile all of this? It would appear that facts and social norms belong to two different spheres of knowledge and understanding. Is it possible to have an objectively factual concept of morality, and if so, would such a morality be compatible with what we know about current ethical underpinnings? These are difficult questions with which philosophers have wrestled since the earliest human records (and possibly pre-historically as well). By no means do we have all of the answers today. However, we have come a long way in understanding the nature of human morality, and the ways in which we can optimize righteous behavior. Yet, in almost every facet of human affairs today, leaders have debased their own ethical standards and succumbed to the temptations of greed, corruption, and selfishness. For aspiring leaders today, a working knowledge of ethical precepts, as well as the dynamics that commonly lead to deviation from ethical conduct, is critical. Morality Demystified As demonstrated supra, turning to a dictionary to explain what “ethics” really means will do little good. Instead of relying on the words themselves, it is necessary to look to the spirit of the distinction between moral and immoral behavior. What do all behaviors that might be considered to be “moral” have in common? The answer: an improvement in well-being. Keep in mind that the answer to the question does not depend on whether such behaviors are objectively moral. All that is necessary is that the believer genuinely believe the conduct to be morally right (Harris, 2014). For example, if a killer believes that taking a life results in a better state of being, either for the killer him (or her) self, or the victim, or some third party(ies), then such a belief conforms with our proposition. Well-being is what is at stake here, and while such a killer might in fact be tragically mistaken as to the actual effects of taking a life on the well-being of those involved, the act was predicated on the belief (correct or not) that it would bring more good than harm. Now, it is entirely possible that serious mental illness might provoke someone to commit an act either a) knowing of its immoral character, or b) with total disregard as to morality in general. We know very well that such conditions exists (e.g. psychopathy), and that at their extremes they can elicit incomprehensibly horrific behavior. However, absent such conditions it is generally agreed among sane and competent human beings that killing people is an immoral thing to do. Analyzing rationally, it lowers the well-being of the victim (being dead is about as low as it gets), and absent other information, there are no obvious benefits to be had. However, that missing “other information” can dramatically alter such an analysis. Take, for example, the case of a soldier at war. Although most people—soldiers and otherwise—might agree that killing is unfortunate and undesirable, history has shown that we will gladly march into battle and spill blood on the justification that killing in these contexts is a necessary collateral cost to serve some greater good (Linker, 2014). For example, it is estimated that roughly five million Germans were killed in World War II, and any compassionate person should find the idea of five million human murders to be atrociously immoral, but few would argue that defeating the Nazi movement wasn’t the right thing to do, even accounting for the necessary killing involved. Self-defense, defense of allies, and liberation of the Jewish people were among the biggest legitimate reasons for doing so. Thus, we can conclude that even the least moral actions may sometimes be justified by extenuating circumstances; there will be exceptions to rules of morality (De Dora, 2010). There are a variety of reasons put forth to attempt to justify apparently immoral behavior, and not all are as convincing as that which I just described, but we will discuss the ways in which we as people rationalize immoral or unethical behavior in subsequent lessons. Morality and Animals It’s also worth mentioning that this same concept of well-being can be applied to non-human animals. However, in this context we must ask even more difficult questions. For example, consider the following: Would you be comfortable clubbing baby seals in the Arctic? What about slaughtering dolphins in Japan? How about poisoning someone’s pet dog? Or shooting an endangered rhino? Now, before you answer, what is important to notice here is that I have primed these examples with some clever, extraneous information which will likely provoke a strong emotional reaction to accompany your response. However, the larger point is that these are all acts which are committed by human beings with some degree of regularity, and the extraneous information provided isn’t strictly necessary to understand the valid application of well-being assessment with animals. In the first example, I intentionally described a notoriously cute animal. In the second, I referenced one of the smartest animals on the planet (rivaling humans in some ways). In the third example, I drew on the connection that most people have with dogs as household pets (perhaps this may have had less of an effect on you if you are not a “dog person”), and in the final example I provided relevant context that the rhino species in question is struggling to survive in the wild. As an aside, although I said nothing about the causes of the rhino’s endangerment, if your mind went to visions of rhinos being cut down for their ivory horns by unscrupulous poachers, then this in and of itself was part of your involuntary emotional “knee-jerk” reaction. But imagine that I provided no such example. Perhaps I was instead to ask you how you would feel about ending the life of a cow that is destined for slaughter anyway. Cows are not particularly intelligent, not extraordinarily cute (by most standards), not commonly kept as pets, and nowhere near endangerment. Yet, if you’re like most people, then even this proposition would evoke a strong negative response. As goes the old adage, many people are OK with “eating the burger” so long as they don’t have to “meet the cow”. However, if we truly seek answers and are willing to approach these questions introspectively, we have to ask ourselves why. This particular example has to do with distance from harm, and we will be talking about this in more detail in subsequent lessons as well. Now comes the summit of our thought exercise. Reflecting on your feelings toward the cow in our last hypothetical, ask yourself why you don’t feel the same sense of shock and awe at the notion of killing an ant or a fly. Unless you are the Dalai Lama, you probably don’t lose much sleep thinking about the endless scores of insects that you kill on a daily basis, intentional or otherwise (as it turns out, even the Dalai Lama can get over this) (Moyers, 2013). Why such a difference though? Ultimately, what we find at the end of this trail is that our predispositions toward the value of other life—just as with human life—is based on our presumptions concerning the degree to which we believe that such life can experience suffering or happiness (i.e. potential degrees of well-being). We simply don’t ascribe the same range of potential good and bad emotions to the ant that we do to the cow, and therefore we rationalize our ethical priorities around stepping on ants and slaughtering cows. As an aside, I should note that while our presumptions about these potential degrees of well-being are largely based upon sensory intuition (e.g. our built-in empathy wiring can detect emotions in the face, eyes, movements, and sounds of a cow, but we generally can do no such things with ants), our scientific understanding of the relationship between biological complexity and exposure to emotions would also support the proposition that cows can “feel” more than ants. Thus, we know from analysis of our own emotions and behaviors that those choices which are labelled “moral” are generally those which are expected to increase the well-being of subjects involved. Yet, we can point today to examples of leaders in politics, religion, business, and elsewhere who appear to demonstrate behavior which could not be remotely tied to improved well-being. As we will discuss in this course, much of the apparent discord among individuals within a society is explained by the fact that the views of the individual are dependent upon the individual’s experiences and the values that he or she has learned throughout his or her life. This does not necessarily mean that there is no such thing as objective morality, as it is possible to arrive at a single moral determination on a given issue notwithstanding a variety of opinions. However, what it does mean is that convincing people that morality is not strictly subjective—and consequently avoiding the propensity for such drastic deviations from rational norms—-is an uphill battle. Conclusion In this lesson, we discussed the definition and explanation of ethics, within the context of morality and its implications. In Lesson Two, we will introduce the concept of leadership and some of the leadership dynamics which may be predictive of ethical conduct. References De Dora, M. (2010, May 25). The concerns of morality: Well-being and flourishing. Center for Inquiry. Retrieved from http://www.centerforinquiry.net/blogs/entry/the_concerns_of_morality_well-being_and_flourishing Harris, S. (2014). Clarifying the moral landscape: A response to Ryan Born. Sam Harris. Retrieved from https://www.samharris.org/blog/item/clarifying-the-landscape Linker, D. (2014, March 19). Is war ever morally justified? The Week. Retrieved from http://theweek.com/articles/449193/war-ever-morally-justified Merriam-Webster (n.d.-a). Correct. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/correct Merriam-Webster (n.d.-b). Ethic. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ethics Merriam-Webster (n.d.-c). Morality. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/morality Merriam-Webster (n.d.-a). Right. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/right Moyers, B. (2013, January 4). The Dalai Lama on respecting our environment. Moyers & Company. Retrieved from http://billmoyers.com/2013/01/04/moyers-moment-1991-the-dalai-lama-on-respecting-our-environment/
Eithics in Leadership – Short Answer Essay Questions – Midterm
Lesson Two: Leadership Qualities and their Ethical Implications Lesson One discussed and introduced the topics of ethics and morality as they are understood from the perspective of the individual and society in general. Lesson Two will introduce the concept of leadership as well as leadership qualities and their ethical implications. Leadership and Management First, it is important to note that, within the context of business organizations of all types and sizes, leadership is thought of as an aspect of management. In fact, leadership is considered one of the well-established four functions of management, along with planning, coordinating, and controlling (Norman, n.d.). The other important thing to understand on this concept is that not all managers are good leaders, and conversely, not all leaders are good managers. Some managers excel in technical areas of management but fail to effectively motivate and control the work of subordinates. And likewise, some leaders can do an excellent job of inspiring their followers but lack other skills such as accounting, asset management, and budgeting. Regardless, the key takeaway from this concept is that all of these functions are necessary to the proper operation of a business. No Such Thing as a Leadership Recipe Formal management and leadership research began in the early 20th century. And some of the first work in this field was directed at trying to determine whether or not there were characteristics (physical and psychological) of human beings that were sufficiently correlated with successful leadership so as to infer causation (Kirkpatrick & Locke, 1991). In other words, were there any attributes that all successful leaders possessed, and which would inform a “recipe” for successful leaders? The answer, predominantly, was no. The research was largely unsuccessful at finding any qualities which correlated perfectly with successful leadership. In terms of physical characteristics, there were none that even looked generally promising. Indeed, leaders come in all different shapes, sizes, races, ethnicities, genders, abilities, etc. However, in terms of psycho-social elements, while there were no qualities that were consistently present among all the successful leaders of recorded human history, the researchers did find eight qualities which could be loosely associated with leadership success (Judge, Bono, Ilies, & Gerhardt, 2002): Drive: Generally speaking, successful leaders usually have high levels of energy, ambition, and drive for success. They are typically highly-motivated and very persistent with respect to their goals. Considering the level of effort which would ordinarily be necessary to achieve levels of greatness sufficient to earn one’s self a prominent place in the annals of history, this quality is not surprising. Desire to Lead: In addition to possessing a high level of drive, successful leaders often have a strong desire to lead others, rather than follow from behind. They enjoy the influence that they can exercise over others in pursuit of goals, and are not afraid to take responsibility for other people. Honesty and Integrity: Most successful leaders are honest with their followers and consequently develop very high levels of trust and credibility among the people they lead. There is also a high degree of consistency between words and actions. Naturally, this is not to say that all successful leaders have been so honest and consistent, as there are obviously plenty of cases that would disprove such a hypothesis. Self-Confidence: Generally, leaders who are successful portray a high level of self-confidence, and minimal self-doubt. This translates directly to followers, so that they are not concerned as to the ability of their leaders to accomplish stated goals. Note, here, that such appearances of self-confidence may not in fact be genuine, but so long as the leader is perceived to be genuine, follower commitment and loyalty will be the same. Intelligence: Most successful leaders need to possess a fair degree of intelligence, and a commensurate ability to process large amounts of complex data and make important decisions from an informed perspective. In today’s organizations, such data is far too voluminous and complicated for any one leader to manage it all. Instead, he or she will rely on a team of supporting experts to provide the most relevant macro-level conclusions from data, and recommend courses of action. Thus, in this sense, even intelligence may not be a barrier to successful leadership, so long as the leader can a) appear intelligent, so as to maintain credibility, and b) surround him or her self with adequate help. Job-Relevant Knowledge: In addition to the ability to process information (intelligence, discussed immediately supra), successful leaders must also have a sufficient level of knowledge about the nature of the position they occupy, and the challenges that exist therewith. In the business world, this may equate to a history of adequate experience in one’s field. However, as with intelligence, this too may be essentially faked so long as a leader has good help. Extraversion: It is true that most leaders are highly energetic, outgoing, gregarious people who thrive in environments that involve a lot of social interaction (Van Vugt, 2006). They are also generally assertive with their positions and influence. However, a strong caveat is warranted with respect to this quality, as history has shown that some of the very best leaders are far from extraverted. Perhaps the quintessential example is President Abraham Lincoln, who is well-documented as having been someone who abhorred the spotlight, and preferred quiet seclusion to the constant interaction that accompanied the presidency. Yet, Lincoln managed to repress his preferences and lead the country through one of the most difficult periods in its 200+ year history. Additionally, he is hardly remembered for his quiet and reserved persona, save for historians and their readership. Thus, Lincoln serves as an example that introversion mustn’t always inhibit a leader from achieving even the very highest levels of success and notoriety. Accountability: Finally, most successful leaders have a strong sense of accountability for the results of not only their own efforts, but also those of their followers. In this sense, they are happy to share credit when things go well, but also to accept blame when things don’t. When asked about how to reconcile successes and failures as a leader, former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell once said “Share the credit, take the blame, and quietly find out and fix things that went wrong. Whenever you place the cause of one of your actions outside yourself, it’s an excuse and not a reason.” (Executive Leadership, 2013). Ethical Implications of Leadership Qualities Now that we’ve listed and discussed these eight leadership qualities, and explained that none are strictly dispositive insofar as success is concerned, we can examine the ethics of leaders exhibiting these attributes in different contexts. Drive: Drive might be considered an admirable quality, but what if a leader’s drive for success is placed in higher priority than ethical conduct? In other words, what if goals are considered to be more important than altruism? Additionally, what if goals don’t align with ethical conduct? This is not an uncommon situation, as professionals who are paid for performance (e.g. commission positions, etc.) are frequently pushed to deliver results without much regard for the means by which it is accomplished. Desire to Lead: Desire to Lead is usually a prerequisite for successful leadership, but one should consider the motivations behind such a desire to lead. If the purpose is to help followers achieve more together, this is arguably a more ethical motivation than, say, a desire to control others and wield power. Honesty and Integrity: Provided that these qualities are genuine, they are, on their faces, objectively ethical. However, are there ever cases where lying is a superior ethical choice to honesty? For example, if embellishing the truth about the state of a business’s financial solvency is necessary to keep employees comfortable, motivated, and productive, is such dishonesty truly unethical if it serves to benefit employees by preventing such a company from going under? These are difficult questions to be sure, but absolute rules of conduct are rare in the world of ethics. Self-Confidence: Confidence may be a powerful force of persuasion for followers, but over-confidence can lead to dangerous positions of underestimating threats and rendering a team vulnerable to failure. Additionally, creating false impressions of confidence may give followers an imprudent sense of trust in their leader. Intelligence: Intelligence can hardly be described as an unethical quality for leaders to possess. However, as discussed supra, intelligence is something that may be effectively feigned by a talented charlatan, and this always presents a unique danger to the stability of teams. In another way, intelligence possessed by a leader which is genuine but vastly superior to that possessed by the typical follower may be used to take advantage of followers and manipulate them for personal gain, so exceptionally talented leaders must self-regulate their own conduct in this respect. Job-Relevant Knowledge: Like intelligence, job-relevant knowledge is something that may be faked for personal gain at the expense of a team, or used in a way that takes advantage of those who are less knowledgeable. For example, financial experts who grow to understand accounting procedures at a level that no other employees do (or can) may be tempted to use this knowledge to commit undetectable theft. Cases of such behavior are not uncommon. Extraversion: As discussed previously, extraversion is a typical quality among successful leaders, but not all successful leaders. Extravert leaders must be conscious of the way in which their personalities may be perceived as overly-assertive, aggressive, or even overbearing by more introverted followers. This kind of leadership dynamic can sometimes lead to a culture of resentment or fear within teams. Accountability: Accountability is perhaps the one quality which is unlikely to lead to unethical behavior, regardless of its degree of influence over an individual’s behavior. Accountability is essentially the very embodiment of ethics, and so long as one’s own perceptions about right and wrong, good and bad, etc. are reasonable and appropriate, an emphasis on personal responsibility and even guilt-proneness is unlikely to lead such a leader to unethical conduct. Conclusion In this lesson, we discussed leadership as well as some qualities that are generally associated with successful leadership and their ethical implications. In Lesson Three, we will discuss the most prominent theories of ethics applied to philosophical debate today, and apply a famous ethical problem for analysis. References Executive Leadership (2013, June 26). Colin Powell’s rules to live by. Business Management Daily. Retrieved from http://www.businessmanagementdaily.com/32161/colin-powells-rules-to-live-by Judge, T. A., Bono, J. E., Ilies, R., & Gerhardt, M. W. (2002). Personality and leadership: A qualitative and quantitative review. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(4), pp. 765-780. Kirkpatrick, S. A. & Locke, E. A. (1991). Leadership: Do traits really matter? Academy of Management Executive, 5(2), pp. 48-60. Norman, L. (n.d.) What are the four basic functions that make up the management process? Chron. Retrieved from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/four-basic-functions-make-up-management-process-23852.html Van Vugt, M. (2006). Evolutionary origins of leadership and followership.Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10(4), 354-371.
Eithics in Leadership – Short Answer Essay Questions – Midterm
Lesson Three: Ethical Theories Lesson Two introduced leadership, some of the qualities that are generally associated with successful leadership, and some of the types of power that leaders wield. Lesson Three will introduce three of the most prominent ethical theories in philosophical debate today, and apply a famous ethical problem for analysis. As a helpful refresher, Lesson One supra established that ethics encompass the behaviors and perspectives that maximize morality—that is to say, those behaviors and perspectives which have the most positive impact on well-being for those involved. Although seems to be fairly straight-forward, one thing you should be beginning to notice is that insofar as philosophy on right and wrong or good and bad is concerned, nothing is as simple as it may at first seem. Understanding that the goal of ethics is to maximize well-being, questions immediately arise as to the best ways to maximize well-being. When sacrifices must be made, whose well-being matters most, and why? These are difficult questions, and through rigorous philosophical inquiry, some of the greatest thinkers on the subject have reduced their perspectives to some basic ethical theories upon which most points of view can at some level be mapped. In this lesson, we will discuss three of the most well-established of these theories. Egoism Egoism is the idea that the optimal response to any moral quandary is that which maximizes well-being for the person responding. Egoism, ergo, is premised on the basis of self-interest, and in its purest form, it argues that those actions which are most in furtherance of a person’s self-interest are inherently the best choices. Immediately we can notice an obvious selfish bias to the concept of pure egoism. In its unqualified form, egoism would embrace human qualities like greed, and assert that one’s own gains are the only variables that matter within the context of personal ethics. However, it is only fair to note that some philosophers advocate a modified version of egoism called enlightened egoism. The basic premise of enlightened egoism is that individuals serve their own self-interest when they act in ways that serve the interests of others. Put another way, the motivation is still selfish (one’s own self-interest), but by helping others it is purported that mutual cooperation will ultimately benefit the actor more than if he or she had pursued a line of behavior consistent with pure greed and selfishness (The Basics of Philosophy, n.d.-b). As one simple example, if it is agreed that self-preservation is the ultimate self-interest, then under egoist theory there would perhaps be no circumstances under which the individual should be persuaded to sacrifice his or her own life for the benefit of others. One of the most famous proponents of egoism was Adam Smith, the father of modern-day capitalism. Capitalism itself is primarily based on the principle that if players in an economic environment act in a way that promotes their own individual self-interests, the resulting competition will force those players to maximize efficiency and productivity, players and consumers will benefit as a result. This is also the foundation for the Reagan administration’s philosophy of trickle-down economics, which suggested that if government made it easier for the private sector to do business (cut regulations, lower taxes, etc.), everyone would ultimately benefit from the prosperity, businesses included (Welch, 2006). Utilitarianism A second ethical theory is that of utilitarianism. Utilitarianism contrasts with egoism in that it asserts that the most ethical conduct is measured by taking a simple inventory of well-being accomplished (or, alternatively, suffering avoided) for all those involved, without any special consideration for the individual actor. In this sense, utilitarianism is perhaps the most mathematically sound basis for ethical conduct. Under utilitarianism, in order to maximize morality all one need do is measure the total amount of well-being produced (or suffering relieved) for all parties involved in each alternative option, and then choose the option with the best net yield. As a result of this simple logic, utilitarianism can be starkly distinguished from egoism in that under utilitarianism the most ethical behavior may be one in which the actor enjoys no well-bring whatsoever. In fact, the most ethical behavior may be one which brings suffering (or a decrease in well-being) to the actor. If other people involved would derive more benefit than the harm attributed, then such behaviors are preferable under a utilitarian theory (The Basics of Philosophy, n.d.-c). In the example of self-sacrifice, utilitarianism would support the general idea of sacrificing one’s own life so long as such an act serves to save at least two other lives. This example, of course, assumes all other things to be equal. It is worth noting that a distinction is made in utilitarian theory between quantitative well-being and qualitative well-being. In other words, utilitarian theory permits an argument that all lives are not equally valuable. Jeremy Bentham, an 18th century English jurist and philosopher, was one of the biggest advocates of utilitarianism. Bentham adamantly opposed the death penalty, slavery, physical punishment, and the subjugation of basic freedoms and rights (he also advocated then-extreme views like decriminalization of homosexuality). All such positions were based on the idea that offenses in these areas violated the utilitarian premise of maximizing well-being for all stakeholders. Deontology Deontology is yet another ethical theory. Deontology essentially asserts that the morality of behavior is informed by the duties that human beings have to themselves and to others. Thus, from a deontological perspective individuals should do only that which conforms with their duties. The challenge in deontological perspectives is rather obvious: establishing a reasoned, objective derivation of duty for the individual (The Basics of Philosophy, n.d.-a). The two biggest proponents of deontology, Immanuel Kant and W.D. Ross, shared different perspectives on this problem of duty. Kant suggested that reasoning should be the basis of establishing duty. This, of course, precariously presupposes that reasoning would lead to universal conclusions, notwithstanding culture, religion, etc. Ross, on the other hand, believed that “common sense intuition” is that which should inform duty. Although it can be argued that this notion is about as ambiguous as it gets, Ross at least provided some of his own “common sense” as objective premise for this point of view. For example, according to Ross, not causing harm to others was to be the highest priority, followed by lesser duties such as fidelity, justice, beneficence, etc. Sufficeth to say that deontology leaves the individual awash in sometimes-irreconcilable subjective interpretations of “duty”. The Trolley Problem In order to help illustrate the differences between these theories, we can apply a famous hypothetical ethics quandary introduced by Philippa Foot in the mid-20th century. The quandary was coined “The Trolley Problem” and is set up as follows: Barreling down a track is a trolley, and tied to the track ahead of the trolley are five individuals who will be killed by the trolley unless something is done. You (the observer) had nothing to do with the circumstances in which these five people are currently situated, but you are standing next to a lever that would switch the track and divert the trolley away from the five people, effectively rescuing them from certain death. However, you observe that there is one individual standing on the alternate track to which the trolley would be diverted if you pull the lever, and this individual would be killed were you to do so. The problem is to deliberate as to the most ethical conduct here: let the five people die, or pull the lever and kill the one on the alternate track? (Philosopher’s Toolkit, n.d.). This problem was originally created to emphasize the distinction between taking action and omitting action. Is there an ethical difference between permitting the death of five people that you could easily save, and orchestrating the death of one person who was not otherwise in peril? Feel free to conduct this thought experiment in your own head and analyze the implications (What would you choose? And more importantly, why?). However, for the purposes of our discussion, we can also apply the three ethical theories we’ve discussed in this lesson to the problem, in order to evaluate differences in consequences: Egoism: In an egoist paradigm, the question at hand would be: which of the two choices would bring about better well-being for the observer? If the observer had a personal attachment to any of the individuals in peril in the scenario, then the decision might be determined by one’s prerogative to save those people that are of greatest personal value to the observer. For example, if the one person on the alternate track is the observer’s mother, then this might persuade a choice not to pull the lever. However, absent such facts, if all those individuals involved were complete strangers to the observer, then there might not be a strong investment in the decision either way. Alternatively, though, one might also consider the weight of accountability on the observer afterward (e.g. how guilty would the observer feel about his or her decision?), and as a result, this might compel more thorough consideration. Utilitarianism: Under utilitarian ethics theory, it is fairly obvious that flipping the lever would maximize the well-being involved here (saving the lives of five people at the cost of one). However, as discussed supra, this conclusion might be complicated a bit when one considers quantitative versus qualitative well-being. In either case, one wrestling with The Trolley Problem isn’t given enough information to begin to assess the qualitative value of each life involved, so the numbers are all one has to work with here. (As an aside, it is fascinating that while the condition of psychopathy is often synonymized in horror movies with crazed, homicidal tendencies, some psychopaths simply lack a capacity for empathy, and while this would normally be regarded as an impairment, such a psychopath would have no problem weighing the cold, hard math of the problem and switching the tracks…notwithstanding personal connections to any of those involved. This might sound like a heartless disposition, but such a perspective might be advantageous when emotions cloud otherwise rational judgment). Deontology: Based on a deontological position, one would assess the choices here based on perceptions of one’s duties to themselves and to the individuals involved. The problem is that with both Kant’s and Ross’s views on deontology, we are left with the question of whether or not allowing someone to die is ethically equivalent to killing someone. If the two are equivalent, then there isn’t any deontological argument for one choice over the other, although it could be argued that duties to five people might outweigh duties to one, regardless of what those duties are construed to be. However, if they are not equivalent, then one must decide which holds a higher priority in terms of the hierarchy of duties. Most scholars who suggest a difference suggest that killing is the greater of the two wrongs, and if that is the case such that a higher deontological duty would be placed on not killing than on not allowing death, then an observer following this view would presumably not throw the switch. Conclusion In this lesson, we discussed three of the most prominent ethical theories, as well as their application to The Trolley Problem in order to assess relative consequences. In Lesson Four, we will discuss some seminal theories on leadership efficacy, and the difference between transactional and transformational leadership. References Philosopher’s Toolkit (n.d.). The Trolley Problem. http://www.philosopherstoolkit.com/the-trolley-problem.php The Basics of Philosophy (n.d.-a). Deontology. Retrieved from http://www.philosophybasics.com/branch_deontology.html The Basics of Philosophy (n.d.-b). Egoism. Retrieved from http://www.philosophybasics.com/branch_egoism.html The Basics of Philosophy (n.d.-c). Utilitarianism. Retrieved from http://www.philosophybasics.com/branch_utilitarianism.html Welch, W. (2006). Adam Smith: Capitalism’s founding father. Vision. Retrieved from http://www.vision.org/visionmedia/biography-adam-smith/868.aspx
Eithics in Leadership – Short Answer Essay Questions – Midterm
Lesson Four: Leadership Behaviors and their Ethical Implications Lesson Three discussed three of the most prominent ethical theories, as well as their application to The Trolley Problem in order to assess relative consequences. Lesson Four will introduce some of the most prominent behavioral theories concerning leadership as well as their ethical implications. Behavioral Theories In Lesson Two, we discussed some of the early leadership research, which attempted to identify qualities that were always associated with effective leaders, and which were largely unsuccessful. However, subsequent to these efforts, researchers in the field then turned their focus to the types of behaviors that leaders exhibit, hoping that this work might reveal some patterns of successful perspectives, habits, etc. These studies were conducted at some of the finest universities across the country, and while there were some very general similarities in the results of many of the major studies, the implications varied from case to case. We will now examine each of these studies in greater detail in order to understand their findings and implications. One brief preface is helpful here. The studies discussed below each varied in their research parameters, methodology, and findings. However, one factor that was fairly consistent throughout was the way in which leadership efficacy was defined. Generally, the studies discussed herein looked at leadership effectiveness with respect to two metrics: performance, or the productivity of the teams investigated in terms of the work they do (quality and quantity), and satisfaction, or the degree to which teams were happy performing work under their respective leaders. This is not an uncommon way of measuring efficacy (Judge, Thoresen, Bono, & Patton, 2001), and it goes without saying that both of these factors are quite relevant. Teams must be able to produce at an acceptable level, but if they aren’t also content with the circumstances of their work, then such teams aren’t likely to sustain performance for any extended period of time. University of Iowa Studies: One set of studies were conducted by researchers at the University of Iowa. The results of these studies concluded that all leaders adopted one of three different leadership styles: Autocratic, Democratic, and Laissez-Faire (Rafiq Awan & Mahmood, 2010). Autocratic leaders, as the name suggests, run their operations like dictators, making decisions unilaterally and seeking very little input or participation from followers. Democratic leaders, by contrast, adopt a very participative style of leadership, involving followers in all major decisions, either through a ‘notice and comment’ style dialogue before decisions are rendered, or through an informal voting-style procedure. Finally, “Laissez-Faire” is a French term that means to “let do” or to “let be”. It is commonly used in the phrase “Laissez-Faire Capitalism” to describe the American-style economy where government seldomly meddles in private sector affairs and generally leaves business and industry alone. Accordingly, Laissez-Faire leaders are those who are very “hands off” and do not typically involve themselves in the affairs of their teams unless absolute necessary. According to the University of Iowa studies, Democratic leaders were most likely to render high levels of both performance and satisfaction. University of Ohio Studies: Another set of studies was conducted by researchers at the University of Ohio. Instead of looking to classify leadership styles in terms of the Iowa taxonomy, these scholars measured leaders on two dimensions (Schriesheim & Bird, 1979). The first was “initiating structure”, or the ability of a leader to define roles and work within a group. The second was “consideration”, or the leader’s ability to foster trust and respect among members of a group. Note, at this juncture, that one of these dimensions is heavily-oriented toward the jobs themselves (initiating structure), and the other is just as heavily-oriented toward the people involved (consideration); this is important because similar distinctions can be observed in other studies discussed infra. Now, the Ohio Studies generally indicated that leaders who were most effective (i.e. generated positive levels of both performance and satisfaction) were those who were very adept with both initiating structure and consideration. In other words, both were necessary. However, the authors of these studies did note that situational factors had a significant influence on outcomes, and this is a concept which will be discussed in more detail in subsequent lessons. University of Michigan Studies: Yet another set of studies came out of the University of Michigan. In Michigan, researchers found a similar dichotomy of leadership abilities as in Ohio (Gregory Stone, Russell, & Patterson, 2004). The Michigan Studies referred to the first dimension as “production-orientation”, or the extent to which the leaders display a focus on task accomplishment. The second dimension was called “employee-orientation”, or the extent to which leaders focus on nurturing personal relationships with followers. Now, one can see the obvious similarity mentioned earlier with respect to Ohio and Michigan in terms of the dimensions evaluated, but what was less similar between the two were the ultimate conclusions. Whereas Ohio researchers concluded that leaders who were highly talented in both dimensions were best at driving performance and satisfaction, the Michigan studies reported that leaders who were employee-focused and determined to build strong relationships with followers were most likely to achieve high levels of performance and satisfaction. In Michigan, the quality of “production-orientation” was benign insofar as leadership efficacy was concerned. Blake, Mouton, & Bidwell’s Managerial Grid: One final variety of the two-dimension job v. people framework came in the form of the Managerial Grid by Blake, Mouton, and Bidwell (1962). These authors took the two dimensions previously established in the Ohio and Michigan studies—which they relabeled “concern for production” and “concern for people”—and plotted them on a 9-point X/Y access to illustrate the implications of leaders who were either low in both, high in both, or higher in one than the other. The authors then plotted five points on this grid. Leaders who lack both dimensions (1,1) are described as “impoverished” and are predicted by the grid to fail in achieving performance or satisfaction. Leaders who are high in task concern but low in people concern (9,1) are called “task” managers and are predicted to achieve performance at the expense of satisfaction. Inversely, leaders who are low in task concern but high in people concern (1,9), are called “country club” managers; under these leaders, relationships and satisfaction are strong, but performance suffers. Then, there are leaders who exhibit moderate level of both task and people concern (5,5). These are called “middle-of-the-road” managers, and generally performance and satisfaction under these leaders are both acceptable, but not excelling. Finally, leaders who excel at both task and people concern (9,9) are called “team” managers, and the grid predicts these leaders will have the highest levels of both performance and satisfaction. In this sense, the authors of the Managerial Grid agree with the findings of the Ohio Studies; it takes a focus on both the job and the people in order to maximize results. Ethical Implications As with leadership qualities, while these various behavioral leadership theories make significant implications about the types of leader which will be most successful, they also raise questions about the ethics of leaders based on their leadership philosophies. University of Iowa Studies: The Iowa Studies say quite a bit about leaders with different dispositions concerning their own roles. Autocratic leaders may be effective, but if their conduct results in low employee morale and low levels of perceived respect or appreciation, then some ethics doctrines would suggest that this renders such a philosophy flawed. Democratic leaders may benefit from the good favor of employees who appreciate being included in team affairs, but what if such elaborate participatory paradigms stall the business to the point of threatening viability. Would it still be wise to afford employees a voice in everything if it means certain bankruptcy? Finally, do Laissez-Faire leaders shirk a duty of oversight and effort when they abstain from involvement in group affairs? If so, does this shortcoming render such leaders unethical? As usual, we wrestle with difficult questions. University of Ohio Studies, University of Michigan Studies, and Blake, Mouton, & Bidwell’s Managerial Grid: When considering the ethics of the theories from Ohio, Michigan, and the authors of the Managerial Grid, one must address the question of whether leaders who focus on the people they lead are any more or less ethical than those who focus on the job to be accomplished. If we reflect on our discussion in Lesson One supra and concede that morality is about promoting the wellbeing of humans and other living things, then the intuitive answer might be that leaders who focus more on people are more ethical. However, again, things are rarely this simple. As we’ve discussed more than once already, there are cases in which a focus on the job may actually render more benefit to followers than appeasing followers’ shortsighted desires. What people want is not always what they need, and so leaders must confront the difficult task of doing that which is best, and not necessarily that which is most popular. Conclusion In this lesson, we discussed some of the most prominent behavioral theories concerning leadership as well as their ethical implications. In Lesson Five we will discuss some modern concepts of ethics for businesses, including socially responsible investing, corporate social responsibility, and environmentalism. References Blake, R. R., Mouton, J. S., & Bidwell, A. C. (1962). Managerial grid. Advanced Management-Office Executive. Gregory Stone, A., Russell, R. F., & Patterson, K. (2004). Transformational versus servant leadership: A difference in leader focus. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 25(4), 349-361. Judge, T. A., Thoresen, C. J., Bono, J. E., & Patton, G. K. (2001). The job satisfaction–job performance relationship: A qualitative and quantitative review. Psychological bulletin, 127(3), 376. Rafiq Awan, M., & Mahmood, K. (2010). Relationship among leadership style, organizational culture and employee commitment in university libraries. Library management, 31(4/5), 253-266. Schriesheim, C. A., & Bird, B. J. (1979). Contributions of the Ohio State studies to the field of leadership. Journal of Management, 5(2), 135-145.
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