Essays on Leadership Ethics
New Horizons in Leadership Studies series
Edited by Joanne B. Ciulla, Terry L. Price and Susan E. Murphy
Chapter 3: Ethical diversity and the leader's religious commitments
3. Ethical diversity and the leader’s religious commitments Douglas A. Hicks INTRODUCTION Contrary to popular portrayals of leadership that create a too-simple dichotomy between ethical and unethical leadership, the determination of what, precisely, is ethical leadership behavior is the real challenge. The complex realities of organizations and societies require substantive and contested debate even when all parties agree that they want their leaders to be ethical and to act ethically. Disagreements among diverse schools of Western philosophical thought – for example, virtue ethics, deontology, consequentialism – complicate the question of what is ethical. In addition to philosophical ideas, multiple religious traditions provide and shape ethical schools of thought. One need not look far on the shelves of popular leadership literature to see that advocates and adherents of servant leadership, for instance, cite the example of Jesus as the paradigm of the leader who came not to be served, but to serve.1 Various analysts have put forth their own theological–ethical approaches or critiques of leadership from a Christian perspective.2 References to religious sources of morality reach beyond Christianity to other religions. Robert Greenleaf’s account of the servant as leader, while deeply influenced by Christian ideas, also relates his notion to Eastern mystic traditions.3 One of the most notable demographic trends of the past four decades – in the US as well as in many parts of the “globalizing” world – is the multiplication of religious backgrounds, worldviews, and practices among the citizenry. As one consequence of this broadening, the spirituality and leadership literature now...
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