Essays on Leadership Ethics
New Horizons in Leadership Studies series
Edited by Joanne B. Ciulla, Terry L. Price and Susan E. Murphy
Chapter 9: Expanding the horizons of leadership
Norman E. Bowie What makes a great leader in business? Most of the answers to this question focus on the financial results obtained. This is the criterion that is used in Jim Collins’s Good to Great, a book that is much quoted in leadership circles.1 I maintain that superior financial results are not enough. First, borrowing an idea that is well established in the European Union, the successful business leader should lead a successful, sustainable corporation. Specifically, the successful business leader must achieve superior financial results, superior results in protecting the environment, and superior results in providing for corporate social responsibility. Second, if the conclusion supported by the anecdotal information I provide can be established through rigorous social science methods, the successful business leader should have integrity in both his business life and his personal life. When these additional criteria are used to define successful business leadership, we find that the number of great business leaders is actually quite small. GREAT BUSINESS LEADERS MUST BUILD SUCCESSFUL SUSTAINABLE CORPORATIONS I do not think being the CEO of a “great” company in Collins’s sense is sufficient for genuine leadership or leadership in the best sense. The European Union does not view the function of the corporation as maximizing shareholder value. Rather, it argues that the corporation should be managed in a way that makes it sustainable as determined by financial success, environmental friendliness, and social responsibility – the three pillars of sustainability. According to a 1987 report by the World Commission on Environment...
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