Volume: 1 Issue: 1

Leadership and the Humanities

On complacency, corporate cliffs and power distance: global leadership ethics from gender and cultural studies perspectives

Marco Tavanti * and Patricia H. Werhane *

Keywords: gender, women, leadership, glass cliff, corporate cliff, complacency, power distance, leadership ethics, cultural studies


Focusing on corporate leadership, this paper will discuss four factors that often thwart nondiscriminatory ethical leadership: complacency, the ‘glass cliff’ effect, the role of power distance relationships, and globalization. Complacency, the most prevalent, is probably the most obvious factor. The concepts of the ‘glass cliff’ – how women in leadership positions are associated with a higher risk of failure (Ryan and Haslam 2007) – and ‘power distance’ – the way power is perceived and distributed (Hofstede et al. 2010) – both offer relevant perspectives to ethical leadership in the transforming environment of the twenty-first century. We will argue that three of these phenomena (and there are others) contribute to the perpetuation of gender inequality in leadership positions, and thus unfair distributions of power and influence that are not reflective of populations in the workplace nor in the community. It will turn out, however, that globalization actually can have a positive effect on improving gender distribution of leadership, so long as one recognizes what is needed to be an effective and ethical global leader.

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