Edited by Ronald J. Burke and Cary L. Cooper
R. Edward Freeman, Brian Moriarty and Lisa A. Stewart What is ethical leadership? One typical response to various ‘ethics crises’ in business are clarion calls for more ‘ethical leadership’, yet there are few explanations of what exactly is meant by the term.1 Particularly following corporate malfeasance, the calls for such ethical leadership often reflect immediate desired actions that will ‘right the ship’. Many executives and business thinkers believe that ethical leadership, particularly following times of crisis, is simply a matter of leaders having good character. By having ‘the right values’ or being a person of ‘strong character’, the ethical leader can set the example for others and withstand any temptations that may occur along the way. Without denying the importance of good character and the right values, the reality of ethical leadership is far more complex and the stakes are much higher. Warren Buffett, a US investor, has famously suggested that when a manager with a good reputation meets a business with a bad one, it is often the reputation of the business that stays intact. In similar fashion, corporate crises often do call for some immediate elements and actions of ethical leadership, but enduring leadership which leads to great organizations requires a deeper set of characteristics. Over the past 25 years, in talking to executives in a number of industries about the problems of how to lead in a world of great change – globalization, democratization, and incredible technological advances – we have identified a number of touchstones for the idea...
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