Ethics, Moral Character and Authentic Transformational Leadership.Pdf

Topics: Morality, Ethics, Leadership Pages: 48 (16289 words) Published: October 12, 2011

09/02/2006 12:42 PM

Revised 9/24/98 BMB

ETHICS, CHARACTER, AND AUTHENTIC TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP Bernard M. Bass and Paul Steidlmeier Center for Leadership Studies, School of Management Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY 13902-6015 Ph. (607) 777 4028, (607) 777 2376 Fax (607) 777 4188 E-mail:

Running Head: Ethics and Authentic Transformational Leadership... Abstract The morality of transformational leadership has been sharply questioned, particularly by libertarians, "grass roots" theorists, and organizational development consultants. This paper argues that to be truly transformational leadership, it must be grounded in moral foundations. The four components of authentic transformational leadership (idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration) are constrasted with their counterfeits in the dissembling pseudotransformational leadership on the basis of 1) the moral character of the leaders and their concerns for self and others; 2) the ethical values embedded in the leaders’ vision, articulation, and program, which followers can embrace or reject; and 3) the morality of the processes of social ethical choices and action in which the leaders and followers engage and collectively pursue. The literature on transformational leadership is linked to the long-standing literature on virtue and moral character, as exemplified by Socratic and Confucian typologies. It is linked, as well, to the major themes of the modern Western ethical agenda: liberty, utility and distributive justice Deception, sophistry, and pretense are examined alongside issues of transendence, agency, trust, striving for the congruence of the values, cooperative action, power, persuasion, and corporate governance to establish the strategic and moral foundations of authentic transformational leadership. ETHICS, CHARACTER AND AUTHENTIC TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP Are Bill Gates and Lou Gerstner transformational leaders? What about "chainsaw" Al Dunlap? For many moral analysts, leadership is a many-headed hydra that alternately shows the faces of Saddham Hussein and Pol Pot as well as the faces of Nelson Mandela and Mother Theresa. The stories that recount the accomplishments of such leaders raise moral questions concerning both the character of the leaders as well as the legitimacy of their programs. Discussions of leadership are often hopelessly intertwined with issues of authority. And, if modern Western philosophy has had one central preoccupation, it has been with the emancipation of the individual from externally imposed forms of authority and control. Its core principle -- that all authority emanates from the consent of the governed -- remains a very revolutionary defense of individual liberty, self-determination and due process. Furthermore, the human rights tradition that has grown out of the defense of the dignity of the individual safeguards inalienable individual rights even in the face of majority social choices. Modern Western philosophy tacitly Page 1 of 24


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assumes that there is no morally valid leadership without the consent of the led. Eastern philosophies set other requirements for morally valid leadership, including fidelity to traditions of authority, the preservation of harmonious relationships, and loyalty to family. In both philosophical traditions, the leader often enjoys formal political and/or organizational authority -- a position of command with tools of enforcement. The discussion of the ethics of leadership incorporates this "command/enforcement" dimension and, in so doing raises the question of the legitimacy of authority, for from this "command/emforcement" perspective, proposed ethical standards may be imposed on...
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