The Gordian Knot of Ethics: Understanding Leadership Effectiveness and Ethical Behavior

Journal of Business Ethics 78 (1-2):175-192 (2008)

Abstract
Recent ethical misconduct in American business has resulted in volumes of written commentary, various legislative responses, as well as litigation by those identified as victims. While legislators, judges, juries, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) pursue an increasing number of cases, there is little attention devoted to understanding what drives executives and other leaders to behave in ways that violate the ethical and legal standards of business in the United States. This understanding is a prerequisite to selecting leaders and designing interventions that prevent future misconduct. Understanding leadership’s nature and functioning is one key to understanding the ethical behavior of an organization as a system and of the people who lead the organization. Two models or frameworks provide the foundation for this paper. The first is a model of leadership competencies. This model identifies five key areas of competence related to overall, long-term leadership success. The second model targets leadership effectiveness. This model has three components – motivational patterns, decision criteria, and competencies. Using the Leadership Effectiveness Model to frame the discussion, the authors describe the nature and importance of the models, with particular focus on motivational patterns. Research suggests these patterns often account for 40–60% of overall leadership effectiveness. This article defines motivational patterns and describes key patterns that may impact ethical behavior of leaders. The article concludes with a discussion of how to use data on motivational patterns in leadership selection, development, and evaluation processes.
Keywords leadership  ethics  effectiveness  motivation  attitudes  integrity  performance  selection  development  assessment
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DOI 10.1007/s10551-006-9318-8
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