Business Leadership: Three Levels of Ethical Analysis

Journal of Business Ethics 88 (S3):525-536 (2009)
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Research on the normative aspect of leadership is still a relatively new enterprise within the mainstream of leadership studies. In the past, most academic inquiry into leadership was grounded in a social scientific paradigm that largely ignored the ethical substance of leadership. However, perhaps because of a number of public and infamous cases of failure in business leadership, in recent years there has been renewed interest in the ethical side of leadership in business. This paper argues that ethical issues of leadership actually arise at number of different levels, and that it is important to distinguish between various diverse kinds of ethical issues that arise in the study of leadership. The three levels identified are the level of the individual morality of leaders, the level of the means of their leadership, and the level of the leadership mission itself. We argue that only by fully understanding all of the different levels of ethical analysis pertinent to business leadership, and the distinctive kind of issues that arise at each level, can we fully integrate normative studies of leadership into the field of leadership studies. As such, this paper offers a model that incorporates three different levels of ethical analysis that can be used to study normative issues in leadership studies. Such a model can be used to better understand and integrate ethical issues into research, teaching, and training in leadership



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Daniel E. Palmer
Kent State University

References found in this work

Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals.Immanuel Kant - 1785 - New Haven: Oxford University Press.
Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals.Immanuel Kant - 1785 - In Elizabeth Schmidt Radcliffe, Richard McCarty, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya (eds.), Late Modern Philosophy: Essential Readings with Commentary. Blackwell.
Nicomachean Ethics.Martin Aristotle & Ostwald - 1962 - Hackett Publishing Company.

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