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Role of Exemplars in Ethical Decision-Making in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)

Responsible Leadership and Ethical Decision-Making

ISBN: 978-1-78714-416-3, eISBN: 978-1-78714-415-6

ISSN: 1529-2096

Publication date: 16 May 2017

Abstract

Exemplars play a central role in business ethics and ethical decision-making. In general terms, an exemplar is defined as ‘a person or thing to be copied’ and can include persons who have their sense of moral commitment as a core part of their sense of self, take a principled personal stand or a role model or an organisation committed to certain moral standards or other things such as case studies, anecdotes, and even fables and myths. Researchers have used different approaches to explain the role of exemplars in decision-making in general and ethical decision-making in particular. This paper presents evidence of SME managers acknowledging the role of exemplars in the management of their businesses and in their ethical decision-making processes.

Semi-structured, open-ended interviews were conducted in an exploratory manner with 20 owners/senior managers of SMEs in Australia. Two types of exemplars were identified in the analysis – individual and organisational, and indicated the prominence of individual exemplars over organisational exemplars. Analysis also suggests the use of multiple exemplars, learning moral behaviours, getting inspired, learning ethical decision-making skills and the ability to retrieve exemplar representations from memory to influence judgements and decisions.

This study provides an insight into one of the methods employed by SME managers in ethical decision-making. Findings could be useful in making SME managers aware of their penchant of using exemplars. The paper contributes to the knowledge in the area of one of the many methods that SME managers use in ethical decision-making.

Keywords

Citation

Savur, S. (2017), "Role of Exemplars in Ethical Decision-Making in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)", Responsible Leadership and Ethical Decision-Making (Research in Ethical Issues in Organizations, Vol. 17), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 21-35. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1529-209620170000017004

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017 Emerald Publishing Limited