Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
The focus of this special issue is ethics and leadership. In my own work on the subject I have argued that ethics is not really a discrete subset of the study of leadership. It rests at the very core of the subject. Leadership is a distinct kind of human relationship. Studying it entails studying how people treat each other and respond to each other individually and within organizations and cultures (Ciulla, 1998). When we look back in history we see moral and immoral leaders. Leaders who brought out that which is great in the human spirit and those who have lead their people into barbarism and despair. In the modern world we still find bad leaders, but there is a difference because leaders are held more accountable for their actions. Democracies can throw such people out of office, international organizations or other countries may try to get rid of evil leaders (granted with mixed success). In the case of publicly held corporations, boards of directors can fire bad leaders. Furthermore, consumer and environmental groups, customers, employees, suppliers, the press, or unions can compel business leaders to change or at least make their lives miserable.
While ethics has always been important to leadership, people often did not know much about their leaders and even when they did, they did not have the power to do anything about it. That is why, in some ways, ethics is more important to leadership today than it has been in the past. Leaders may not be much different, but followers are. Information has redistributed power between leaders and followers. The world is steadily embracing democratic values and demanding leaders who not only represent their interests and give constituents or employees a say, but also stand for values that they honor.
Today we want leaders who are morally good and effective at doing their job, but we sometimes do not find both of these qualities in the same person. History and circumstance, not only help shape who becomes a leader, but the kind of leadership needed to be effective. In this special issue, we will look at two key issues in ethics and leadership, the ethics of leaders themselves and the way that these new values play themselves out in organizations.
The first two articles are about the ethics of leaders. In the first article, Terry L. Price examines the ethical failures of leaders and offers an explanation for how power and position blind leaders and sometimes cause them to make moral mistakes. Do not be put off by the title of the second article, "A Kantian theory of leadership". Even if you think reading Kant is akin to visiting the dentist, Bowie's account of Kant is painless. He offers a clear and compelling explanation of why Kant's four formulations of the categorical imperative are fundamental parts of moral leadership.
The rest of the articles consist of a case study and two theoretical models of leadership. Ruth Capriles reminds us that there are many varieties of leaders in the world and we have something to learn from all of them. She tells us the story of a local PemÆn leader in Venezuela, and how he dealt with the pressures of globalization on his community. Her tale is not only about a novel way to lead and organize an indigenous community on an extractive reserve, but also about a leader who falls prey to some of the ethical failures that Price discusses in his article. Pablo Cardona presents a model of leadership that would be equally applicable in a community or a corporation. In his article "Transcendental leadership" he looks at leadership as a partnership between leaders and followers - one that is guided by shared values of leaders and followers who are committed to the ideal of service. The last article, by Jane Collier and Rafael Esteban, offers a picture of complex fast-changing post-industrial organizations and the kind of leader needed to be both ethical and effective in this kind of organization.
I hope the reader will enjoy this diverse set of reflections on ethics and leadership. Currently, there is very little research in this area, so I also hope that this issue will inspire some readers to undertake their own research into ethics and leadership. I am very grateful to all of the authors who have contributed their time, talent, and energy to these articles. My thanks also goes to Susan Cartwright for inviting me to edit this special issue.
Joanne B. Ciulla
Note 1. I am currently the editor of a book series called "New horizons in leadership", published by Edgar Elgar. We are actively seeking manuscript proposals in any area of leadership studies.
ReferenceCiulla, J.B. (Ed.) (1998), Ethics the Heart of Leadership, Quorum, Westport, CT