The Dark Side of Leadership: Identifying and Overcoming Unethical Practice in Organizations: Volume 26

Cover of The Dark Side of Leadership: Identifying and Overcoming Unethical Practice in Organizations

Table of contents

(17 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xiv
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This chapter focuses on a proposed framework of irresponsible leadership (IRL) that might emerge in our schools under certain circumstances. A second purpose is to analyze potential ways to prevent its rise, based on previous models of educational leadership. Broadly, IRL is composed of five elements: narrow view of education, a business-like view of the teacher–student relations, a Narcissist and ego-centrist view, self-centered decision making, and emotional unawareness and poor emotion regulation. Unsurprisingly, IRL results in decreased levels of teachers’ and students’ well-being, unethical school climate, a lack of social responsibility in the teacher lounge, and school failure. To prevent these and related results, three major leadership models in education – participative, moral and social justice, and instructional – were analyzed.

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This chapter describes, both from a personal and historical perspective, the ascendancy and incumbency of Leroy D. Baca as sheriff of Los Angeles County, comparing and contrasting his leadership, ensconced in new age terminology, with that of his predecessors, Sherman Block and Peter J. Pitchess. Of immediate concern were his personal decisions, in particular the appointment of Paul Tanaka to be his undersheriff after many years serving as his campaign treasurer. What was considered a marginally functional merit-based promotional system was transformed into a political patronage model, with the attendant loss of organizational legitimacy and tarnished public reputation. The chapter will compare and contrast life within the “car,” as the term is commonly used within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and life outside the car, through first-hand accounts, testimony from the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence, depositions, and published reports. Using the concept of representative bureaucracy, I will track organizational diversity as a performance measure, using the relative inclusion of all employee groups in the rank structure of the department and how each group fared under the Baca/Tanaka administration. In conclusion, this chapter will present different coping mechanisms utilized by employees confronting serious corruption issues that impacted them directly, and indirectly through the organization.

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In the last two decades Ontario’s universities have been experiencing major financial and administrative re-structuring resulting in decision-making challenges, specifically in relation to a decreasing focus on ethical leadership and good governance. Ethical decision-making in Ontario universities is multifaceted because of the variety and complexity of demands placed on the senior administrative units and the bicameral structure of many universities, which is composed of a Board of Governors and a Senate. The authors propose approaches to improve ethical leadership and governance that focus on servant leadership, reflection, and stewardship within the bicameral process to support greater trust amongst elected and appointed senior decision-makers in Ontario’s university sector.

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The structure of public school systems does not foster or grow leadership. Instead, individuals are promoted through the system most frequently as a result of having held certain positions. Teachers become classroom personnel. Classroom personnel become administrators. Administrators become principals. These progressions from classroom to principal are infrequently accompanied by educational pathways or professional development that ensures that those entering into positions of leadership are actually prepared to lead. Instead, people ascend to positions of leadership after having obtained the “right” credentials or walked in the “right” shoes. The consequence of this practice has led to a significant number of people who hold leadership positions but are ill-equipped to lead. This chapter will address this situation by contemplating what can be done to (a) prevent people who should not be leaders from becoming leaders and (b) create a system that cultivates leaders who both hold leadership positions and are positioned to lead.

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Following Starratt’s (1991) proposed conceptual framework for ethical leadership that is no longer defined as a style or an attitude, but as the basis for moral dimensions and actions that can be developed and based on the ethics of care, critique, and justice, this chapter traces the following questions: (a) How does cultural and social context influence the meaning and practices of unethical leadership in the school? (b) How do principals and vice-principals preserve and interpret their unethical practices? Using Langlois’s interview guide on ethical dilemmas (1997), 10 interviews were conducted with school principals and vice-principals in the Arab education system in Israel. The chapter presents unethical behaviors emerging from content analysis of the interviews such as personal development versus loyalty to others (unethical behaviors that are related to managing staff underperformance or appointing candidate teachers); or loyalty to my minority-society or to the government. The chapter fosters better understanding of both national specificities and universal commonalities associated with unethical leadership, as well as of the cultural and social characteristics that facilitate or hinder the development of ethical leadership, and finally explains some approaches to leadership that would improve the practice.

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Revolutionary thinker and Civil Rights leader, Ella Baker, once declared, “Strong people don’t need strong leaders.” Baker’s statement epitomizes her philosophy that the wisdom needed to fight against hegemony emerges from the brilliance of the people stuck at the bottom of oppressive systems. Standing in stark contrast to the charismatic leadership philosophy of many in the nation, Baker’s model encourages disenfranchised youth and elders to lead themselves into the struggle to bring down America’s apartheid system of governing. Yet grassroots governing is complex and constantly evolving. But it leaves no space for static hierarchal iterations of leadership, an epistemology that pervades and corrodes the nation.

Growing up in this nation’s segregated south, I have struggled to understand the impact of racism on school leaders, faculty, students, and parents. Thus, my chapter will use institutionalized racism as the lens to examine the toxic environment that school leaders, and, ultimately, all leaders face because of the country’s chosen amnesia of its bloody history, a history that still impacts current public policy. Within that context I will also offer alternative ways to lead, especially that modeled by Civil Rights icon and president of the Algebra Project, Robert P. Moses.

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Various authors have identified specific types of dark leadership. These types focus largely on the behaviors and impact of the dark leaders. In contrast, we introduce the notion of heretical leadership. The construct relies on the interpreted meanings of the wounded as opposed to actual leader actions. Heretical leadership violates the canon of educational organizations, which is to serve and uplift students. We share two stories of our own wounding in a dialogic fashion, drawing lessons from the intersection of the literature and our own stories. We identify and define scarring as stage distinct from wounding. Findings include suggestions for using story as a vehicle for healing and working to raise awareness of and embrace new perspectives, especially in regards to the nature of organizational systems.

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It is well known that trust is an essential, yet a fragile part of organizational life. Because trust sometimes has to be placed without guarantees, it will inevitably be broken, violated, and damaged when parties involved in trustworthy relationships let others down. When trust-destroying events occur, trust is shattered and its level plummets quickly into the domain of distrust. The speed with which trust can be destroyed depends on the magnitude of damage from the act of untrustworthiness and the perceived intentionality of the untrustworthiness. Moreover, if seen as intentional, the destruction of trust is particularly severe, as intentional untrustworthiness reveals malevolent intentions that are seen as highly predictive of future untrustworthiness. Often, leaders are the ones responsible for improper handling of, destroying, or violating trust in their organizations. In this chapter, we explore the consequences of leaders for violating trust and examine how trust changes over time as a function of different types of violations and attempts at restoration. We argue that because distrust may irrevocably harm organizations, leaders as moral agents need to consciously work to rebuild relationships, restore broken trust, and instill hope.

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Problems of competence grow out of institutional culture and from the way these institutions shape the profession and its members. Toward that end, this chapter is organized around three general considerations. First, we discuss some general issues about leader quality. Second, the present shape of the leadership corps in higher education will be discussed. Finally, we introduce several 21st century leadership core competencies (Brooks & Normore, 2009) for consideration to hiring personnel so they do not repeatedly select and promote unqualified leaders who stifle creativity and encourage conformity.

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University administrators are increasingly using a range of metrics to evaluate the “quality” of work being undertaken at their institutions. The unit of analysis for these assessments varies from Department (England), field of research (Australia), and the like, but inevitably the assessment works its way to individual researchers. This poses a major challenge for administrators and even more so for researchers. Shifts in institutional policy to meet the challenges of funding and reputation/esteem of rising in the ranks raise a number of questions concerning the temporality and value of academic labor. Notably, decisions about the worth of academic labor are often well removed from the undertaking of that labor and this separation removes the human side of scholarly work and reduces knowledge production to numerical indicators and the achievement of key performance indicators. In this chapter I draw on shifts in an institution’s policy position and the impact that this has on researchers. Particularly I explore the implications of historically mapping research performance using different metrics than were available at the time and expecting researchers to adopt alternate strategies immediately (irrespective of delays in the publication process). Although I do not doubt that administrator decisions are arguably made in the best interests of advancing the institutions position in the increasingly global academy, the presentism of such strategies is in many ways at odds with the long-term focus of building coherent and sophisticated research programs. Alternate means of understanding the challenges and tensions of administrator strategy has the potential to impact on policy and the development of programs for current and aspiring researchers.

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In an article entitled “Identifying and combating organizational leadership toxicity,” authors Watt, Javidi, and Normore (Watt, Javidi, & Normore, 2015) identified and outlined techniques for combating leadership toxicity in Law Enforcement. This chapter extends this work by linking Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity (VUCA) to toxic leadership. Crisis happens. Volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA), (a term) coined at the Army War College in the early 1990s (Mack, O., Kare, A., Kramer, A., & Burgartz, T. (2015), Managing VUCA world. New York, NY. Retrieved from http://www.lawenforcementtoday.com/2015/12/02/capturing-the-moment-counter-vuca-leadership-for-21st-century-policing/#sthash.IKYJInr4.dpuf), is a sobering new reality for leaders and the organizations they serve. In simple terms, VUCA is chaos. It falls on leaders to understand it, prepare for it, and minimize the disruptive and destabilizing effects of it.

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We often hear questions like “What must that leader have been thinking?” “What possessed her to do that?” “That leader needs to give his head a shake!” or “It is so disappointing to see the pain caused by one wrong-headed and self-serving leader!” This chapter describes how leaders may subtly fall into rationalization, self-justification, foolishness, and callous indifference through maleficent internal narratives. How is it that leaders who have found the favor of others in the service of a great cause (i.e., the education of children and youth) find themselves sucked into clearly wrong or unthinkably bad actions? In this chapter, vicious (non-virtuous) thinking, inner political churnings, unconscious reinforcement of systemic evil, and hurtful ways of influencing others are explored, named, and challenged.

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The field of educational leadership is very much dominated by studies of process. That is, discourses of best practice, effectiveness, efficiency, accountability, and so on, dominate the landscape. This then feeds into those working in schools in leadership positions and leadership teams coming to value style over substance. Whether a leader is working according to a particular adjectival leadership model matters little if the purpose of schooling and education is not the priority and shared. In this chapter, I argue that leaders need to have issues of social justice and equity as central to the purpose of their work, for those in disadvantaged areas and schools, and also those working in more privileged sites. Schools have unfortunately often been sites where forms of racism and social injustices have been perpetuated. A key aspect then for leaders is to work redress these practices. However, when working with large diversities in many schools, some leaders feel they are often unprepared for such challenges. In this chapter, I explore the difficulties and challenges of this kind of leadership with a particular focus on the Australian context and examine ways that leaders can think about and act in ways that recognize and acknowledge the diversity in their schools and communities, challenge their own assumptions and beliefs, and also work toward alleviating socially unjust practices.

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Leader-centric views have become a dogma in contemporary accounts of school leadership, and organizational performance is seen to reduce to explanations of what individuals do. Hence, a school’s failure is attributed to poor principal performance that may range from merely indifferent to outright unethical conduct that may exhibit “the dark side” of leadership. Judging “good” or “bad” behavior in individualistic terms has a long history and is enshrined in the doctrine of the autonomous agent in possession of “free will.” Conceived thus, the autonomous agent can be held responsible for his or her actions. This chapter examines the notion of “free will” both in its philosophical and everyday meaning and argues that biological agents, such as principals, act responsibly or irresponsibly (or unethically), not on the basis of the presence or absence of metaphysical “free will,” but on the basis of the neurobiology of non-conscious decision-making processes and the constraints of the social, organizational, environments in which they work. The argument is developed by examining two positions from social psychology and neuroscience, respectively, which raise the specter of “free will” as mere illusion, with potentially negative consequences for responsible and ethical conduct. But “free will skepticism” is not warranted and “free will,” or the ability of biological-social agents to choose, is real but is also constrained by external, non-biological, factors. While individual responsibility remains important, it is enmeshed in a much wider causal field and cannot be assumed a priori. If and when it obtains is to be determined after investigation. Some implications of the social cognitive perspective on responsible action and accountability are sketched in the last part of this chapter.

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About the Authors

Pages 269-277
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Index

Pages 279-282
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Cover of The Dark Side of Leadership: Identifying and Overcoming Unethical Practice in Organizations
DOI
10.1108/S1479-3660201726
Publication date
2016-12-08
Book series
Advances in Educational Administration
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78635-499-0
Book series ISSN
1479-3660