Professor Donna Ladkin
Avoiding 'Falls From Grace': Why Leading Ethically Is So Hard And What Leaders Can Do About It
Wednesday 1 June 2016
Almost every week a new case of ethical malfeasance on the part of organisational leaders seems to hit the headlines.
Only recently the CEO of Sunderland Football club, Margaret Byrne, was forced to resign after allowing Adam Johnson to keep playing following revelations concerning the extent of his relationship with a fifteen year old girl, and before that Volkswagen's boss Martin Winterkorn quit in the face of evidence that the company had been rigging emission test outcomes (even though sources indicate Winterkorn knew about the fraud up to a year before it was made public).
Do Byrne and Winterkorn represent singular instances of bad judgement, or are other dynamics at play which make the leading role particularly vulnerable to ethically questionable behaviour?
This address had two aims: firstly, to analyse the landscape of leading to reveal how aspects core to its practice can result in ethically questionable situations, regardless of a leader's good intention or sound values. Secondly, to consider what leaders can do to counter those forces.
In particular, rather than suggesting that aspiring ethical leaders should become more 'self aware', they are encouraged to be more self and system 'critical', in order to take account of the organisational and cultural forces which influence how they identify and interpret ethical territory.
The address also described key practices which form the basis for such critical development and suggest ways in which they can be acted on within the leader role.