Ethics in Leadership Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Parable of the sadhu teaches us the importance of a group's commitment to the welfare of an individual. In corporate ethics, this would mean the support of the entire organization for the welfare and career/personal growth of an employee. In the sense of individual ethics, it means instead of doing our bit and throwing the rest of others, we must pool our resources and offer complete commitment to the welfare of an individual in need and that is the only way we can hope to survive as a community. In the case, a group of few individuals from different countries are navigating the wild tracks of Himalayas in Nepal when they find a half-naked sadhu in very unstable condition. Each one in the group does something for the sadhu but rather reluctantly as if they wanted to get rid of him as soon as possible without feeling guilty and responsible. They do something so they could get rid of any feelings of guilt that might arise later but they are not truly committed to the sadhu's welfare because they are more interested in the seemingly more powerful experience of exploring the Himalayas.

Now we shall study the meaning of corporate ethics in the light of the views expressed by Aristotle and Plato because it appears that among plenty of views, the ones expressed by these two thinkers have greatest relevance to the case.


Aristotle has expressed his views on personal responsibility in terms of Polis when he said that a person must not think of himself as an individual alone but as part of larger group he called Polis. The same concept can be applied to a business entity that is actually a large group of which each employee is a member. It is important for each member to think of himself as part of the larger group and must understand that by committing to the welfare of the group, he is actually committing to the welfare of each and every individual that is part of the organization and that is the only way he can contribute successfully to the growth of the group while also receiving support from it for his own needs and growth. In his book Politics, Aristotle addresses the concept of polis and membership to it in very clear terms that help us better understand man's association with an organization and the need to be part of a larger group:

"… It is evident that the polis belongs to the class of things that exist by nature, and that man is by nature an animal intended to live in a polis. He who is without a polis, by reason of his own nature and not of some accident, is either a poor sort of being, or a being higher than man: he is like the man of whom Homer wrote in denunciation: "Clanless and lawless and heartless is he." (Politics, Book I, Chapter 2, 8-9).]


Plato was one of the most important disciples of Aristotle and thus had similar views on variety of issues including leadership and ethics. Plato believed that in order to live the most ethical life, a person must give up his self-interest in favor of the welfare of the group: Plato (1992) wrote,

In a city of good men, if it came into being, the citizens would fight in order not to rule . . . There it would be clear that anyone who is really a true ruler doesn't by nature seek his own advantage but that of his subjects. And everyone, knowing this, would rather be benefited by others than take the trouble to benefit them. (p. 347d)

Plato like Aristotle believed in putting one's interest behind group's interest. Applying it to the case study, we can say that both thinkers believed that a man cannot exist along. He is part of a larger group and must exist like that because he can function the best when he knows that his behavior can have a direct impact on the welfare of others and when he is dependent on others for his own welfare.

Virtue is Avery important concept in the moral philosophy of both Plato and Aristotle. Both thinkers believed that a man must seek excellence of behavior which would enable him to function at his moral peak. Aristotle (1998) wrote, "Every excellence brings to good the thing to which it is the excellence and makes the work of that thing be done well. . . . Therefore, if this is true in every case, the excellence of man also will be the state which makes man good and which makes him do his work well" (p. 1747).


Personal virtue is an important characteristic but can it be the deciding factor in selecting a person for a job or not? This is the question we face in the case study Sleazy or Stupid where the most suitable candidate for a high level position in a firm uses sleazy words to a receptionist as he leaves the interview and this makes some wonder if he should be considered for the job or not. The question that emerges from the case study is should a person be denied a job because of his personal character or should the organization only focus on his credentials.

We shall now study this view in the light of moral philosophies of Aristotle. According to Aristotle personal morality is extremely important because a good leader is the one who can inculcate good values in himself as well in others. But if a person lacks good values himself, there is a good chance that he won't be able to do the same for the others and even if he tries, others might refuse to listen because he is not practicing what he preaches.

Aristotle believed that moral virtue is acting moderately and choosing the moderate from two extremes. It was important for a person to not only possess moral wisdom but also reasonability to be able to distinguish the moderate from the excess. Manuel Velasquez offers a very apt explanation of Aristotelian view on personal virtue. According to Velasquez, Aristotle offered the most comprehensive and reasonable theory of personal virtue and explained that in Aristotelian view, moral virtue

"….is an acquired disposition that is valued as part of the character of a morally good human being and that is exhibited in the person's habitual behavior. A person has a moral virtue when the person is disposed to behave habitually in the way and with the reasons, feelings, and desires that are characteristic of a morally good person. A person possesses the virtue of honesty when the person is disposed habitually to tell the truth and does so because he believes telling the truth is right & #8230;. (Velasquez, p. 135)

Velasquez explained that according to Aristotle it was important for a person to behave reasonably i.e. For a person to be considered a morally upright person, he must behave in a reasonable manner and choose the moderate action from two extreme vices. These two vices were not generally bad but definitely inappropriate and less desired. For example Ted could have been very cold to the receptionist, which would have been deficient behavior or he could have been very friendly which he supposedly was and this was another extreme. Had he chosen the middle path, he would have acted reasonably and thus saved himself the embarrassment of being considered either sleazy or stupid.

Whether he was sleazy or stupid is beside the point in Aristotelian view because according to this well-known thinker, Ted's behavior was simply unreasonable which an indication of moral deficiency is. If he had been very cold, that would have been immoral too. He failed to choose the…

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