Essay Example on Mary Barra: Ethical Leader of General Motors in Times of Crisis

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1813 Words
Date:  2023-10-03


One of the most admired ethical leaders in the United States is Mary Barra, who is the chief executive officer of General Motors since 2014. She is the first female to become a chief executive officer of an automotive company internationally. She became the CEO of General Motors when the company was experiencing an ethical and financial crisis. The death toll of employees using GM cars was increasing due to a defective ignition switch. Before Mary Barra became the CEO the death issue due to the ignition defective had been kept a secret to the public. Mary Barra decided to recall twenty-seven million vehicles, which cost the company more than four billion dollars.

Trust banner

Is your time best spent reading someone else’s essay? Get a 100% original essay FROM A CERTIFIED WRITER!

The first trait exhibited by Mary Barra is extending trust. The virtue of trust is founded on extending it, not inspecting it. Extension of trust provides positivity and collaborative interaction that allows people to depend on one another, create teams, and share labor. Barra apologized and took the responsibility of GM's manufacturing error to acquire the trust that had been lost. Her correction acts were creating a claim fund for the victims, appointing an international safety leader, terminating staff, upgrading programs like "speak up for safety", and empowering employees to advocate integrity in the company. Additionally, the act of recalling cars with defective ignition systems played a role in restoring the trust for GM's products. Another trait displayed by Mary Barra is respectfulness. Ethical leaders respect the values, decisions, and feelings of other people in the workplace. They listen carefully and do not dismiss the concerns of employees. This is because the success of a team leads to the company's success. Also, ethical leaders treat the employees humanely and kindly so that they can work hard to attain business goals. For instance, Mary Barra respects others through effective communication with all the employees, having the interest to know their families and their values.

Ethical Conduct

Mary Barra transformed the culture of General Motors to a company of honesty, truth, and transparency (Jusko, 2014). She accomplished this by acknowledging the ignition problem to the public, beginning a complete investigation, apologized to the families affected, and assured that GM would make up for the issue without considering the cost to be incurred. Her move posed a risk because it could redefine the company's culture. She highlighted the importance of transparency by initiating a program known as "Speak Up for Safety". The program aimed to encourage employees to raise issues rather than being punished. Her objectives changed from becoming the biggest, but instead being the best by producing quality products. Also, the act of recalling over two million vehicles after the death of a hundred employees symbolized integrity (Stanisic, 2018). Her focus was on consumers' contentment, quality, and hard work. Additionally, Mary Barra created the PILOT "Winning with Integrity" to remind staff to work passionately and tirelessly in the right way.

Also, individuals who have associated with Barra praised her for determination, collaboration, and teamwork. If there is a problem that the team cannot solve, she helps without hesitation. Barra is persistent, self-driven, and decisive to resolve the company's issues. For instance, when GM was reported to be falling into bankruptcy, in 2008, she was very confident that the company will survive. She motivates the employees through her perseverance and confidence during challenges. Additionally, her ethical leadership is seen through communication and interaction with the staff. She likes knowing employee's interests, families, and their lives ensure that they feel valued, and shows trustworthiness and reliability to her superiors.

Dilemma Analysis

Both deontological and consequentialism are the primary theories of ethics. Deontological ethics emphasizes on how actions adhere to particular moral rules. Therefore, there is a tendency of judging the action instead of the consequences caused by the action. Kant proposed that moral rules must be followed if adhering to the opposite can lead to an unbearable world (Elm, 2019). For instance, “do not steal” is considered as a rule because if stealing became a rule, concepts such as private property could not be available. Also, there is an argument that deontological ethics is considered as too absolutist, indicating that certain actions are always bad or constantly good without being judged by the action’s context. In the scenario, the deontological theory supports that the sales representative should disclose the potential side effect of the artificial knee joint because it can cause severe lethal infection.

Conversely, consequentialism tends to focus more on the results or consequences caused by an action. Among the most common types of consequentialism is utilitarianism. Bentham and Mill, the first people to propose utilitarianism stated that it compares the value of results caused by an action (Elm, 2019). They proposed a guiding principle within utilitarianism, which indicated that "the utmost happiness is due to the greatest number". Consequentialism is however flawed because it denies an individual to adhere to specific rules and majors mainly on the results instead of the means. In the scenario provided, despite the serious side effects of the artificial knee joint, the sales representative will be forced not to disclose the issue because he or she signed a non-disclosure agreement that can lead to possible repercussions. The sales representative will focus more on the possible repercussions rather than revealing the truth.

Levels of Cognitive Moral Development

Cognitive moral development influences ethical decision making in society. According to Kohlberg, people’s thoughts on moral issues are determined by the levels of maturation. The main levels of cognitive moral development as created by Kohlberg include pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional levels (Hendrix, 2018). The pre-conventional level has two stages; stages one and two, which are described by an egocentric realization of good and bad or right and wrong. Stage one is labeled as punishment and obedience orientation. It evaluates badness or goodness based on the punishment linked with a provided behavior. People on this stage emphasize on direct results of their behaviors, and primarily on punishment evasion. Stage two is regarded as instrumental relativist orientation, and emphasizes on wrong and right on how personal needs are effectively satisfied. In this stage, personal needs are placed first and little focus is offered to impact one's actions.

The conventional level is categorized by people's understanding of the importance of upholding social norms. People in the conventional level are influenced by external factors when deciding the morally correct and usually follow the actions without punishments. The moral assessment is based on a comparison of behavior to societal expectations and perspectives. The interpersonal concordance orientation focuses on attaining other people’s approval by being conforming and amiable to distinctive viewpoints concerning the way individuals must associate with others. People at the interpersonal concordance orientation can identify bad and good intentions and start to appreciate values like gratitude, loyalty, and trust. Also, the conventional level has the law and order orientation stage that focuses on following the development of rules and maintenance of the way social interactions occur (Hendrix, 2018). The wrong and right in this stage is determined by how an individual achieves the commitment to duty, respect to authority, and appreciating the prevailing social norm above personal preferences. Under this stage, failing to follow the rules leads to bad consequences, hence immoral.

The post-conventional level determines the merit and validity of moral values as they occur outside recognized group memberships or authority tools. The issue of what benefits society most is prioritized over personal rights. If there is conflict, social agreement, which prioritizes the idea that the goal is to attain the most benefits to a significant number of people is developed. The universal ethical principle orientation emphasizes the people's thoughtful decisions to constantly follow the ethical rules, which are universal and rationally broad (Hendrix, 2018).

Question Level of cognitive moral development Explanation

Which action would most likely serve the greater good in society? Post-conventional level The question is in the post-conventional level because it focuses more on the benefit of the society.

Divulging the issue can serve the greater good to society because a significant number of people will be aware of the serious probable effect that the company had been hiding. Thereafter, people can make decisions based on the advantages and disadvantages of the artificial knee joint.

If I reveal this information, will I get into trouble and possibly even lose my job? Pre-conventional level In the question, the sales representative puts personal needs first. He or she focuses on wrong and right on how personal needs will be affected and tries to evade the punishment caused by revealing the truth even though it is moral

Which action best aligns with my long-held belief in the principle of justice? Conventional level The action of aligning the long term belief in the principle of justice is a personal recognition of the importance of upholding social behavior. Individuals at this level usually question the fairness of the developed social behaviors and responsibly retain the norms’ standards.

What do the laws say, and what would a law-abiding citizen do? Post-conventional level The level is based on the legal point of view under the law and order stage. A law-abiding citizen should reveal the truth because it is beneficial to society.

If I keep quiet will I get some sort of reward? Pre-conventional level Personal needs are placed first. The sales representative majors on reflecting on how personal needs will be satisfied.

Preferred Ethical Lens

I have both Blended Responsibilities Lens and Results Lens. Blended Responsibilities Lens emphasis usually refers to ethical success as maintaining the right of choosing how to responsibly live within their principles, even when they disagree with other people. Result Lens focuses on defining ethical success as comprising attitudes and actions that develop good outcomes for themselves and other people.I use both Responsibilities and Result Lenses in various settings including social, personal, and work. Additionally, primary values indicate how a person prioritizes the tension between rationality and sensibility, and also autonomy and equality.

Primary Values and Classical Virtue(s)

My primary values lack preference between rationality, sensibility, and mild autonomy. I value principles but they are not rigid. There are times that my heart bends in response to distinctive circumstances though I still value consistency and rational principles as a guideline. I struggle to balance between both values because sometimes my mind urges solutions that the heart deem insensitive. When I try to use the two perspectives, I mildly prefer autonomy value (MA) because I prefer my path and life goals over prioritizing others or equality. Nevertheless, sometimes my decision making is influenced by people's viewpoints and the expectations of the society concerning the things that constitute a good life. I strive to attain my own goals while remaining true to the standards I have set. The set standards enable me to moderate my desires as I decide the things I wish to achieve and obtain.

My classical virtue balances prud...

Cite this page

Essay Example on Mary Barra: Ethical Leader of General Motors in Times of Crisis. (2023, Oct 03). Retrieved from

Free essays can be submitted by anyone,

so we do not vouch for their quality

Want a quality guarantee?
Order from one of our vetted writers instead

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the ProEssays website, please click below to request its removal:

didn't find image

Liked this essay sample but need an original one?

Hire a professional with VAST experience and 25% off!

24/7 online support

NO plagiarism