In order to understand how leadership affects ethics and performance in an organization, I had an interview with Valeria McConnell, who works as a property administrator at the Missile Defense Agency and manages the Government Contract Property. In the interview, I had some questions which guided me in understanding the relationship between leadership and ethical performance. Some of the questions included her definition of leadership, what she can do as a leader when members of her team are not pulling their weight, one of the greatest challenges she has ever faced in leadership, and what she did about it. Similarly, I asked her to describe her communication style and to describe her personal actions that convey to employees that she upholds ethics and expects the staff to do the same. I also asked her to describe a situation in which effective interpersonal communication skills contributed to her success. Additionally, it was in my interest to know how her personal actions of demonstrating ethics as a priority affected staff. These questions help in understanding how people in leadership are the drivers of ethics in an organization.
The Responses Received
Valeria defined a leader as the person who guides or directs a team or group of people towards achieving some set goals. She also explained that as a leader, if any member of the team is not performing, the favorable action is to find out the reason why this is happening. Some of the things to look into when determining the reason why the member is not pulling the weight are whether it is due to lack of communication, improper training or simply poor attitude of the employee. It is only after one gets to establish the reason that he or she can look for a solution.
One of the greatest challenges that Valeria cited was a government employee and a contract employee who acted unethically. These two employees engaged in an extramarital affair. In her action, Valeria dismissed one employee while suspending the other. In her description of her communication style, Valeria cited that she uses submissive communication. However, this type of communication where one acts in a way to avoid hurting others may not work in all situations. In addition, Valeria explained that her day-to-day completion of the tasks in the organization conveyed to staff that ethical behavior is her priority and the employees must hold on to this too. Valeria makes efforts, to be honest, and to do the right thing all the time even when the management is not watching her. She also added that she works hard to avoid distractions such as office gossip and remains focused on her duties, therefore, becoming a good example to the employees. Her personal actions, hence, have set a standard of high ethical behavior for the staff.
Moreover, she described a situation where effective interpersonal communication skills contributed to her success. She explained that at one time, a member of her team was having problems understanding the contents in the database and the value of the information contained therein. She actively listened to the member and worked hand in hand to bridge this gap of lack of understanding. Her active listening has made employees approach her when they have problems since they feel comfortable when they have someone who gives them a listening ear.
Leadership and Ethical Performance
Given the highly publicized ethical scandals, it is important that ethical dimension in leadership gets the necessary attention. Ethical leadership can be defined as the demonstration of normatively pertinent conduct by virtue personal actions and interpersonal relationships and the promotion of such conduct to subordinates through two-way communication, support, and decision-making (David, 2014). Acting in a normatively appropriate manner means that one acts in a manner that is consistent with general expectations regarding how leaders should behave at work, for example, leaders should be fair, honest, principled and trustworthy in taking responsibility for their behavior and utilize rewards and punishments appropriately to hold subordinates responsible for their actions (Nora et.al, 2012).
Ethical commitments constrain the pursuit of narrow self-interest by creating emotional obligations to wider social interests (Mark, 2000). Mark continues to argue that a leader is someone who specializes in promoting certain values that the group shares and which can affect the economic performance of the group. In my interview with Valeria, it is clear that she understands what an ethical leader should do in an organization. She is ready to communicate with the subordinates in looking for solutions to problems. Similarly, she does not put personal interest ahead of that of employees, and that is why she utilizes submissive communication. Additionally, Valeria leads by example in that she upholds ethics in her work by doing what is right at all times as expected even when no one is watching. She is also ready to administer rewards and punishments where appropriate.
As a leader, one should always lead by example. People look up to leaders to guide others on ethics. Ethical leaders, therefore, become role models and communicate the importance of ethical standards. Similarly, they are able to hold employees accountable to those standards. Ethical leadership helps in bringing a host of positive outcomes and reducing the risk of negative outcomes. To lead a team, therefore, one must set an example since the team looks up to them.
Casson, M., & Baker & Taylor, Inc. (2000). Enterprise and leadership: Studies on firms, markets, and networks. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.
Day, D. V. (2014). The Oxford handbook of leadership and organizations.
Reilly, N. P., Sirgy, M. J., & Gorman, C. A. (2012). Work and quality of life: Ethical practices in organizations. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.
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