Everywhere we turn we hear the word "leadership", whether about political or business leaders, or environmental champions or football managers. We are all looking to our leaders, in whatever sphere of life, not only to provide us with vision but to deliver it. Layered above this desire for "real leadership" is a concern about the powers of our leaders and about their ethical behaviour. What are the motives of our leaders, how do they go about influencing us, do they possess real moral fibre or disguised self-interest? These are the questions Manuel Mendonca and Rabindra Kanungo explore in their outstanding book on ethical leadership in organisations.
The book is divided into six chapters, starting with an introductory one on the "need for ethical leadership in organisations". In it the authors offer a number of vignettes from studies that demonstrate, at least in the context of North America, why ethical leadership is near the top of many organisational agendas.
In the second chapter they explore the theories of ethics, from classical theories (for example, Aristotle) to normative theories (such as utilitarian and Kantian approaches) to theories of altruism versus hedonism.
Some aspects of leadership theory and research are explored in the third chapter, highlighting the charismatic leadership paradigm. This chapter is not a comprehensive view of leadership theories but those that impinge on the ethical dilemmas of leader behaviour.
The fourth chapter explores the essence of the book, which is about ethical dimensions of leadership: motives, influence strategies and character. The penultimate chapter answers the question: "What can leaders do to prepare themselves and their organisations to meet the challenging demands of ethical leadership?". This chapter stands out for its attempt to combine the business-oriented nature of life today with a more spiritual outlook - analysing not only the obstacles to bridging the gap but also how it can be done in an organisational context.
The final chapter tries to go beyond Western society, exploring the cultural contingencies of leadership and how this has to be taken into account in understanding ethical leadership in different societies.
This is a relatively short book but one packed with interesting ideas and material on a dimension of leadership rarely explored deeply enough: the ethics of leaders and what organisations can do to create a more ethical culture. I also liked the numerous references to questionable ethical situations, and also to how various religions and ideologies have tried to set the moral agenda - a fascinating read for those interested in the ethical behaviour of those who lead us.
Who is it for? Postgraduate and MBA students of business, management and psychology, as well as practitioners in those fields.
Presentation: The structure and presentation of this book are excellent.
Would you recommend it? Strongly.
Cary L. Cooper is professor of organisational psychology and health, Lancaster University, president of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, and co-editor of Inspiring Leaders and How to Deal with Stress .
Ethical Leadership Ethical Leadership. First Edition
Author - Manuel Mendonca and Rabindra Kanungo
Publisher - Open University Press
Pages - 168
Price - £60.00 and £20.99
ISBN - 9780335217007 and 6994