How Do Leadership Styles Address Ethical Dilemmas?
As the leader of your organization, it's inevitable you'll face some tough moral decisions during your tenure. How you respond, and how your followers react to your response, is mostly determined by your leadership style. Although leadership styles can be conceptualized in a variety of ways, Daniel Goleman, leadership guru and author of "Leadership That Gets Results," defines six comprehensive leadership styles. Examining how these leadership styles address ethical dilemmas can help determine the most effective way to manage difficult situations.
Goleman's visionary leadership style emphasizes working toward a new, common goal. Sometimes described as the authoritative approach to leadership, this style inspires dedication and passion for the agreed-upon vision. If the vision includes a values statement, employees are less likely to tolerate unethical behavior, and they expect swift solutions to ethical dilemmas. Having a shared vision increases risk-taking, so employees with visionary leaders are more likely to report unethical behavior and become "whistle-blowers" when necessary.
Coaching leadership focuses on developing and supporting the employees' potential. It emphasizes the value of collaboration and the welfare of all group members. Coaching leaders are friendly, approachable and provide practical, as well as emotional support. Their workers are likely to come forward to present ethical concerns in the workplace because they trust their leader to support them. Ethical issues will be dealt with in a straightforward and fair manner.
Affiliative leaders work hard to build a cohesive team that connects and supports each other. They strive to create harmony and build morale. They lavish praise and value open communication. Depending on the nature of the ethical dilemma, their employees might have difficulty making a moral choice. If, for example, someone becomes aware of a co-worker's dishonesty, he'd be reluctant to report the infraction to avoid betraying a sacred bond with his peer. If, however, the ethical dilemma involved something that harmed the team, employees are more likely to take action and demand a solution.
Democratic leaders take a collaborative, consensus-building approach. Although these leaders assert their authority to make final decisions, they prefer to take time processing ethical dilemmas, taking everyone's opinion into account. Although team members feel empowered and motivated to work hard, this leadership style is not well-suited to a crisis situation. Team members might not have the depth of experience or knowledge of the broader implications of the situation to reach an appropriate solution. If the leader chooses this consultative approach, critical time can be wasted.
The pace-setting leader is a dedicated, hard worker, driven to perform at her peak. She sets high standards for herself and her team members. This leadership style is often counter-productive, leaving people feeling pressured and inadequate. Employees who feel under-valued are more likely to commit ethical transgressions. For example, someone burdened by unreasonable expectations might feel justified inflating their work hours or pilfering office supplies. Pace-setting leaders model high ethical standards and address ethical dilemmas head-on, but their workers are more likely to view ethical dilemmas as outside their sphere of influence and prefer to ignore them.
The commanding or coercive leadership style is a prevalent one, even though it is most suitable only in crisis situations. Known also as a “military” style of leadership, it tends to ignore workers' feelings and focuses on getting fast results. Commanding leaders are decisive and emphasize following rules. Depending on the nature of the ethical dilemma, it could be an effective leadership style in the short term. If, for example, extensive corruption were uncovered in the organization, swiftly firing the culprits is effective. However, for long-term recovery, a more nurturing leadership style is necessary to rebuild trust and increase morale.