Can you please define ‘ethical Leadership’?

There is no universally accepted definition for leadership or ethical leadership. In order to make sense of this concept we need to read, put ideas to the test and form our own definitions.

For me, leadership is an individual responsibility to grow, use our talents for the greater good, and inspire others to do the same. When we put this definition into practice, with integrity and in an unselfish way than we are true or ethical leaders.

Do you think the current understanding of ‘ethical leadership’ describes accurately the complexity and ethical implications of leaders and their behaviour?

Leadership ethics is an inter-disciplinary field of enquiry. Although people have been interested in the ethical behaviour of leaders throughout history as a research discipline; leadership ethics is quite new. Ethics is embedded in the concept and practice of leadership and it is continuously present in the processes and outcomes of leading and following. To understand ethical leadership we need to combine historic insight, philosophical analysis and empirical experience. We also need to be able to make a distinction between how leaders behave and how they are perceived to behave.

What makes a leader ‘ethical?’

The philosopher, Eva Kort distinguishes between a real or proper leader and a formal or purported leader. A real leader is voluntarily endorsed and followed. A purported leader is obeyed only because of his or her position. Plato suggested that, “Anyone who is a really a true leader does not by nature seek his own advantage, but the advantage of his subjects.” Plato’s leader is a true and ethical ruler with right morality. The Greeks had a useful word and called the unethical leader as a tyrant.

When we think about Mandela or Gandhi we are captivated by their moral power.

Dr Katalin Illes

What are your views on responsible leadership?

Aristotle argued that, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Here, Aristotle explains that a person someone becomes a responsible leader by consistently considering the interests of all stakeholders in the decision making process. Such a person is trusted because he or she acts unselfishly and virtuously and serves the interest of the followers rather than the self.

What could the organisations accomplish if they proactively developed ethical leaders and ethical culture?

There are two types of virtues- virtue of thought and virtue of character. Virtue of thought arises and grows mostly from teaching, so it needs experience and time. Virtue of character results from habit. Organisations wishing to proactively develop ethical leaders need to create an environment that supports and reinforces virtuous behaviour and does not tolerate unethical conduct of any kind.

This undertaking would require long term commitment, transparency, honesty and trust from both leaders and followers. Members of such an organisation would focus on the collective purpose and would do their best to apply all individual talent and creativity appropriately.

Can you please tell us a bit about the ‘ethical leadership’ programme?

The programme will give participants an opportunity to reflect on the nature of good leadership and explore possible ways for developing a more ethical approach in the workplace. Leaders and followers are closely connected and both roles can be performed ethically or unethically.

During the programme, we discuss historic and current day ethical dilemmas, compare perspectives and identify the challenges for leaders who are committed to consistent ethical behaviour.

We look at the seven virtues of ancient philosophers and explore their relevance and how they can be cultivated privately, and in an organisational context.

Dr Katalin Illes

Who do you think would benefit the most from this programme?

This is a highly practical and interactive programme that has been developed for
leaders and aspiring leaders, who would like to improve the current state of leadership in their organisations and beyond.

This is a thought provoking programme for individuals, who would like to initiate change in the workplace and enter into discussions with colleagues; understanding shared values and virtues. The most inspiring power is moral power. This is something that we can all grow and cultivate in ourselves.

A number of thought provoking articles and recommendations for follow up readings are integral part of our offerings.

Find out more about our Leadership and Management short courses here : Ethical Leadership, Leadership and Culture,   Management and Leadership Development.

About Dr. Katalin Illes
Dr Katalin Illes is a Principal lecturer in Leadership and Development at the University of Westminster in London. She has a wealth of experience in teaching Leadership, Personal Development, Management Development and Intercultural Communication on post-graduate and executive programmes.
Dr Illes is a passionate promoter of transformational change through leadership development and has extensive international work experience. Over the past 20 years Katalin Illes held responsible positions at Anglia Ruskin University, in Cambridge, at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and worked in higher education institutions in China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, India, Japan, Malaysia and Switzerland.
She has published over 70 academic papers and presented her views and findings at international conferences. She has been awarded visiting professorships in five countries and regularly acts as External Examiner, Key Note Speaker and Reviewer.
Her current research interests include ethical leadership, spirituality and leadership, building trusting relationships in organisations and innovative ways of developing leaders.


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