, Volume 67, Issue 2, pp 125-137
Date: 17 Aug 2006

Leadership, Ethics and Responsibility to the Other

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Of recent time, there has been a proliferation of concerns with ethical leadership within corporate business not least because of the numerous scandals at Enron, Worldcom, Parmalat, and two major Irish banks – Allied Irish Bank (AIB) and National Irish Bank (NIB). These have not only threatened the position of many senior corporate managers but also the financial survival of some of the companies over which they preside. Some authors have attributed these scandals to the pre-eminence of a focus on increasing shareholder value in Western business schools and/or to their failure to inculcate ethical standards. In this paper, we challenge these accounts and the aetiological view of knowledge from which they derive but are grateful for the consensus that they convey regarding the importance of business ethics. The paper focuses on different approaches to ethical leadership concluding with a view that some hybrid of MacIntyre’s virtue ethics and Levinas’s ethics of responsibility may serve as an inspiration for both educators and practitioners.

Dr. David Knights is a Professor of Organisational Analysis in the School of Economic and Management Studies at Keele University. He previously held chairs in Manchester, Nottingham and Exeter Universities. He is a founding and continuing editor of the journal Gender, Work and Organisation and his most recent books include: Management Lives, Sage, 1999 (with H. Willmott) and Organization and Innovation, McGraw-Hill, 2003 (with D. McCabe). Majella O’Leary is a Lecturer in Management at the University of Exeter. Her research interests include corporate scandals, ethical leadership, disaster sensemaking, and organizational storytelling. Majella’s most recent publications have appeared in Human Relations and European Journal of Business Ethics.