Advertisement

Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 144, Issue 4, pp 813–822 | Cite as

What Would John Stuart Mill Say? A Utilitarian Perspective on Contemporary Neuroscience Debates in Leadership

  • Dirk LindebaumEmail author
  • Effi Raftopoulou
Article

Abstract

The domain of organizational neuroscience increasingly influences leadership research and practice in terms of both selection and interventions. The dominant view is that the use of neuroscientific theories and methods offers better and refined predictions of what constitutes good leadership. What has been omitted so far, however, is a deeper engagement with ethical theories. This engagement is imperative as it helps problematize a great deal of the current advocacy around organizational neuroscience. In this article, we draw upon John Stuart Mill’s Theory of Utility as a theoretical framework to this end. Our discussion reveals several negative psychological and physical side-effects, which undermine the prevailing view that neuroscientific methods can be used without risk at work. We discuss the theoretical and practical ramifications of our analysis.

Keywords

Ethics Leadership John Stuart Mill Organizational neuroscience Utilitarianism 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We gratefully recognize the constructive suggestions by Mike Zundel on an earlier draft of this article.

References

  1. Antonacopoulou, E. P., & Sheaffer, Z. (2014). Learning in crisis: Rethinking the relationship between organizational learning and crisis management. Journal of Management Inquiry, 23(1), 5–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ashkanasy, N. M. (2013). Neuroscience and leadership: Take care not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Journal of Management Inquiry, 22(3), 311–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baard, E. (2003). The guilt-free soldier. Retrieved May 21, 2014 from http://www.villagevoice.com/2003-01-21/news/the-guilt-free-soldier/.
  4. Balthazard, P. A. (2011). Using neuroscience to learn how to build a better leader. Retrieved December 20, 2012 from http://knowwpcarey.com/article.cfm?aid=24.
  5. Balthazard, P. A., Waldman, D. A., Thatcher, R. W., & Hannah, S. T. (2012). Differentiating transformational and non-transformational leaders on the basis of neurological imaging. The Leadership Quarterly, 23(2), 244–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bass, B. M., & Avolio, B. J. (1996). Transformational leadership development: Manual for the multifactor leadership questionnaire. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists.Google Scholar
  7. Bass, B. M., & Bass, R. (2009). The bass handbook of leadership: Theory, research, and managerial applications. New York: Free.Google Scholar
  8. Becker, W. J., & Cropanzano, R. (2010). Organizational neuroscience: The promise and prospects of an emerging discipline. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 31(7), 1055–1059.Google Scholar
  9. Burke, R. (2009). Working to live or living to work: Should individuals and organizations care? Journal of Business Ethics, 84(2), 167–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Button, K. S., Ioannidis, J. P. A., Mokrysz, C., Nosek, B. A., Flint, J., Robinson, E. S. J., et al. (2013). Power failure: Why small sample size undermines the reliability of neuroscience. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 14(5), 365–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cohen Kadosh, R., Levy, N., O’Shea, J., Shea, N., & Savulescu, J. (2012). The neuroethics of non-invasive brain stimulation. Current Biology, 22(4), R108–R111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Crane, A., & Matten, D. (2007). Business ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Cropanzano, R., & Becker, W. J. (2013). The promise and peril of organizational neuroscience: Today and tomorrow. Journal of Management Inquiry, 22(3), 306–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Elsbach, K. D., & Hargadon, A. B. (2006). Enhancing creativity through “Mindless” work: A framework of workday design. Organization Science, 17(4), 470–483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Evers, K. (2007). Perspectives on memory manipulation: Using beta-blockers to cure post-traumatic stress disorder. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 16(02), 138–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Foster, D., & Hoggett, P. (1999). Change in the benefits agency: Empowering the exhausted worker? Work, Employment & Society, 13(1), 19–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fuchs, T. (2006). Ethical issues in neuroscience. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 19(6), 600–607.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Furnham, A. (2010). The elephant in the boardroom: The causes of leadership derailment. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Geddes, D., & Stickney, L. T. (2011). The trouble with sanctions: Organizational responses to deviant anger displays at work. Human Relations, 64(2), 201–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ghoshal, S. (2005). Bad management theories are destroying good management practices. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 4(1), 75–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. New York: Bantam Books.Google Scholar
  22. Goleman, D., & Boyatzis, R. E. (2008). Social intelligence and the biology of leadership. Harvard Business Review, 86, 74–81.Google Scholar
  23. Hamilton, R., Messing, S., & Chatterjee, A. (2011). Rethinking the thinking cap. Neurology, 76(2), 187–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hammond, D. C., & Kirk, L. (2008). First, do no harm: Adverse effects and the need for practice standards in neurofeedback. Journal of Neurotherapy, 12(1), 79–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hammond, D. C., Stockdale, S., Hoffman, D., Ayers, M. E., & Nash, J. (2001). Adverse reactions and potential iatrogenic effects in neurofeedback training. Journal of Neurotherapy, 4(4), 57–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hochschild, A. R. (1983). The managed heart: commercialisation of human feeling. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  27. Hodge, J. G. (2004). Ethical issues concerning genetic testing and screening in public health. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part C: Seminars in Medical Genetics, 125(1), 66–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hodson, R. (2001). Dignity at work. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hurley, E. A. (2007). The moral costs of prophylactic propranolol. The American Journal of Bioethics, 7(9), 35–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kershaw, C., & Wade, B. (2011). Brain change for optimal leadership. Biofeedback, 39(3), 105–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Khurana, R. (2002). The curse of the superstar CEO. Harvard Business Review, 80(9), 60–66.Google Scholar
  32. Kindt, M., Soeter, M., & Vervliet, B. (2009). Beyond extinction: erasing human fear responses and preventing the return of fear. Nature Neuroscience, 12(3), 256–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lee, N., Senior, C., & Butler, M. (2012). Leadership research and cognitive neuroscience: The state of this union. The Leadership Quarterly, 23(2), 213–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Levy, N. (2009). Neuroethics: Ethics and the sciences of the mind. Philosophy Compass, 4(1), 69–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Liden, R. C., & Antonakis, J. (2009). Considering context in psychological leadership research. Human Relations, 62(11), 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lindebaum, D. (2013). Ethics and the neuroscientific study of leadership: a synthesis and rejoinder to Ashkanasy, Cropanzano/Becker, and McLagan. Journal of Management Inquiry, 22(3), 317–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lindebaum, D., & Fielden, S. (2011). ‘It’s good to be angry’: Enacting anger in construction project management to achieve perceived leader effectiveness. Human Relations, 64(3), 437–458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lindebaum, D., & Jordan, J. P. (in press). A critique on neuroscientific methodologies in organizational behavior and management studies. Journal of Organizational Behavior.Google Scholar
  39. McKeown, G. (2013). Your nice boss may be killing your career. Retrieved October 1, 2013 from http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/09/your-nice-boss-may-be-kill/.
  40. McLagan, P. A. (2013). A call to watch our paradigms! Journal of Management Inquiry, 22(3), 314–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Meloy, J. R. (2000). The nature and dynamics of sexual homicide: An integrative review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 5(1), 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mill, J. S. (1861/2001). Utilitarianism. London: Electric Book Co.Google Scholar
  43. Murry, W. D., Wimbush, J. C., & Dalton, D. R. (2001). Genetic screening in the workplace: Legislative and ethical implications. Journal of Business Ethics, 29(4), 365–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Northouse, P. G. (2010). Leadership: Theory and practice. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  45. Özbilgin, M. F. (2010). Scholarship of consequence: New directions for the British Journal of Management. British Journal of Management, 21(1), 1–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Paulus, M. P., Potterat, E. G., Taylor, M. K., Van Orden, K. F., Bauman, J., Momen, N., et al. (2009). A neuroscience approach to optimizing brain resources for human performance in extreme environments. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 33(7), 1080–1088.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Purdon, C. (1999). Thought suppression and psychopathology. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 37(11), 1029–1054.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sahakian, B. J., & Morein-Zamir, S. (2009). Neuroscientists need neuroethics teaching. Science, 325, 147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sandel, M. (2011). ‘Putting a price tag on life’ & ‘How to measure pleasure’ (in Episode 2 of Sandel’s ‘Justice’ series). Retrieved May 30, 2013 from http://www.justiceharvard.org/2011/02/episode-two/-watch.
  50. Scherbaum, C. A., & Meade, A. W. (2013). New directions for measurement in management research. International Journal of Management Reviews, 15(2), 132–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Senior, C., Lee, N., & Butler, M. (2011). Organizational cognitive neuroscience. Organization Science, 22(3), 804–815.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Solomon, R. (1993a). Ethics and excellence: Cooperation and integrity in business. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  53. Solomon, R. (1993b). Ethics: A short Introduction. Dubuque, IA: Brown & Benchmark.Google Scholar
  54. Tracy, S. J. (2000). Becoming a character for commerce. Management Communication Quarterly, 14(1), 90–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Van Kleef, G. A., Homan, A. C., Beersma, B., Van Knippenberg, D., Van Knippenberg, B., & Damen, F. (2009). Searing sentiment or cold calculation? The effects of leader emotional displays on team performance depend on follower epistemic motivation. Academy of Management Journal, 52(3), 562–580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. van Knippenberg, D., & Sitkin, S. B. (2013). A critical assessment of charismatic—Transformational leadership research: Back to the drawing board? The Academy of Management Annals, 7(1), 1–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Waldman, D. A., Balthazard, P. A., & Peterson, S. J. (2011a). Leadership and neuroscience: can we revolutionize the way that inspirational leaders are identified and developed? Academy of Management Perspectives, 25(1), 60–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Waldman, D. A., Balthazard, P. A., & Peterson, S. J. (2011b). Social cognitive neuroscience and leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, 22(6), 1092–1106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wastell, D., & White, S. (2012). Blinded by neuroscience social policy, the family and the infant brain. Families, Relationships and Societies, 1(3), 399–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wyland, C. L., Kelley, W. M., Macrae, C. N., Gordon, H. L., & Heatherton, T. F. (2003). Neural correlates of thought suppression. Neuropsychologia, 41(14), 1863–1867.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Management SchoolThe University of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK
  2. 2.Keele Management SchoolKeele UniversityKeeleUK

Personalised recommendations