The Ethics of Leadership

Published February 2, 2016 by Mayrbear's Lair


Our focus this week is centered on ethical leadership as we focus on the 2016 Iowa Caucus. During this time, American citizens are constantly bombarded with messages from hopeful candidates who are competing for the opportunity to become the next President of the United States. As a result, citizens will closely scrutinize the leadership abilities of these hopefuls to help them make the best decision as to which candidate to support in the upcoming election.

In the corporate world, executives and business thinkers believe that ethical competence is a significant leadership skill for running an organization. What does that mean? Simply put, it is a person who runs an organization displaying good character in the decision making process.  Plus, leaders with ethical competence, will engage in conduct relying on right values and set a positive example for others. In addition, they are more likely to have the confidence to resist temptations that may occur. Jack Canfield (1997), co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, states that, “Understanding what constitutes confidence can help you possess it” (Canfield, 1997, p. 3). In other words, a leader with ethical competence, will engage mindfully in ethical conduct with confidence, with results that yield higher performance levels.

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In recent times, a typical portrayal of business executives is often viewed as greedy, and competitive. In fact, many seem to be driven by ego and expanding their generous compensation plans.  In the meantime, most will agree, that the basics of capitalism, which include personal gain associated with risk and rewards are ethically acceptable concepts. Business leaders tend to become the focus of criticism however, through the revelations of scandalous outcomes, questionable behavior as well as their outrageous compensation packages.  As a result, companies are under extreme pressure and unparalleled scrutiny to restructure the criteria for what constitutes ethical leadership with emphasis on: (a) behavioral accountability, (b) decisions that affect the enterprise, and (c) establishing reasonable executive compensation – an intensely complex topic that in its simplest terms focuses on the alignment between executive pay and performance.  Adding to this is the pay gap between boss and workers, as well as the difference in salaries male executives receive as opposed to their female counterparts, that many find difficult to comprehend as ethical.  While incentives intrinsically motivate top performing executives, arguments and ethical controversies about high sums paid for executive salaries are still rarely discussed.


The Ethical Leadership Factor

In my publication, Ethics in the Real World (2013) I state that a person who has no one to answer to can become a dangerous individual. In other words, unlimited power without unlimited compassion can encourage unlimited corruption. In addition, it can lead to the development of personality disorders, rendering individuals with an inability to recognize inappropriate behavior. In fact, they can become so disturbed that they are unable to see they have a problem (Berry, 2013). This seems to be the case with Republican contender, Donald Trump. The type of behavior he has been displaying during his candidacy, which includes the “toxic” rhetoric he spews, and his recent decision to refrain from appearing on the last presidential debate because of his personal conflicts with certain staff members at the Fox News Network, clearly makes citizens think twice about the kind of leadership he will provide should he be elected as the next U.S. president.


Leaders and Personality Disorders

It is evident that the demand for ethics in leadership is rising, yet resources remain low as evidenced by the current global conditions.  This is because the current generation of leaders seem equipped to navigate rather than inspire and guide.  Another component that people have encountered and coped with are leaders who suffer from character and personality disorders. Character disorders play a role in distorting an individual’s perceptions of what constitutes right and wrong behavior. One of the most noteworthy, yet least understood of these, is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Individuals with this condition display an inflated sense of self-importance, are extremely self-preoccupied, and have a tendency to self-worship. Unfortunately, according to family therapist Eleanor Payson (2002), NPD is an all too common affliction among those who wield great political and corporate power in contemporary society. The complete self-absorption of an NPD person results in unethical behavior with a treacherous propensity to devalue those within their sphere of influence, either subtly with condescension, or openly with criticism (Payson, 2002). Although these individuals experience high levels of success as productive top performers in their field, there is a side of their personalities that disclose deeply disturbing behavior. Individuals like this, urge us to acknowledge that there is a side of them that lacks emotional intelligence, made evident by the actions and choices they make which result in their devaluing others by their reckless behavior, which, in turn, can have a profound effect on their lives and careers and also affect how the public views them.

We will continue this discussion on Thursday. Until then … keep working on enhancing your leadership skills!


To be an ethical leader is indeed to be different. This kind of leader acknowledges the complexity of running a responsible business, yet tries to do it anyway.”
― Andrew Leigh, Ethical Leadership: Creating and Sustaining an Ethical Business Culture


Ethics Audio Ad Just released

For more information on Media Magic’s digital publications, or to purchase any of our Business Life audio book titles, please visit’s new feature called “Author Central” to view:

Mayr’s Author’s Page


Berry, M. A. (2013). Ethics in the Real World. USA: Kindle Direct Publishing.

Canfield, J. (1997). What’s holding you back? New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Payson, E. (2002). The wizard of oz and other narcissists (3rd ed.). Royal Oak, MI: Julian Day Publications.

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