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Ethics and


© 2009 University of Miami

White Paper Series


Susan P. Mullane, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences

School of Education

Leadership is not a genetic gift or a family legacy; we have sympathetically

observed some failures of those assumptions. It is not a warranty with a degree from an

excellent graduate business school, though a rigor of that experience can provide valuable

returns. Becoming a leader is an intentional process of growth that must be lived out

experientially. One must have the will to say “yes” and even “no’ to an unending series

of tests, large and small, each demanding that we take one more step toward a definition

of all who we are. We must be ready to define our values, our character, and our .

leadership style. For durable, strong leaders, the process will not end. It will become a

way of life, not only in business, but within our families, our various communities, and

the world.

Bowen H. “Buzz” McCoy (2007)

Ethics is the heart of leadership, as reflected in the title of the 1998 leadership classic

by Joanne B. Ciulla. Indeed, ethics and leadership should go hand in hand. In his book

Meeting the Ethical Challenges of Leadership, Craig E. Johnson uses the analogy of

heroes and villains when discussing how leaders attempt to affect change. “The power

that comes from being a leader can also be used for evil as well as good. When we

assume the benefits of leadership, we also assume ethical burdens, “ he asserts. In making

ethical decisions, the leader tries to cast “light” not “shadow.” Although a graphic and

unpleasant comparison, think of the Hitler and Ghandi. If one subscribes to traditional

definitions such as influencing people toward achievement of a common goal, both were

leaders. Clearly, however, their ethics were different.

For many years, corporate America has been marred by unethical decision making

and scandalous behavior. As...