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Leadership and Values

The Ethics of Leadership

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Business leaders – what ethical standards are they being held? There are different arguments about the moral values and actions of business and political leaders. Some of them are represented in the works “Is It Better to Be Loved than Feared?” by Niccolo Machiavelli and “Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness” by Robert Greenleaf.

In “Is It Better to Be Loved than Feared?” Machiavelli argues that the real leader must better be feared but not be hated. His argument is mistaken because the leader must be neither feared nor loved – these both feelings are ultimate and not proper. When people fear their leader, they will do everything he commands, but eventually they can rise against him. The true leader must not be a tyrant or a person who uses his power and authority for threatening his subordinates. On the contrary, he has to understand the needs and consider the opinions of his people in order that they might respect him.

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The same is with love: the leader is not a child or a pet to be loved. Again, people must esteem him, but not love – the love for the leader may become fanatic. When people love their leader, they obey and follow him blindfold. They may do everything he tells and laud him to the skies. He becomes an idol, a god for those men. However, a veritable leader will not want his subordinates to love him in such a way. He will rather earn their respect with his noble deeds than get their love with honeyed promises.

As stated above, one can make a conclusion that finding the golden mean is the most important thing for being a good leader. He must be prudent and wise and should have high moral qualities. Machiavelli writes, “…it is well to seem merciful, faithful, humane, religious, and upright, and also to be so…” This is a true statement because a good leader must be an example of the grand manner and should behave properly. This implies that people should hold their business leaders to higher standards. A leader must be highly educated, good at speaking and persuasive; he should stick to his word and be sure of his acts. He should behave in such a way that people would trust him and respect him.

Hence, the question comes: how do we determine what individuals should be held to the highr standards and which not?  The answer is following: people always need to have some leaders to listen to and to be led. There would be total economic and political chaos without leaders in the world. Therefore, such individuals must be held to higher ethical standards to make their subordinates attain to the level of the best. It is very difficult to be the best, and only few may become so, that is why there is no reason to set high limits for everyone.

At the same time, it is not enough for leaders simply to appear ethical. They must be ethical in their minds, every day and every night, even if there is no one beside them. They must be not only ethical, but also wise, smart and reasonable about business they do. If a leader merely pretends to be ethical, but he is immoral in his daily life, the truth will out in the end. However, who will believe and respect the unethical leader?

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One more quality that is important for a good leader is an ability to serve people and to elicit trust. Robert Greenleaf assures that the real leader must be a servant for his subordinates. He is right, because the servant-leader cares about others needs and leads those people to the right goal. Moreover, people will believe such leader and follow him in every direction.

How can one identify a true servant-leader? He must have good spiritual values, be competent in his judgments, and prove his faithfulness and service to the people by his actions. Someone can argue that every leader may appear to serve people and to make gains on it by compelling his subordinates to serve him. Many business leaders behave in such unfair way in our days. They convince people of the truth of their words, promise them improvement of their lives after doing something, and get their way. However, this can not go on forever. People are not blind, and they will understand everything after a while. The unfair leader will be brought to a stop. The other leader will come, and he will need some time to prove his faithfulness. The life is so that there are not so many individuals who really want to serve people. Nevertheless, if such a person will gain human confidence, he will succeed in his leadership.

Machiavelli argues that a leader must have not only good qualities but contrary too. He writes, “…but the mind should remain so balanced that were it needful not to be so, you shhould be able and know how to change to the contrary.” His argument is right because every situation has different solution. A good leader must be able to discern people one from another, not to confuse good with evil, and to change against the circumstances. He has to know how to put himself in somebody’s place and when to be a “lion” and when to become a “fox”. He must be flexible and be able to adjust to the situation. However, a perfect leader can not forget about ethics and morality. Even with evil, he has to stay moral and fair.

Robert Greenleaf assures that every achievement must start with a dream, and a leader must be a great dreamer. His argument is excellent but one can argue that the leader must have not a dream but a plan. He must know clearly what does he want and how to achieve his goal. A dream is something not real but a goal must be the first in the achievement. A good leader always has a goal and knows in advance, what he should do to attain it.

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One more quality of a great leader is very important. It is an ability to satisfy others of the rightness of his goal and to persuade people to help him in its achievement. Such leader must arouse interest of his subordinates in his goal, be able to convince them that this goal is theirs too and they will benefit from it. Of course, it must be really so. Then people will follow their leader and bring the aim to reality.

 In conclusion, it is worth mentioning that the ethics should hold a high position in business leadership. Business ethics is not so widely distributed among the present leaders but it is still viable. The younger generation should do everything to save such qualities as morality, faithfulness, honesty and friendliness to make business relationships better for both leaders and their subordinates. There is no doubt that business leaders should be held to higher ethical standards but not to different ones. They should not be allowed to play by different rules because it would not seem fair with other people. Special rules for leaders may cause big changes in the human relations, even the war. That is why the standards must be the same but a little bit higher. In addition, leaders must behave in such a way that people will respect them but neither love nor fear. When a leader becomes an example for imitation, he will succeed in his business beyond all doubt. 

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