Ethics and leadership: Enablers and stumbling blocks



  • Many of the scandals, indiscretions and collapses, over the last few years, at formerly venerated organizations were the results of toxic relationships, dubious economic models, opaque workplace paradigms, as well as questionable collective and individual actions and behaviours of people who, ordinarily, would not be considered ‘typically criminal’. The individuals involved have typically been people with good education, caring parents, were community contributors and, by all accounts, appeared to be upstanding members of society. Their involvement, therefore, in corrupt acts and relationships thus brings a numbers of issues under question—an important one of which is their ethical maturity, and the forming of that ethical development through important societal institutions such as: religion, education and the family. We set out to understand what some of the stumbling blocks were that prevent individuals from courageously acting on their sometimes vast bases of theoretical/common knowledge with respect to ethics and morals, but which has not yet become common practice. Additionally, we also sought to understand what the various enablers were for individuals who were able to live and act ethically, to further enhance such ethical and moral living and working. Our research sample was 646 middle managers who were all enrolled on the MBA programs of the University of Cape Town (South Africa) and Erasmus University (Netherlands). The research respondents self-reported on both the stumbling blocks and enablers, through writing up their personal experiences for our research. They also reported on what some of the practical actions were that they employed to live and work ethically.

Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.