Strategic Collaboration for Ethical Leadership: A Mentoring Framework for Business and Organizational Decision Making

By Ncube, Lisa B.; Wasburn, Mara H. | Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview
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Strategic Collaboration for Ethical Leadership: A Mentoring Framework for Business and Organizational Decision Making


Ncube, Lisa B., Wasburn, Mara H., Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies


Recent corporate scandals in the U.S. have shaken the public trust and spurred the creation of a host of new regulatory controls and laws to help ensure compliance with ethical standards. The purpose of this paper is to present an innovative and practical model for resolving the complexity of making ethical decisions in the contemporary business environment. The paper presents Strategic Collaboration for Ethical Decision Making, a mentoring framework for organizations. The framework provides a process for making ethical decisions. A case study approach is employed to gain insight into the application of the framework. The effectiveness of the framework is assessed using an innovative technique called Empowerment Evaluation.

Key Words: Appreciative Inquiry, business leadership, decision making, empowerment evaluation, ethics, mentoring, Strategic Collaboration.

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Restoring trust and applying ethical standards have become principal challenges for U.S. business leaders (Kist 2002). In the wake of recent corporate scandals in the United States, business leaders must contend with a host of new regulatory controls and legislation designed to ensure accurate and timely disclosure, transparent reporting, and ethical accountability. For example, to ensure compliance with ethical standards, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 requires top management of corporations to certify the accuracy of financial statements and reports (Clark, 2004). It also eliminates senior management's ability to profit personally from misstated financial reporting. New rules and guidelines by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the Office of Inspectors General, Government Accounting office, the Public Company accounting Oversight Board, and the Securities and Exchange Commission have introduced more stringent accountability requirements and stiffer penalties for corporate wrong-doing (Clark, 2004).

As business leaders strive to comply with the new laws and regulations, they are also working to restore public trust in U.S. firms. A 2002 Gallup International poll revealed that levels of trust in business were exceedingly low. Only 33% of respondents had either 'a lot' or 'some' trust in business leaders (Roussouw, 2004). In 2003, a Zogby Poll of college seniors revealed that 56% of respondents believed "the only real difference between executives at Enron and those of other big companies is that those at Enron got caught" (Goodpaster 2004).

Clearly, organizations do not work in isolation and there is a need for them to find pertinent ways to improve their decision making (Stainer, 2004). Employing a case-study approach, this paper presents a synergistic mentoring model, Strategic Collaboration and applies it to ethical decision making. The model blends elements of mentoring with Appreciative Inquiry (Cooperrider, 2001), which focuses on applied ethics, provides business leaders with a framework and a process for decision making. The effectiveness of the framework is assessed using Empowerment Evaluation, an innovative technique that supports capacity building within organizations.

Mentoring and Ethical Decision Making

To compete successfully and govern effectively, business leaders must develop new skills in strategic and multicultural collaboration (Jelinek and Adler, 1987). Situations continually arise in which business leaders must make decisions that may involve conflicting value systems, regulations or practices (Kamberg, 2001). For organizations to be competitive and sustainable, leaders must demonstrate appropriate levels of responsibility (Smith and Sharma, 2002). Research indicates that the attitudes, practices and decision making processes of business leaders are critical in determining and maintaining the ethical climate of an organization (Clinard, 1983).

It is not enough for corporations to comply with the law by simply developing codes of ethics; they must provide ethics training programs and guidelines for employees and managers, and sustain positive, ethical work environments (Victor and Cullen, 1988).

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