Ethical Challenges in the Leader-Follower Relationship
Edwin P. Hollander
Various streams of thought have converged on the concept of leadership as a process rather than a person or state. This process is essentially a shared experience, a voyage through time, with benefits to be gained and hazards to be surmounted by the parties involved. A leader is not a sole voyager, but a key figure whose actions or inactions can determine others' well-being and the broader good. It is not too much to say that communal social health, as well as achieving a desired destination, are largely influenced by a leader's decisions and the information and values upon which they are based.
The leadership process is therefore especially fraught with ethical challenges. Hodgkinson ( 1983) considers leadership to be "intrinsically valuational," as "philosophy-in-action." He says, "Logic may set limits for and parameters within the field of value action but value phenomena determine what occurs within the field. They are indeed the essential constituents of the field of executive action. . . . If this were not true then leadership behaviour could be routinized and, ultimately, computerized" (p. 202). Gardner ( 1990), too, sees values as part of "the moral framework that permits us to judge some purposes as good and others as bad" in leadership (pp. 66-67). Rost ( 1991) stresses the place of ethics in leadership regarding both process and ends.