Ethics: The Heart of Leadership

By Joanne B. Ciulla | Go to book overview
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by providing an emotional intermediary that salvages the power of fear and love but dispenses with the liabilities of both: the hatred generated by fear; the fickleness invited by love. But charisma serves this purpose only by introducing opacities and misunderstandings of its own. Thus I have suggested, albeit briefly, that trust would be a much better emotional vehicle for the discussion of leadership than charisma.

Can an evil leader be an effective leader? It is tempting to reject the stipulative definition: that is, define a "leader" or a "good / effective leader" as an "ethical leader," thus stipulating Koresh and Hitler out of consideration. But making ethics a necessary condition for leadership simply begs the question, What distinguishes between good and bad (even evil) leaders? The second temptation to avoid is a pseudo-Weberian religious analysis, such that the quality of charisma, which is deemed essential to true leadership, is by its very nature "blessed." We know (as did Weber) that the voice of God seems to be heard by some very unlikely and unlikable ears. For a good discussion of this, see R. Heifetz, Leadership without Easy Answers ( Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994).
One can often choose to be a follower without being chosen, but one cannot be a leader without being chosen, in some sense, to lead (even those who, in Shakespeare's phrase, have leadership "thrust upon them").
I have benefited from several excellent books in the field: Heifetz; Jay A. Conger , The Charismatic Leader ( San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1989); and, of course, James MacGregor Burns, Leadership ( New York: Harper, 1978).
For example, Heifetz, who begins Leadership without Easy Answers with "Leadership arouses passions", 13. Conger remarks, "They [charismatic leaders] touch our emotions,"xi.
Robert C. Solomon, The Passions ( New York: Doubleday, 1976; Indianapolis: Hackett, 1993).
The role of emotionality in leadership, as opposed to emotions, is complex. An interesting illustration is crying, an explicit display of becoming emotional. Senator Ed Muskie reputedly lost his bid for the Democratic nomination for the presidency when he cried at a press conference during the primaries. Jimmy Carter cried upon losing the 1980 election to Ronald Reagan; his act was treated with considerable disdain. Congresswoman Pat Schroeder cried in public about the same time, but reactions were more mixed, ranging from "just like a woman" to "crying shows strength."
See Joseph C. Rost, Leadership for the Twenty-First Century ( New York: Praeger, 1991).
In fact, I would argue that the misguided search for definitions in the social sciences more often paralyzes than clarifies research. Precipitous attempts at definition distort and falsify both hypotheses and data and provoke debates that, by the very nature of the case, cannot be resolved before the research is well under way. The hidden model here, I believe, is that of Socrates, developed twenty-five hundred years ago. Socrates also searched by definitions, but he believed that a definition


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Ethics: The Heart of Leadership


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