Leadership Ethics at Work: More Than Mere Talk

Article excerpt

One of the first things to know about ethical leadership in business is that the subject is greater than a collection of interesting anecdotes about good and bad CEO behavior dissected in a classroom.

Conveying that concept with clarity is important to Mitchell Neubert as he leads students through concepts in his Principled Leadership classes. The associate professor of Management and Entrepreneurship offers a focused picture of an ethical leader as a person who encourages workers to speak up when something on the iob is wrong, someone who promotes an environment in which people enjoy going to work.

If anyone needs more explanation than "leading ethically is the right thing to do," Neubert offers this: "RESEARCH SHOWS THAT ETHICAL LEADERSHIP IS CRITICALLY IMPORTANT TO THE SUCCESS AND VIABILITY OF AN ORGANIZATION. It's more than just a nice idea to discuss."

Still, discussions about different kinds of leadership and leadership styles make up an important part of Neubert's upper-level class, which mostly attracts business majors but sometimes draws in others interested in ethical leadership, such as students in the Academy for Leader Development and Civic Engegement who study leadership from a Christian worldview.

"I try to make the class practical as well as conceptual," said Neubert, who holds the Chavanne Chair of Christian Ethics in Business. His discussions of leadership styles include talking about the meaning of a servant leader and how to lead situationally. He also looks at working in groups and leading from within groups.

"We also spend quite a bit of time on the ethics of a leader and how those ethics apply to the decisions a person makes as a leader," he said. Here, students must find and report on recent ethical failures in business and analyze the results of poor ethical decision-making.

Bad decisions do not have to be mammoth failures, such as News Corporation's cellphone hacking scandal, but they do have to be relevant. For example, in a similar exercise in an Executive MBA class, one of Neubert's students used an example of an employee fired for inappropriate use of social media.

"That was a small, individual type of behavior, not systemic like News Corp.," Neubert said. "Examples don't have to be limited to large corporations because it's not just a corporation that has ethical failures."

Also part of his classes are "leadership cafes" in which local leaders talk to students about their own leadership styles and ethical challenges. They discuss the actions they take to incorporate their values at work.

"I want to expose students to real world challenges in addition to what they are reading in academic literature," Neubert added.

In the fall semester, Neubert encourages his students to attend Baylor's Dale P. Jones Business Ethics Forum events. This two-week-long forum offers students opportunities to hear from national, recognized business leaders and participate in competitions that assess their own ethical decision-making.

During the spring semester, Neubert sends his students to the business school's Paul J. Meyer Christian Leadership in Business Speaker Series, a one-day event. …