Mapping the Territory
Joanna B. Ciulla
We live in a world where leaders are often morally disappointing. Meticulous biographers sometimes diminish the image of great leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., and George Washington by probing their ethical shortcomings. It's difficult to have heroes in a world where every wart and wrinkle of a person's life are public. Ironically, the increase in information that we have about leaders has increased the confusion over the ethics of leadership. The more defective our leaders, the greater our longing to have highly ethical leaders. The ethical issues of leadership not only are found in public debates but lie simmering below the surface of the existing leadership literature.
Most scholars and practitioners who write about leadership genuflect at the altar of ethics and speak with hushed reverence about its importance to leadership. Somewhere in almost any book devoted to the subject, one finds either a few sentences, paragraphs, pages, or even a chapter on how integrity and strong ethical values are crucial to leadership. Yet, given the central role of ethics in the practice of leadership, it's remarkable that there has been little in the way of sustained and systematic treatment of the subject by scholars. A literature search of 1800 article abstracts from psychology, business, religion, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and political science yielded only a handful of articles that offered any in-depth discussion of ethics and leadership.