Πέμπτη, 24 Μαΐου 2018

The Ethical Downside of Having Highly Loyal Leaders

By  Jennifer Deal, May 23, 2018
 The Leadership Report of The Wall Street Journal

The Ethical Downside of Having Highly Loyal Leaders

One of the hallmarks of leadership is closely identifying with the company’s mission and reputation. But the closeness, loyalty, and ownership that leaders feel with their companies may be just as bad for an organization as having leaders who don’t see themselves as intimately connected.


How can this be? It turns out that leaders who strongly identify with their organization—the leaders who would be described as exceptionally committed and loyal—are also the ones less likely to see or take action to address unethical behavior. In fact, recent research suggests that when leaders gain power, they are less likely to object to unethical behavior. Especially loyal leaders are less likely to engage in “principled dissent” to halt and correct bad behavior.
Leaders often say that their perspective reflects a broader scale of challenges and problems that are causing them to rate the ethical lapse as less consequential (the I have bigger fish to fry deflection).
What’s revealing is that research shows only high-ranking individuals who strongly identify with the organization are affected in this way. Both loyal, committed employees at lower levels who identify with the organization and those at higher levels who don’t identify as strongly with the organization are more likely to want to take action to expunge a black mark on the organization’s ethical balance sheet.
This is a big problem for organizations, because the very leaders who are responsible for setting the ethical tone in the organization may also be less likely to see or act on lapses that employees at lower levels in the organization clearly identify as problematic. As a result, highly committed leaders and employees end up in conflicts about ethical issues. Simply put, employees see something as unethical that the leaders don’t identify as such. And those employees then  often start to wonder what other unethical behavior the leaders are condoning—or engaging in themselves—that have not yet come to light.
Leaders need to recognize that the understandable urge to protect the organization may in fact be doing the opposite if it prevents them from engaging on ethical issues. Part of a leader’s job is to behave in a way that people lower in the organization respect and feel they can rely on. If employees lower in the organization believe that the leader is not dealing effectively with ethical issues—regardless of whether or not the leader sees bigger fish elsewhere—the leader is failing.
The question for the organization—and for leaders—is how to balance commitment and loyalty with confronting bad behavior where it exists. To address this, organizations need to think about promoting individuals who demonstrate independence of thought, rather than simple loyalty. Rather than rewarding agreeableness, reward principled dissent. Promote those who ask the difficult questions and don’t let issues slide. This is difficult for leaders to do because it can slow down work processes, but prioritizing amiability isn’t going to fix organizational issues with ethics.
Only when talent and management skills are balanced with independence of mind, allowing leaders to step outside of the consensus and engage in principled dissent, will the organization be best represented and protected while keeping an internal peace among organizational loyalists at every level.

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