Leadership Ethics And Team Leadership

Please read the BMW article and the Lakshmi article.   Review the weekly lesson (attached to files).   Also read (llink) Chapter 6 pages 158-165  (attached in files) in the Dugan text.

BMW Article (attached in files)

Lakshmi Article (attached in files)

Videos to view:

Then review the week seven lesson in the lessons section of the classroom.    Specifically, review the Case Study on Ethics in that lesson.  

Then choose one of the following two questions to answer for this week’s forum:

1 –  After reviewing the Case Study on Ethics in the lesson section of the classroom, answer the four questions presented at the end of that case study. 


2-  If you were a supervisor in a large corporation and you have just selected eight of your employees to sit on a team to propose a new procedure for the production line, what steps would you, as team leader, take to help increase the team’s effectiveness. 

Instructions:  Your initial post should be at least 250 words, not including repeated questions, references and quotes.  Please respond to at least two other students.  Responses should be a minimum of 100 words and include direct questions.  Use your own words.   Direct quotes should be rare in these short forum posts. 

Ethics and Team Leadership

Previous lessons in this course have focused on how leadership is developed. These lessons have considered both theories and models of leadership that argue people who have certain personality traits can become leaders as well as theories and models that argue that individuals can learn to be leaders provided they have the appropriate training and experience. These lessons also have reviewed different types of leadership as well as relationship dynamics between leaders and followers.

This lesson will consider a different perspective of leadership—the importance of good ethical behavior on the part of individuals in leadership positions. This lesson will review several approaches to ethics and explain the impact of using ethics to guide the decision-making process.

In addition to providing information about ethics and how it pertains to leadership, this lesson will also consider leadership in a team setting, whereby a leader needs to guide and motivate a team to work together to achieve a common goal. This lesson will explain how this is accomplished.


· Appraise individual leadership and motivation skills to facilitate improvements.

· Analyze leadership/follower relationships and appropriate behaviors for workplace situations.

To understand a discussion of ethics and how it pertains to leadership, it helps to define  ethics . Like other concepts, including leadership, how ethics is defined depends on who is defining it. In addition to what the textbook for this course offers for definitions of ethics, the following are just a few examples of definitions proposed by scholars.

· Leys (1943) defined ethics as “the art of making wise choices” (Leys 1943, 10).

· Frederickson (1997) compared the practice of ethics to the practice of administration, or management. He said, “the realm of ethics is a world of philosophy, values, and morals, while administration is one of decisions and actions. Ethics will search for right and wrong, while administration must get the job done. Ethics is abstract, while administrative practices are irremediably concrete” (Frederickson 1997, 157).

· Bruce (2001) defined ethics as “the study of the nature of morals and moral choices and the rules governing a profession that define professional conduct” (Bruce 2001, xiii).

· Cooper (2006) said that ethics involves analyzing the beliefs and values used to justify morality. Ethics “considers what is meant by principles such as justice, veracity, or the public interest; their implications for conduct in particular situations; and how one might argue for one principle over another as determinative in a particular decision” (Cooper 2006, 2).

When ethics is considered in relation to leadership, scholars often use descriptions of what constitutes an  ethical leader , making the concept of ethics pertinent to the practice of leadership. For example:

· According to Brown and Trevino (2006), ethical leaders are honest, trustworthy, fair, and principled in their decision-making. They behave ethically in their personal as well as their professional lives, and they care about people.

· Toor and Ofori (2009) described ethical leaders as individuals who “engage in acts and behaviors that benefit others and at the same time, they refrain from behaviors that can cause any harm to others…Ethical leadership, in its true sense, promotes ethical conduct by practicing, as well as consciously managing, ethics and holding everyone within the organization accountable for it” (Toor and Ofori 2009, 534-535).

· Johnson (2009) said that ethical leaders practice moral behavior and use their influence to mold the ethical framework of the groups, organizations, and societies to which they belong. An ethical leader exhibits character traits such as justice, courage, compassion, humility, and optimism. They also make wise decisions and effectively handle ethical challenges that confront them. In addition, they will be responsible for the ethical behavior of their followers, providing an ethical role model for these individuals.

The Importance of Ethical Leadership

Why is ethical leadership important? Several scholars argue that organizations without ethical leadership are destined for failure. For example, according to Collins (2009), when an organization does not have ethical leadership, its employees are demoralized and the public learns to distrust the organization, ultimately leading to the organization’s demise.

Why would unethical leadership lead to such dire circumstances? According to Mendonca and Kanungo (2007), this occurs because employees who work for unethical leaders are more likely to practice unethical behavior themselves, creating an unethical culture throughout the organization and making it more likely that unethical behavior will occur. Mendonca and Kanungo (2007) argued that, at a minimum, even if employees do not become unethical themselves, when they work for an unethical leader, they will not be motivated to perform their work in a way that promotes the organization’s best interests. Thus, unethical leadership creates a culture that undermines the organization and hinders its success.

To better understand the importance of ethics and leadership, it is helpful to consider theoretical approaches to ethics. In this lesson, we review three—egoism, utilitarianism, and altruism.

Egoism , which focuses on the individual, is a basic ethical theory. It argues that when faced with decisions, those who practice egoism are most concerned about how the outcome of the decision will affect them personally. According to Collins (2009), egoists consider any action that furthers their own self-interest to be morally right. They perceive actions that conflict with their self-interest to be morally wrong.

As leaders, when making decisions, an egoist selects options that create the greatest good for himself or herself. This is particularly true in situations where leaders are rewarded for their success. For example, the supervisor of a sales team will make every effort to motivate the team to perform as well as possible if doing so will yield personal benefits for the leader, such as greater commissions.

For an egoist in a leadership position, the focus is on himself or herself, and how his or her subordinates can work to achieve the greatest good that benefits the leader. Since egotistical leaders are most concerned about themselves, their actions may not result in the most ethical behavior possible. As Collins (2009) explained, egotistical leaders care more about themselves than they do about the good of their organizations. To understand why this can be an issue, consider an organization where resources are scarce. Egotistical leaders will fight for meager assets, such as limited office space or budget funds, even if they recognize that when these resources are provided to their departments or units, it is not in the best interest of the organization. They do not care about that. They care only that their own interests are furthered.


When someone practices  utilitarianism , he or she focuses on actions that result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people. They seek to maximize social benefits while minimizing social costs. In other words, ethical decisions should be made on the basis of their consequences. An action is regarded as ethical provided it is the option that benefits the greatest number of people, while bringing harm to the fewest number of people possible, and does so for a minimal cost. An action is regarded as unethical if it harms or brings little or no benefit to the majority of those affected.

For example, to apply this ethical theory to leadership, assume that the president of a condominium association is asked by his friends to spend money on resurfacing tennis courts. He considers this but decides against it. The association has limited funding for such projects. He decides that the better option is to spend money on enhancements that make the condominiums safer, such as a gate that requires a passcode to allow entry into the premises. This will benefit everyone who lives in the condominiums, whereas resurfacing the tennis courts will benefit only a few of those who reside there.

Consider some of the pros and cons of the utilitarian approach, as described by the following researchers.

According to Johnson (2009), utilitarianism is a popular theory of ethics to guide those in leadership positions. It is easy to understand, and it leads to results that usually benefit a large number of people. It requires leaders to carefully examine their options and consider the costs and benefits of the outcomes.

However, utilitarianism can be a challenging approach to ethics because it may be difficult to fully evaluate options and understand their consequences. Leaders may take certain actions, anticipating positive results, only to find that their actions have unexpected—and unwanted—outcomes.

According to Mendonca and Kanungo (2007), another problem with utilitarianism is it allows for the ends to justify the means. When leaders use utilitarianism to support their actions, they may justify their actions, or means, by arguing that as long as the end result is positive and benefits the greatest number of people, it does not matter how they achieve that result. This may encourage some leaders to practice less than ethical behavior if they believe the end result is important enough that they can justify even unethical actions.

According to Collins (2009), utilitarianism is a morally superior guide to ethical behavior over egotism. As he explains, under utilitarianism, everyone is considered an equal and the best interests of the organization are more important than the self-interests of leaders or others in the organization. As such, when leaders make decisions using utilitarianism as guidance, they strive to make decisions that benefit the organization as a whole.

According to Mendonca and Kanungo (2007),  altruism  can be defined as behavior that is intended to benefit others without any expectation of being rewarded. In the context of leadership, altruistic leaders promote the best interests of others, including their subordinates, even if doing so is contrary to his or her self-interest.

For example, assume that the president of the condominium association discussed previously in this lesson is an avid golfer. As noted before, his association has limited funding. The condominiums have a need for both a new swimming pool as well as new golf carts but can only afford to purchase one of these items. Personally, the president would prefer new golf carts. But he knows that the majority of the condominium residents use the swimming pool while only a few use the golf course and would benefit from golf carts. As such, spending money for the swimming pool will benefit a greater number of the condominium residents. The president opts to do this, even though it goes against his own self-interest. As such, he made this decision on an altruistic basis.

Johnson (2009) explains that when leaders practice altruism, they are other-centered as opposed to self-centered. They strive to take actions that help others, making their subordinates and others who benefit from their actions the ends, rather than a means to an end (Johnson 2009, 153).

Johnson (2009) also points out that when leaders practice altruism, their actions tend to benefit their organizations, helping to achieve organizational goals, more so than leaders who practice other types of ethics, such as egoism. Altruistic leaders try harder to create a workplace that supports and benefits their subordinates, and may give power away as part of their efforts. By contrast, leaders who are more self-centered, such as those who practice egoism, will work harder to retain power and control subordinates. Johnson (2009) argued that subordinates prefer to work for altruistic leaders over other types of leaders, such as egoists.

When making decisions, leaders must assess the short- and long-term consequences of each decision. To do this ethically, leaders should practice the following:

Respect  – To exercise respect, leaders should listen closely to their subordinates, be empathic, and express tolerance of opposing points of view.

Honesty  – This requires leaders to be authentic, as well as sensitive to the attitudes and feelings of others.

Community  – When they practice community, leaders consider the purposes of each subordinate and others in their organization, and they are attentive to the interests of the community, including the organizational culture.

Perceived Leader Integrity Scale (PLIS)

Perceived Leader Integrity Scale (PLIS) is an instrument that can be used to access a leader’s integrity and ethics. It also can help determine if a leader has any destructive behaviors. Industrial organizational psychologists at Virginia Tech University and North Carolina State University developed the instrument as a research tool to study leadership ethics. It also has professional development applications as it helps a leader better understand his or her strengths and weaknesses regarding personal integrity and ethics.

The PLIS has both a short and long version. The short version has been tested and determined to yield reliable results. For each statement on the instrument, those rating a specific leader are asked to use a scale from 0 to 3 where 0 is not at all, 1 is barely, 2 is somewhat and 3 is often. Examples of statements on the instrument include “would allow someone else to be blamed for his/her mistake” and “would deliberately distort what other people say.”

Case Study on Ethics

Elizabeth has recently begun a new position as the leader of a research team for a major university’s political science department. Her team handles survey research for the university, generally to learn about the public’s perceptions and attitudes regarding political issues such as gay marriage and gun control. After her team completes each survey, they always write a paper detailing their research results, and these papers are distributed to the public, including to political leaders and news outlets. As the team leader, Elizabeth’s name always appears as the author of the papers, along with the names of team members who contributed the most to the research efforts.

Recently, the major news outlets have given a lot of attention to gun control. Elizabeth’s team is currently conducting a telephone survey about gun control, and they have some interesting results that support some of the contentions made by politicians and pundits on cable news networks. Elizabeth is pushing her team to cut the survey short so they can publish their paper. She thinks that if they release the paper while gun control is being debated in the news, this would garner a lot of attention for the university, especially herself. She might even have the opportunity to appear on one of the major news shows to discuss the survey results. For years, Elizabeth has dreamed of being interviewed on television. Now, she sees her chance.

Her team abides by her wishes and cuts the survey short, calling only 800 people, rather than the 1,000 needed to have a statistically valid sample. They prepare their paper, noting they surveyed 800 people but omitting the fact that their sample was not large enough to be statistically valid. The paper is released and Elizabeth goes on television to give an interview with a well-known political commentator. Her dream is realized.


1. Based on this information, what type of ethics is Elizabeth practicing—egoism, utilitarianism, or altruism? Why do you categorize her ethics this way?

2. Do you agree or disagree with the way Elizabeth handled this situation? What should she have done differently?

3. Do you agree or disagree with the way her team handled this situation? What should her team have done differently?

4. If the team had completed the research as originally planned and released their paper later, they might have missed the opportunity to have their paper discussed on national news. Should this be a consideration in this situation? Why or why not?

What Constitutes a Team?

To understand team leadership, it is useful to recognize what constitutes a  team . Johnson and Johnson (2009) argue that just because a group of individuals work together, it does not necessarily mean they are a team. They explain that organizations may have committees, task forces, departments, and councils that work together. But these usually are groups, not teams.

So, what is a team? According to Johnson and Johnson (2009) a team can be defined as “a set of interpersonal interactions structured to achieve established goals” (Johnson and Johnson 2009, 526). To further explain this, they state that teams consist of two or more individuals who have the following characteristics:

Specific Duties: Each team member has specific duties and responsibilities

Interactive: Frequent interactions while in the process of working towards these goals

Limited Life Span: Membership on the team has a limited life span

Interdependence: Positive interdependence as they endeavor to achieve common goals

Awareness: An awareness of who is, as well as who is not, a member of the team

Team Leadership

Like all types of groups in the workplace, teams must have leadership. According to Yukl (2006), the quality of leadership in teams is a key determinant of whether the team will be successful. He explained that when a team has effective leadership, this helps ensure the team will use the appropriate processes to achieve goals and objectives, as well as avoid problematic processes that will not work well.

Teams work differently than subordinates acting alone and, as such, team leadership requires a different approach from other types of leadership. A team leader still provides direction, instructions and guidance to a group of subordinates to support them as they strive to achieve a certain task or goal. But in teams, the leader must interact more closely with subordinates while empowering them to get the job done. Collins (2009) argues that to be effective, teams must display five characteristics:

Trust  – According to Collins (2009), effective teams include members who trust one another completely to the point that they do not mind being vulnerable with one another, being open about their weaknesses, mistakes, and fears.

Conflict  – When a team operates optimally, they will not fear conflict. Instead, they embrace it and are willing to question each other, disagreeing and challenging one another as they strive to do their best possible work.

Commitment  – Effective teams are committed to one another, and this includes having confidence that they are working together to find the best ways to achieve the work and the most effective solutions to problems.

Accountability  – When a team is effective, the members hold one another accountable for their actions. This includes not relying on the team leader to provide accountability. Instead, each member of the team is equally accountable for the team’s successes and failures.

Other-Centeredness  – Teams that have trust, embrace conflict, commit to each other, and hold each other accountable also tend to put their self-interests aside to achieve goals that benefit the team and their organization as a whole. They are more concerned about collective benefits than personal rewards.

Team Performance

Effective team performance begins with the leader mentally modeling the team’s status and then determining if the team and its situation requires action or monitoring. To achieve this, the leader takes the following steps:

· Gathers information about the team and its situation. To determine what action and/or monitoring is needed for the team, the leader analyzes and evaluates this information.

· Considers the tasks and abilities of each team member to determine what level of involvement the team requires from the leader.

· Monitors the team’s progress. If the leader thinks the team is taking missteps, the leader must intervene to change the team’s operations and set it on a course that is more likely to achieve success.

To help a team be effective, one of the leader’s most important jobs is facilitation, which is the process of providing assistance to help teams be effective and achieve success. To facilitate, a leader should do the following:

· Correctly evaluate the team’s performance to determine whether intervention by the leader is necessary.

· If intervention is necessary, the leader must assess the issues, which can be external or internal.

· As needed, the leader uses the following tools to get the team on track:

· Restructure plans, processes, team member roles, etc. to achieve desired results and meet goals.

· Guide the decision-making process so that better information is obtained and coordination is better, focusing on issues facing the team.

· Coach team members.

· Use more collaborative methods to involve all team members in the team’s decision-making processes and work.

· Manage conflict.

· Share information with the team.

Team Excellence and Collaborative Team Leader Questionnaire

To help team leaders, as well as team members, evaluate their team and determine how effective the team is, leaders and members can take the Team Excellence and Collaborative Team Leader Questionnaire. The questionnaire results highlight a team’s strengths and weaknesses, helping leaders and members understand what changes may be needed to make the team more effective.

Individuals who answer the questionnaire are asked to use a rating scale of 1 to 4, where 1 is false, 2 is more false than true, 3 is more true than false, and 4 is true. Examples of statements on the questionnaire include “Team members possess the essential skills and abilities to accomplish the team’s objectives” and “Our team exerts pressure on itself to improve performance.”

Case Study on Team Leadership

Gerald is a manager at a fitness center that offers its members access to weight lifting equipment, fitness machines such as treadmills, a swimming pool, and classes such as yoga. The center has over a dozen employees who work independently, teaching classes, serving as personal trainers, and maintaining the facilities. In recent months, the center has lost over twenty percent of its membership. Gerald’s supervisor, the owner of the center, has asked him to put together a team to study the center’s market and determine how the center can boost membership. Gerald is given the option of using current employees at the center or hiring consultants.

Gerald decides that the center’s employees probably have a better understanding of the center than consultants, and he hand picks six employees to conduct the study. He gives them 90 days to do market research and produce a report detailing their findings. He leaves it up to them to decide how to achieve this.

Two weeks later, Gerald sits in on a team meeting. He learns that the team has accomplished very little, and the team members are just barely on speaking terms. Gerald has taken a hands off approach to leading the team. But clearly, this is not working out. Gerald returns to his office to ponder the situation and decide how to get the team back on track.


1. In your opinion, what did Gerald do wrong when he set up this team? If you were advising him, what recommendations would you make?

2. What steps should Gerald follow to get the team back on track?

3. What advice would you offer to the team?

Lesson Overview

Since leaders usually have more power than their subordinates, ethics is a major consideration in making decisions that will affect others. As leaders are central to creating organizational culture, they need to be aware of the morals and beliefs which they support. There has been an increasing need for team leaders and as a result organizations have looked to the team leadership model. Reviewing this model shows us that the major function of leadership is to monitor and evaluate the team in order to facilitate the most effective team performance. It is important to understand both ethics and team leadership in order to become a successful leader.