Enduring Leadership Approaches

To close our chapter, let’s look at two timeless leadership approaches that are gaining re- newed attention in today’s environment of ethical scandals and weakened employee trust. Characteristics of servant leadership and moral leadership can be successfully used by lead- ers in all situations to make a positive difference.


Some leaders operate from the assumption  that work exists for the development of the worker as much as the worker exists to do the work.60  For example, a young David  Packard, who co- founded Hewlett-Packard,  made a spectacle of himself in 1949 by standing up in a roomful of business leaders and arguing that companies had a responsibility  to recognize the dignity and worth of their employees and share the wealth with those who helped to create it.61

The concept of servant leadership, first described by Robert Greenleaf, is leadership up- side down,  because leaders transcend self-interest to serve others and the organization.62

Servant leaders operate on two levels: for the fulfillment of their subordinates’ goals and needs and for the realization of the larger purpose or mission of their organization. Servant leaders give things  away—power, ideas, information, recognition, credit for accomplish- ments, even money. Harry Stine, founder of Stine Seed Company  in Adel, Iowa, casually announced to his employees at the company’s annual post-harvest luncheon  that they would each receive $1,000 for each year they had worked at the company. For some loyal workers, that amounted to a $20,000  bonus.63    Servant leaders truly value other people. They are trustworthy,  and they trust others. They encourage participation,  share power, enhance others’ self-worth,  and unleash people’s creativity, full commitment,  and natural impulse to learn and contribute.  Servant leaders can bring their followers’ higher motives to the work and connect their hearts to the organizational mission and goals.

Servant leaders often work in the nonprofit world because it offers a natural way to apply their leadership drive and skills to serve others. But servant leaders also succeed in business. George Merck believed the purpose of a corporation was to do something useful. At Merck & Co., he insisted that people always come before profits.  By insisting on serving people rather than profits,  Merck  shaped a company that averaged 15 percent earnings growth  for an amazing 75 years.64


Another enduring  issue in leadership is its moral component.  Because leadership  can be used for good or evil, to help or to harm others, all leadership  has a moral component. Lead- ers carry a tremendous responsibility to use their power wisely and ethically. Sadly, in recent years, too many have chosen to act from self-interest and greed rather than behaving in ways that serve and uplift others. The disheartening ethical climate in American business has led to a renewed   interest in moral leadership. Moral leadership is about distinguishing right from wrong and choosing to do right. It means seeking the just, the honest, the good, and the decent behavior in the practice of leadership.65  Moral leaders remember that busi- ness is about values, not just economic performance.

Distinguishing the right thing to do is not always easy, and doing  it is sometimes even harder. Leaders are often faced with right-versus-right decisions, in which  several respon- sibilities conflict with one another.66  Commitments  to superiors, for example, may mean a leader  feels the need to hide unpleasant news about pending  layoffs from followers. Moral leaders strive to find the moral answer or compromise, rather than taking the easy way out. Consider Katherine Graham, the long-time  leader of The Washington Post, when she was confronted with a decision  in 1971 about what to do with the Pentagon Papers, a leaked Defense Department  study that showed Nixon administration  deceptions about the Vietnam War. Graham  admitted  she was terrified—she  knew she was risking the whole company on the decision, possibly inviting prosecution under the Espionage Act, and jeopardizing thousands of employees’ jobs. She decided to go ahead with the story, and reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein made Watergate—and The Washington Post—a household name.67

Clearly, moral leadership requires courage, the ability to step forward through fear and act on one’s values and conscience. Leaders often behave unethically  simply because they lack courage. Most people want to be liked, and it is easy to do the wrong thing to fit in or impress others. One example might be a leader who holds his tongue to “fit in with the guys” when  colleagues are telling sexually or racially offensive jokes. Moral leaders summon the fortitude to do the right thing, even if it is unpopular. Standing up for what is right is the primary way in which  leaders create an environment of honesty, trust, and integrity in the organization.

Source: Daft Richard L., Marcic Dorothy (2009), Understanding Management, South-Western College Pub; 8th edition.

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