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Ethical leadership is the application of the principles and morals by leaders that can lead to the common good of the organization and its employees. The leaders that adopt this form of leadership make sure that all the team members are involved in the leadership and decision-making process so that suitable and acceptable leadership decisions are taken in the process. This reflective essay on ethical leadership has mainly focused on an ethical leadership dilemma that I had faced in the past. Before presenting the scenario I want to form a framework for the readers so that they can understand the different approaches that an ethical leader can adopt to ensure that all the ethical aspects are taken into consideration (, 2017).

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Ethical leadership

As a team member, I believe an ethical leader can appropriately perform his duties and responsibilities only if his ethical way of thinking activates both his cognitive area of the brain and his emotional area of the brain. According to Jonathon Haidt’s social intuitionist model, both logical and emotional considerations must be involved in the process so that good ethical choices can be made as a leader. The decision-making guidelines can help leaders to make better ethical choices in life (Haidt, 2001).

Ethical leadership perspectives

Different ethical perspectives can be adopted in an ethical leadership scenario. The Western ethical perspectives include the utilitarian model, categorical imperative model, justice model, pragmatism model, and altruism model. All these ethical perspectives help me to strengthen the final productivity of the ultimate ethical leadership approach. The Utilitarianism perspective makes sure that the greatest good is done for the greatest number of people.

According to Kant (1724–1804), people should do what is morally right in a specific situation no matter its consequences (Kantian Ethics, 2017). Kant’s Categorical Imperative states that there are always exceptions in every universal law and this situation gets worse during stressful situations (Wood, 2007). The theory of justice was introduced by John Rawls who stated that the principles of justice must be adopted by the social institutions so that there is fairness in the society. The pragmatism perspective was supported by Dewey who believed that scientific methods could be adopted to solve ethical dilemmas. According to the Altruism perspective, an individual should help others regardless of whether or not he benefits from doing so. According to Kanungo and Mendonca, leaders must concerned for others than their followers since they have the power to make a positive change in the organizational setting (Kanungo & Mendonca, 1996).

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Ethical Leadership situation

According to Jones (1991), in decision-making formats, several steps can be adopted including recognizing the problem, determining the participants or the actors, gathering the necessary facts, testing for right-versus-wrong issues, testing for right-versus-right values, applying the ethical standards and perspectives, looking for a third way, making the decision and revisiting and reflecting the particular leadership decision (Jones, 1991).

I was involved in an ethical dilemma, and it was a crucial learning experience for me because it concerned not just me but all my team members (Leader: Johnny & team member: Harry. A couple of months ago when I reached my office I came across a disgruntled worker named Harry who seemed very irritated. I approached him so that he could share his issues with me. Even though I was quite friendly with him, he seemed somewhat disoriented and was not willing to talk much. Then I saw that he was holding an automatic gun in his hand. I was near the door and I did not know what exact step I should take. My rational thinking had taken the back seat and I did not know whether I should warn the other employees who were sitting in their respective cubicles or make my escape. One part of my mind was telling me to escape the entire situation by using the elevator but I knew that I had to take a stand at that point since my team members always looked up to me. So I decided to rationalize the situation by talking to the employee. I did not let him know that I knew about his gun. I asked him to sit on the adjacent chair so that we could talk for a brief time.

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He obliged my request and we talked about general things like life and work. He was gradually opening up to me. Then he started saying that he was getting depressed in the office due to the work pressure and no incentives (HRPeople, 2017). Since he was a subordinate I tried to tell him the various things the leaders need to consider while designing the incentive scheme. Since the leaders are also mere employees, they need to follow the set rules and policies of the organization otherwise they could get fired by the organization. The conversation had a positive impact on him since he was also trying to grasp how organizations worked (Donlevy  & Walker, 2011).

Then he placed his weapon on the table and said that he was extremely disturbed that morning and he was about to take a drastic step when I started conversing with him. I spoke to him as a friend so that he would feel comfortable then I told him to collect it at the security office and collect it before leaving the office. I believe a major mishap was avoided on the office grounds because I knew the responsibilities and duties of an ethical leader. It was a crucial learning experience for me as well since I realized that a leader should also act as a friend, philosopher, and guide for his team so that the employees can look up to him.

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Ethical leadership is highly significant in the organizational setting since it has a vital influence on the followers and the entire organization. My ethical dilemma situation taught me to be a better leader who takes ethical responsibilities seriously so that the team members and the firm can prosper in any kind of setting. The leader must review the situation and take ethical decisions and actions so that the well-being of the employees is ensured in the organizational setting.

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References (2017). BBC – Ethics – Introduction to ethics: Ethics: a general introduction. Retrieved 4 December 2017, from

Donlevy, J. K., & Walker, K. D. (2011). Leadership and ethics. In Working through ethics in education and leadership (pp. 9-20). SensePublishers.

Jones, T. M. (1991). Ethical decision making by individuals in organizations: An issue-contingent model. Academy of Management Review, 16(2), 366-395.

Haidt, J. (2001). The emotional dog and its rational tail: a social intuitionist approach to moral judgment. Psychological review, 108(4), 814.

Kanungo, R. N., & Mendonca, M. (1996). Ethical dimensions of leadership (Vol. 3). Sage.

KANTIAN ETHICS. (2017). Retrieved 4 December 2017, from

Wood, A. W. (2007). Kantian ethics. Cambridge University Press.

HRPeople. (2017). What Would You Do? 20 Ethical Dilemmas for Leaders. Retrieved 4 December 2017, from

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