A SEMINAR PRESENTATION BY UKAOBI JESSICA CHINYERE TOPIC: STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP AND DECISION-MAKING: ETHICS AND VALUES APRIL, 2010 INTRODUCTION Values and ethics are central to any organization. What exactly do we mean by values and ethics? Both are extremely broad terms, and we need to focus in on the aspects most relevant for strategic leaders and decision makers.
What we will first discuss is the distinctive nature of ethics; second, we will take a look at work ethics; third we will look into strategic leadership and decision making; fourth we take a closer look into the positive and negative leadership climates and how they influence work ethics; fifth we will see the essence of participative management on ethical standards in an organisation; sixth we will explore the actions strategic leaders can take to build ethical climates in their organizations; and then we will draw out some recommendations before we finally conlude.
THE CHARACTER OF VALUES AND ETHICS Values are what we, as a profession, judge to be right. They are more than words-they are the moral, ethical, and professional attributes of character … Values can be defined as those things that are important to or valued by someone. That someone can be an individual or, collectively, an organization. One place where values are important is in relation to vision. One of the imperatives for organizational vision is that it must be based on and consistent with the organization’s core values.
In one example of a vision statement we’ll look at later, the organization’s core values – in this case, integrity, professionalism, caring, teamwork, and stewardship- were deemed important enough to be included with the statement of the organization’s vision. When values are shared by all members of an organization, they are extraordinarily important tools for making judgments, assessing probable outcomes of contemplated actions, and choosing among alternatives. Perhaps more important, they put all members “on the same sheet of music” with regard to what all members as a body consider important.
Values are the embodiment of what an organization stands for, and should be the basis for the behavior of its members. However, what if members of the organization do not share and have not internalized the organization’s values? Obviously, a disconnect between individual and organizational values will be dysfunctional. Additionally, an organization may publish one set of values, perhaps in an effort to push forward a positive image, while the values that really guide organizational behavior are very different. When there is a disconnect between stated and operating values, it may be difficult to determine what is “acceptable. For example, two of the Army’s organizational values include candor and courage. One might infer that officers are encouraged to “have the courage of their convictions” and speak their disagreements openly. In some cases, this does work; in others it does not. The same thing works at the level of the society. The principles by which the society functions do not necessarily conform to the principles stated. Those in power may covertly allow the use of force to suppress debate in order to remain in power. (“Death squads” are an example. In some organizations, dissent may be rewarded by termination-the organizational equivalent of “death squad” action. In others, a group member may be ostracized or expelled. Group members quickly learn the operating values, or they don’t survive for long. To the extent they differ from stated values, the organization will not only suffer from doing things less effectively, but also from the cynicism of its members, who have yet another reason for mistrusting the leadership, or doubting its wisdom. VALUES PROVIDE THE BASIS FOR JUDGMENTS ABOUT WHAT IS IMPORTANT FOR THE ORGANIZATION TO SUCCEED IN ITS CORE BUSINESS.
TO BEHAVE ETHICALLY IS TO BEHAVE IN A MANNER THAT IS CONSISTENT WITH WHAT IS GENERALLY CONSIDERED TO BE RIGHT OR MORAL. ETHICAL BEHAVIOR IS THE BEDROCK OF MUTUAL TRUST. So how do values relate to ethics, and what do we mean by ethics? One of the keys is in the phrase we quoted above from the DA pamphlet: “Values are what we, as a profession, judge to be right. ” Individually or organizationally, values determine what is right and what is wrong, and doing what is right or wrong is what we mean by ethics. To behave ethically is to behave in a manner consistent with what is right or moral.
What does “generally considered to be right” mean? That is a critical question, and part of the difficulty in deciding whether or not behavior is ethical is in determining what is right or wrong. Perhaps the first place to look in determining what is right or wrong is society. Virtually every society makes some determination of morally correct behavior. Societies not only regulate the behavior of their members, but also define their societal core values. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” represent core American values.
Experience often has led societies to develop beliefs about what is of value for the common good. (Note that societies differ from one another in the specifics, but not in the general principles. ) One example is the notion of reciprocity. (“One good deed deserves another. “) Another is the notion of good intent. (“A gentleman’s word is his bond. “) Yet, a third is the notion of appreciation of merit in others regardless of personal feelings. (“Give the Devil his due. “) WORK ETHICS Work ethics is a crucial factor for the motivation of workers in an organisation.
It can be defined as a set of values, norms and attitudes, or standards of behaviour, which guide the workers organisational behaviour. In the same perspective, Denga (1986) defines work ethics as “ethical standards which guide the performance of group members, governs their preparation or training, and serves as legal or constitutional and ethical control. ” But Iwu (1995) defined work ethics as “behavioural code of conduct which involves both the desirable and undesirable activities of workers in various occupations and associations. This definition shows that work ethics could be positive or negative. While negative work ethics which produces such behaviours as lateness to work, abandonment of duty, insubordination, truancy, disloyalty, indiscipline, absenteeism, non-conmmitment, etc is dysfunctional to organisational effectiveness. Positive work ethics which produces such lofty manifestations as punctuality, hard work, dedication to duty, selfless service, loyalty, regularity in attendance to work, discipline, cooperation, and so on, is an indispensable condition to high roductivity. Work ethics takes its roots, and indeed is conditioned by, the culture of the society in which the work organisation is situated. Generally, a well established work group or organisation establishes a standard code of conduct suited for the organisation which is designed to guide the organisational behaviour of workers and also serve as a source of unity within the organisation. Positive work ethics serves as a source of motivation, fosters hard work and aims at high productivity which ultimately results in national developoment.
STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP AND DECISION-MAKING In as much as there is a connection between ethics and values of an organisation to the larger society, the leadership style and decision making process of that organisation have the greatest influence on the value system of that organisation. In this segment of this paper presentation, we will take a decisive look on how leadership and decision making affect the ethics and values of an organisation. First and foremost let us remind ourselves of who a leader is. A leader is generally someone who gets the job done through people.
This brings about another aspect of a leader: a leader must have a follower(s) before he/she can be called a leader. A strategic leader must possess these qualities: optimism, decisiveness, charisma, intelligence, resourcefulness etc. A good leader must have principles and values that he believes in. Such values should permeate into the running of the organisation so that there will be ethical standards that control the behaviour of both the leader and his subordinates. If these ethical standards are missing, it gives too much room to surprises, and most times these surprises are unpleasant, dysfunctional and inimical to organisational goals.
One of the functions that a leader carries out is, decision making. This is a very crucial aspect of leadership and it goes a long way to affect the value system of an organisation. The kind of leadership style that is being operated in an organisation will determine the kind of decision making process that an organisation adopts. Decision making is the process of choosing among competing options and making up one’s mind on the alternative that best addresses a particular situation. ATTRIBUTES FOR ETHICAL DECISIONS SEEING SECOND- AND THIRD-ORDER CONSEQUENCES – “WARGAMING” ETHICAL CONSEQUENCES OF DECISIONS * SEEING ALTERNATIVE POINTS OF VIEW – REFRAMING * DEALING WITH AMBIGUITY AND UNCERTAINTY – MAKING DECISIONS WITH BEST INFORMATION AVAILABLE LEADERSHIP CLIMATE If an organisation’s culture is predicated on a “tall organisational and class structure”, the organisation will be highly hierarchical in structure with formal authority as the central means of managerial control. There is no decentralised form of organisational structure with the result that subordinates have no freedom to do their jobs in their own way, and, therefore lack initiative.
When those in management use authoritarian leadership style, they see themselves as “tin gods”, and do not give their subordinates the opportunity to participate in decision making process. They take decision without adequate consultations with their subordinates and hand such decision to them to implement. In this kind of leadership climate, leaders focus their attentions on the weaknesses and faults of their subordinates rather than on making an objective appraisal of their subordinates’ performance and expressing gratitude for a job well done.
Thus, most employees see their employers as source of hostility and terror. With this kind of leadership climate, there will be a disconnection of the employees from the goals of the organisation. The very fabric of the ethical standards of the organisation will begin to disintegrate as the employees will begin to distant themselves from the goals of the organisation. They will no longer be dedicated to their work since whatever they do will not be considered as creative or innovative. In fact, some employees might even go to the extent of covertly fighting to destroy the organisation.
If an organisation is more democratic in nature, there will be a friendly atmosphere. In this kind of leadership climate, employees are seen as part and parcel of the organisation; therefore the leader looks forward to receiving contributions from the employees to move the organisation forward. In order to enforce ethical standards, the leader will make explicit ethics policies. Ethical codes are one common example. On the subject of ethical standards, let’s look at praise, censure and sanctions. As earlier said, the leader must take a decisive step to ensure that ethics policies are explicit nough. On the issue of PRAISE, CENSURE AND SANCTIONS, let us hear what Smith (1973) has to say: * Praise at the appropriate time. A compliment loses its value the longer it is delayed. * Praise the deed, not the person. It is not who the person is but what he or she does that is important. * What holds true for praise also, to a great extent, holds true for censure. * Stress the positive aspect, encourage the employee to build up skills and proficiency in his or her weak area. * Concentrate on performance and those aspects of personal bahaviour that are distinctly job-related. When possible be indirect, but make sure that the employee gets the message. * Pick the right time. A good occasion for giving criticism is one when the manager is also conferring praise. * Calling attention to weaknesses while singling out strengths makes the censure more acceptable. Smith emphasizes that criticism to be effective, must be directed toward a correctable fault that is substantially detracting from a person’s performance. It does not help to criticize someone for what does not bear on the job.
The effective leader must be pitiless toward the disloyal, the careless, and the idle. If he is not, the work falls too heavily on the willing employees. The sense of belonging to a picked team is soon lost in an organisation where the useless are still included. The ethical standards that one observes in the organization will have a significant effect on individual behaviour. “People will do what they are rewarded for doing” The organization has its greatest impact in the standards it establishes for ethical and unethical conduct in its formal reward systems.
Informal norms also have a strong influence on individuals’ behaviour as do the actions of the leaders of the organization. Strategic leaders must understand that their action more than words alone, will determine the operating values in the organization. PARTICIPATIVE MANGEMENT Participative management is another crucial factor in ethics and values of an organisation. According to Beach (1975), participative mangement is “the process by which people contribute ideas toward the solution of problems affecting the organisation and their jobs. It is a management in which the people exercise some degree of influence in the decision making process… (It) is ego – and task involvement of an individual or group. ” Participative management is found to be missing in most organisations. Decisions are made at the top of the service, dropped into the administrative chute and are expected to slide smoothly down the hierarchy. Whenever any hitch is developed in the implementation of the decisions, at any point in the downward chain, it is usually attributed to the shortcomings of the workers concerned.
The advantages of participatory decision making are many. It generally leads to more informed and better decisions, since more minds and more varieties of experience have gone into making them. It also leads to better executed decisions, for those who are to carry them out have had some say in their formulation. It helps subordinates to develop. BUILDING AN ETHICAL CLIMATE How can the strategic leaders of an organization build an ethical climate? Andrews suggests a number of steps that foster corporate ethics. First are the actions of the strategic leadership and the way they deal with ethical issues.
The pattern of top leaders’ behavior determines organizational values. This means that a leader must lead by example. A second step is to make explicit ethics policies. Ethical codes are one common example. The next step is to increase awareness of how to apply those ethical codes. Training on how to deal with situations with an ethical dimension, and how to anticipate situations that involve ethical choices, can go a long way toward ethical institutional practices. Another step to increase the salience of ethics is to expand the information system to focus on areas where ethics may come into play.
Knowing what actually is going on in the organization is essential to understanding the ethical principles which govern behavior. The information system should also support ethical behavior, and allow the strategic leader to know when or where there are potential ethical breaches so that corrective action can be taken. The real danger is that when unethical behavior is unnoticed, or not punished, members will assume it is condoned by the organization’s leadership. A strategic leader cannot overlook the importance of communication. Communication is a high priority.
Chester Barnard, in the 1930s called attention to the fact “a common purpose must be commonly known, and to be known must in some way be communicated. With some exceptions, verbal communication between men is the method by which this is accomplished” In the 1950s, Herbert Simon, an authority in administration placed even greater emphasis in the role of communication in strategic leadership. This is what he said,”It is obvious that without communication, there can be no organisation, for there is no possibility of the group influencing the behaviour of the individual”.
He concluded by saying that “only in the case where the man who is to carry out the decision is also the best man fitted to make the decision is there no problem of communication – and in this exceptional case there is, of course, no reason for organisation”. RECOMMENDATIONS 1. Salaries, wages and allowances should be fixed at a level where they would be adequate enough to always motivate the workers so that the workers would always release their full energies for efficient performance of their duties. 2.
The social climate of the organisation in which the workers operate should be pervaded by democratic leadership style where the dignity of the human personality is recognised. The leadership, at all levels of the organisation, should in theory and pracice perceive himself as a member of the work group rather than one who is outside the group issuing commands and orders which should be obeyed without question. Democratic leadership style should be accompanied with clinical approach to supervision, free flow of communication with emphasis on upwards communication, and participative mangement.
The workers should be fully involved in the decision making process within the organisation in which they work. 3. The organisational management should establish a culture of encouraging initiative and properly recognising and rewarding special talents. Officials should be given free hand to demonstrate their competence, take bold initiative and introduce innovation. As a measure for reward of special talents and outstanding performance, organisations should establish Annual Merit Award system for rewarding, on regular annual basis, special talents and outsatnading performance recorded in a year. 4.
The management of an organisation should establish viable and efficient mechanisms for inducing cooperation and positive discipline. 5. Delegation of duties is an important factor for enhancing the work ethics and tapping fully the special knowledge, skills and talents of all employees for the realisation of organisation goals. Non delegation frustrates highly talented and well experienced employees. 6. Pensions and gratuities should be paid promptly to show the serving employees that the organisation recognises services rendered by employees and they would be so treated at their own retirements. . As a follow up to the last previous recommendation, a strategic leader should have a functional reward system that will serve as a motivational tool to encourage his/her employees to behave in a particular way. This also means that there should also be penalties for any dissent behaviour that is contrary to the organisation’s ethics. For instance to encourage workers to be punctual, a leader could give monthly monetary incentives for employees that came to work before the resumption time through out the month.
There could also be penalties for habitual late comers; like a slash from their salaries if they reported to work for a consecutive number of times. This will serve as a deterrent measure. However, it behoves the leader to enshrine this decision into the policies of the organisation without any shadow of ambiguity. CONCLUSION Establishing moral principles means determining the core values which should guide the organization. O’Brien suggests four for consideration: localness, merit, openness, and leanness. By localness, he means adopting a philosophy of pushing power down to the lowest level possible, and encouraging initiative and autonomy.
By merit, he means directing actions toward the overall goals of the organization, and what is best for all. By openness, he means being forthright and honest in all dealings. And by leanness, he means efficient use of resources and economies when possible. ULTIMATELY, THE QUEST FOR ORGANIZATIONAL TRANSFORMATION MUST BEGIN WITH A PERSONAL COMMITMENT WITHIN EACH INDIVIDUAL TO PURSUE MORAL EXCELLENCE. O’BRIEN Encouraging leaders to pursue their own moral development is critical at higher levels because strategic leaders set the moral climate for the organization.
O’Brien believes that moral development is even more important than professional development. “Creating a culture based on moral excellence requires a commitment among managers to embody and develop two qualities in their leadership: virtue and wisdom. ” However, creating an organization characterized by moral excellence is a lengthy process. It involves changing organizational culture. REFERENCES Barnard, C. I. (1968). The Functions of the Executive, Cambridghe MA: Harvard University Press Denga, D. I. (1986), Guidance and Counselling in Schools and Non-School, Setting, Calabar, Centanir Press Iwu, I.
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