Ethical Leadership: The Concept of the Moral Foundations of Cultures

Ethical leadership is a theory of a modern approach to managing business organizations and countries.

Ethical leaders exist. There are many companies around the world whose bosses are loved by the staff.

Ethical leaders are also world-famous personalities. But the fact is that they are few. Let’s take a deep look at the topic of ethical leadership. Read more: “Cross-cultural differences in the perception of ethical and unethical leadership“,

Ethical leadership in depth

Cultural anthropologist and social psychologist J. Hate offers the construct of moral grounds for explaining the cultural specificity of the moral field – the one based on which ethical decisions are made (Haidt, Rozin, McCauley, Imada, 1997).

Cultural differences grow on moral grounds. All over the world, for example, causing harm to another is reprehensible.

But there are examples in cultures of neglecting the pain of harm, as well as of gleefully and painfully liking the suffering of another.

The same problem can be perceived as moral or “neutral”. An eloquent example of cross-cultural business ethics is the perception of bribery, gratuity, and corruption along the lines of gift and gesture – a reprehensible and criminal act.

J. Hate formulates moral grounds, starting from psychological states, emphasizing moral feelings. Emotivism and intuitionism are characteristic of his approach.

Reasons are moral intuitions like the senses: all people have the same senses, but different tastes, visual perceptions, sensations of sour, and notions of sweet. Reference: “What is ethical leadership in cross-cultural business ethics?“,

The moral grounds are for:

Harm, pain, and concern, where compassion comes from;

Justice and reciprocity, through which strangers are connected, are expressed in reciprocal altruism, without which social connection is not possible;

Belonging and loyalty are related to the degree and form of trust, as well as the willingness to cooperate;

Authority, respect, and stability;

Purity and holiness, are what are perceived as infinite and transcendental, as well as everything that causes disgust in the community (Haidt, 2003).

As with other cultural models (Hofstede’s model, for example), a new, sixth moral basis was subsequently added: the idea and the need for freedom and/or obedience.

Cultures can be conditionally divided into morally strict and more tolerant in comparison with their moral grounds.

Interestingly, in cultures that are characterized by greater ethical rigor, ie. there is a narrower area of ​​forgiveness, the moralizing position is more widespread than in cultures with ethical tolerance, in which the sphere of what is permissible is expanded and indefinite.

The perimeter in which “strict” ethical decisions are expected to be made is smaller.

The proposed grounds distinguish three ethical systems: the ethics of autonomy, the ethics of community, and the ethics of holiness.

They value human rights, solidarity, and obedience to the sacred, respectively. In each of them, the moral sphere is marked by signs of violation of rights, loyalty, or one’s holiness.

Various moral grounds determine the “natural” forms of organizational loyalty, the degree of commitment of the individual to the community, commitment, and more.

If authority, respect, and stability are strong moral grounds for Arab and most Asian cultures, the question arises as to how their organizations maintain criticism, debate, defend and justify a proposal, and make a decision – all practices imposed by the Western organizational model?

How is the desired adaptation of an employee achieved, what is consensus and agreement, how is the talent of young employees discovered and managed, how is time management improved, and in general – are constructed from the Western management tools applicable?

Global organizational ethics presupposes mutual enrichment of knowledge about it.

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