Effective and ethical leadership are inseparable. The widespread layman’s notion that effective leadership is not about the moral qualities and ethical behavior of the leader is superficial.
Special studies with different focus and scope show just the opposite. In one of the latest international surveys (from March 2016), managers and managing international companies are asked what exactly makes a leader effective? 195 leaders from 15 countries and over 30 leading global business organizations were asked to select the 15 most important leadership competencies from a list of 74 competencies grouped by five topics.
For 67% of business leaders around the world, “high moral and ethical standards” are the quality that comes first, far ahead of all competency groups. Read more: What is Ethical Leadership: How to be an Ethical Leader According to the author S. Giles, all leadership qualities are desirable and difficult for self-development, but to develop your ethics, you need to “act against your human nature” (Giles, 2016). Whether this is the case is a matter of many projections, and one of them is that of our “second nature” – culture.
The diverse research areas of culture and cultural differences have been enriched with a new field – cross-cultural business ethics. It is a study of values, principles, and rules of conduct in global business, aimed at communication, networking, and teams with international actors in a cross-cultural environment. This academic and consulting field draws and builds on ideas from intercultural communication, cross-cultural management, organizational behavior and culture, and international human resource management.
The research “claims” of cross-cultural business ethics can be easily argued. In a global environment, the number of multicultural teams is growing everywhere. Let us use the expression of D. Narvaez, according to whom in the cross-cultural environment we should all be able to act as moral experts (Narvaez, 2006).
The applied and behavioral orientation is a leading perspective for the research and consulting recommendations of cross-cultural ethics; it is “I know how” rather than “I know what” knowledge.
In this perspective, many problems stand out that requires, first and foremost, a moral and philosophical interpretation. Among them is a question directly related to cultural differences: what are ethical standards for in different cultural practices: to justify or to apply?
Do we just know and accept and/or make an effort to follow norms? The reason for one or another cultural preference is the fact that after the “disenchantment of the world” (according to M. Weber) moral pluralism has expanded. At the level of knowledge about intercultural communication, moral pluralism is defensible by rejecting the thesis that there is only one universal ethic.
R. Schutter in “Ethics, Culture, and Communications: Intercultural Perspective” points out that we need to re-evaluate the way we understand ethics in intercultural communication. Because any study of a single culture (intracultural analysis) exposes deep social structures in society and communication, it is easy to give advice “on intercultural communication like those traditionally offered: be empathetic, know that people are different, that the values are different in different societies, etc. to shake. In the interest of truth, one can follow all such intercultural warnings and yet reject the ethical principles that govern communication and relationships ”(Shuter, 2003).
Cross-cultural business ethics is behavioral ethics. The term is new in applied ethics (Drumwright, Prentice, Biasucci, 2015) and suggests a shift in focus: the emphasis is on the moral side of communication, and the intertwining of individual and cultural factors in ethical decision-making.
Ethical leadership is an important topic here. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics in the article “Ethics of Leadership” points out that the morality of leaders may have been written about millennia, but “ethics of leadership is a relatively new field of applied ethics” (Ciulla, 2013). As a research and consulting field, it frames specific moral issues of leadership that border on professional ethics, moral philosophy, and leadership research.
In the last of the above three areas, there is an impressive array of academic and popular versions of definitions of moral leadership. Due to their great variety and descriptiveness, a negative definition is useful: moral leadership is not destructive, bad, toxic, inauthentic, transactional, or authoritarian.
Trying to define it positively is more reliable if we rely on the theory of social learning.
In the model proposed by Professor of Organizational Ethics and Leadership L. Trevino, ethical leadership is behavior: consistent with ethical norms (normatively acceptable); under the context, incl. – and with the macro-cultural context; containing two-way communication with followers with procedural and interpersonal voting rights; maintaining ethical standards visible in the decision-making process in the organization (Brown, Treviño, Harrison, 2005).