Future Ethical Organizations – Nu Leadership Series

Men cease to interest us when we find their limitations. The sin is limitations. As soon as you once come up to a man’s limitations, it is all over with him.

Emerson

Given the assault on traditional values, are we headed in the right direction with ethical leaders? This is a valid question to ask given the current circumstances of my organizations in America. The recent collage of scandals and unethical dealings by both government and business leaders has made everyone skeptical about today’s leaders. There is a trust factor that has been lost between leaders and followers due to economic factors, such as technology advances and outsourcing. Some critics point to these factors as natural occurrences. Americans have seen similar issues in the past. What can be done to change this negative trend in ethics?

Organizations in the 21st century need to reevaluate their moral foundation in order to change. Why should organizations want to change their ethics? After the September 11th terrorist attacks in America, it was obvious that American institutions were vulnerable. Yet the aftermath of such tragedies have produced a spiritual void in America. Obviously, this reality places more critical need for something different in America. I am not advocating infusing religion into a secular environment. However, organizations need to fill this spiritual void. First, leaders need to understand spirituality. The term spirituality relates to the spiritual need of humanity. Spirituality relates to people’s needs to discover their full identity as human beings.

Second, secular development and spiritual formation often run counter to each other. Building one’s awareness of his or her spiritual self is dealing with spirituality. The process of spiritual formation allows individuals to grow in a constructive manner. It encompasses emotional maturity, character development, and personal achievement; however, spiritual formation speaks to the need of discovery of destiny. Therefore, the notion of spiritual formation addresses the issue of personal development in a holistic approach by nurturing body, mind, and spirit.

Finally, applying spiritual formation in an era of cynicism may be an alternative in supporting good leadership values. Having the right values is critical in an organization. Everyone on a team is expected to get along and share common points, such as values. Therefore, leaders need to moral the way for good ethical conduct. Leaders are also responsible for mentoring these values. Unfortunately, value formation and spiritual formation don’t necessarily correspond with the traditional Aristotelian model. In the past, traditional organizations have no room for spirituality of any kind. The supporting assumption is that well-run organizations are unemotional. Due to the turbulent pace of life and continued unethical behavior, contemporary leaders should consider embracing spirituality as a method to build better ethical organizations. Only time will tell if these will happen.

References:

Ashar, H. & Lane-Maher, M. (2004). Success and spirituality in the new business paradigm. Journal of Management Inquiry, 13(3), 249-260.

Kern, C. (2003). Creating and Sustaining an Ethical Workplace Culture, Pepperdine University.
King, S. (2006). The Moral Manager. Public Integrity. 8(2), pp.113-133.
© 2007 by Daryl D. Green