The Role of Consultants in Ethics – Nu Leadership Series

“In the past a leader was a boss. Today’s leaders must be partners with their people… they no longer can lead solely based on positional power.”
Ken Blanchard

Corporate executives appear to be faltering and need help. Scandals grow larger and more intensive day-by-day for organizations. Some people may proclaim that a highly respected consulting firm can get this job done. Executives only need to hire a good consultant, and the ethical issues will disappear. By being an objective party, a consultant can evaluate an organization and provide them new insight on organizational behavior.

In this line of reasoning, consultants become the executive’s moral compass; they serve in this role to produce ethical people at all levels. Unfortunately, given most consultants’ power position, this would not be the case for most consultants. Consultants are paid on a fee basis. Some work for unethical organizations.

How does a consultant deal with an unethical client? Consultants have little formal organization power. Draft, organizational behavior guru, argues that expert power is derived from a person’s higher knowledge. Ciulla, author of Ethics: The Heart of Leadership, explains that all leaders bring a certain agenda to the table based on their value systems. Organizational leaders listen to consultants if they’re highly respected.

Fortunately, a consultant’s role can serve as a preventive and remedial action for management. In profit-making, Brown-Volkman, management consultant, argues that successful businesses stay positive. Consultants can use their influence for good. They can model high moral integrity. A consultant’s level of influence on customer values is a sliding scale on his or her expert power. If a consultant is highly respected, organizations may listen more about their ethical shortcomings. However, there’s a mental breakdown.

Although the consultant’s influence is limited, he or she must always maintain their ethical standards. In bad situations, it is better over the long-term to just get out. Therefore, good consultants can make a difference by their moral conduct.

References:

Brown-Volkman, D. (1995). Four Steps to Building A Profitable Business. New York: iUniverse.com Publishing Company.

Ciulla, J.B. (1998). Ethics: The Heart of Leadership. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Draft, R. (1995). Organization Theory and Design. New York: West Publishing Company.
© 2006 by Daryl D. Green