David Knights, University of the West of England, UK,
Peter Case, University of the West of England, UK
Tuomo Takala, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
Over recent years we have witnessed a plethora of failures in ethical corporate leadership with varying consequences. The business ethics research community has responded largely by focusing on (1) the nature, dynamics, limitations and improvement of corporate social responsibility policies and practices, (2) the ways in which corporate citizenship should be understood, implemented and improved, (3) the ways in which globalization and internationalization of business are changing the ethical questions and problems faced by corporations and their leaders, and (4) what can be done to help managers recognize and be sensitive to moral issues and ethical question in their work.
Most of the research can be divided roughly into prescriptive and descriptive approaches. The prescriptive approach builds primarily on philosophical ethics and focuses on principles that, if adhered to, constitute ‘ethical leadership’ (see, Bass & Steidlemeier 1999; Ciulla 2004). The descriptive approach draws on psychology, sociology and organization studies and focuses more on how leadership is perceived as ethical (or not) in particular organizational and social settings (see, Brown et al., 2005; Treviño et al., 2000; Treviño et al, 2003). What is common to much of the ethical leadership research in both approaches is the tendency to conceptualize ethics as an issue, question or problem. In effect, ethics is simply one more variable that has an effect on how business is done and how leaders and managers (ought to) behave (Sandberg 2008).
Despite recurrent crises, the leadership and ethics literature seems comparatively unaffected by critical perspectives. There are some examples of earlier critical work (see eg, Takala 1989), and some inroads have been made more recently (see, Parker 2003; Knights & O’Leary 2005; 2006; Case & Gosling 2007; Banerjee 2008, 2010; Crane et al. 2008; Jones 2010; Case et al. 2011). These interventions have raised such questions as the importance of analyses of power in studies on ethical leadership, the insufficiency of some of the existing dominant conceptualizations in the field (such as ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’) and the possibilities of approaching both the practice of ethics in leadership as well as the notions of ethics and leadership themselves from novel directions.
This subtheme aims to advance the leadership and ethics agenda. More specifically, it is concerned with redesigning studies of leadership and ethics in organizations. We argue that to gain critical understanding of ethics it is necessary to find ways to understand leadership, management and organization as ethical practices; practices that have an inherent ethical quality to them. But, if there is no escaping from ethics in leadership in contrast to leadership as ethics, how should we approach it as a research subject?
We invite contributions with theoretical, methodological or empirical perspectives that approach leadership and ethics from a critical perspective. We are particularly eager to hear from authors inspired by theoretical perspectives (e.g. gender and diversity studies) that are outside or at the margins of current leadership and ethics research and help us both to challenge and think more carefully about its assumptions, conceptualizations and truths.
We welcome proposals for papers addressing leadership and ethics, including:
- The ethics of difference in leadership and organization
- Feminist ethical leadership
- The politics of ethical leadership
- Charismatic leadership and ethics
- Ethical leadership and globalization
- Ethical leadership beyond good and evil
- The practice of leadership and forms and traditions of ethics
- New methodologies and research designs for leadership and ethics research
The deadline for short paper submissions is January 16th, 2012. For more information, see http://www.egos2012.net/.
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Banerjee, S. B. (2008). Corporate social responsibility: The good, the bad and the ugly. Critical Sociology, 34(1), 51-79.
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