Ethical Leadership

Millions of people all over the world chase the secret of leadership but the majority of them forget that definition of the “leadership” depends on moral side of the issue and, in addition, its definition can be related to a specific person, period of time, etc. The topic of this research is to compare two positions of philosophers showing their minds for leadership and its ethical side. As for the general ideas of analysis, there are two ones: to show how Aristotle and Locke differently or similarly define “ethic” in leadership and one’s critical opinion for their theories. The main point of this paper is to compare their theories in contract way and outline one’s point of view for their theories and show one’s opinion about leadership and its ethical side. The thesis of this paper is “Ethic in leadership is a must”. 

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When it comes to leadership, people are usually divided for two groups – the first group consists of people who care about leadership, they are interested in this issue and often they manically have a thing for the leadership topic forgetting the moral, ethical side of this issue. The second group consists of persons who neglect leadership as they are not leaders and they do not percept such issue as “leader” or “leading”. It happens often these people refuse finding out more about leadership as they had a negative experience, a background full of failures tied up to leadership. Coming back to the first group of people, their main problem is they often do not consider morality when it comes to leadership and this research is aimed to the need of focus. Everybody should keep a finger on the pulse and understand there is a great risk for moral, ethical side of the leadership issue. The main issue of this research to discuss is “What does each of philosophers claim constitutes a “good leader?”  The thesis of this research is morality and ethic in leadership deserves much more attention than it presently has. Comparing points of view of two philosophers, it will be clearly understood where was or was not the problem of ethical leadership and how they coped with and related to this issue.

Description of the Ethical Issues

As it was mentioned above, the main issue of this research is to discuss “What does each of philosophers claim constitutes a “good leader?” topic. In this paper it will be used two schools of thoughts, two leaders that have never met each other – Aristotle and John Locke. The next sections of the paper will be discussing their view and thoughts for leadership and ethical side of this issue. In addition, it will be discussed why they conflict and where they overlap. In addition, the paper is devoted to one’s point of view about leadership and a good and effective leader. As for the major ethical issue that will be illuminated in this research is which characteristics or background  does one has to have to be named a real and renowned leader? How can we find out it is a good leader? These questions will be affected and discuss further.

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The philosopher sought to determine the leadership in several rules. He explains “the presence of lead special qualities: intelligence, ability to solve and foresight, kindness, courage, humanity, integrity, justice, judgment, management experience Thus Aristotle notes that insufficient leader has only the right things to do. He claims harmony of nature and positive personality traits are required by all means and that they allow conducting a truly virtuous life.” Aristotle says that acts committed according to virtue, not then rightly or prudent when they possess these qualities, but when committing these acts have known quality - first it consciously, secondly, elected intentionally and for the sake of action and, thirdly, it surely and steadily.

Aristotle distinguishes “three qualities that a leader must have to win the confidence of his followers: practical wisdom or prudence, goodness and benevolence.” Reputation worthy leader formed by the merger of these traits: practical wisdom allows a person to make the right judgments about private matters; goodness prompts him to express his opinion honestly and fairly; benevolence guarantee that he will give the best advice.

Thus, Aristotle is the founder of the differences in the nature of leadership skills and action itself. Acts as skill, involve real changes made by human intervention in particular, casual and private realities. According to Aristotle, actions and skills - an activity performed under the guidance of reason in its practical application. Leadership closer to the actions and in the understanding of Aristotle is above the skill. To make a good act, in addition to compliance with the rules, a person must be guided by the right intention, and to be virtuous. Prudence (as perfection deeds) in leadership requires not only setting the right goals and the right choice of means to achieve this goal.

Aristotle's understanding of leadership close to the metaphysical model of perfect immanent action, where the purpose of the action is contained in the action.

Aristotle and in the leadership of distinguished leadership in general and a leader - a great man. A leader can lead, different from the others by their character traits, but not always, has great leadership qualities. Aristotle argued that "dignified man" restrained, truthful, judicious, guided by knowledge, not opinion, the truth, and not by chance,values themselves appreciated, provides good deeds, does not discuss other people and others.

In conclusion, it is important to mention that Aristotle’s “leader” definition is an open-minded, clever and quite friendly person but a professional who knows his business from A to Z. As for moral side of the question, Aristotle’s leader is probably one of the uttermost definitions among all philosophy concepts. He mentioned that a leader can even change his principles – if ethical issue needs it.

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John Locke

When it comes to the second philosopher, John Locke, he is probably one of the best mentors when it comes to leadership. Locke has invented his own scheme to leadership and success. He claimed that the body and the mind of the leader includes five areas:

1) the action;

2) mood;

3) coordination;

4) training;

5) dignity

Considering these five areas, it is important to remember that, as he claims, people distinguish them only for the convenience of understanding, because in reality they form a coherent whole. They constitute a coherent entity - body, and only because of the vagaries of the language, people have to distinguish between them. Locke says “I have always believed that human actions - the best interpreters of their thoughts.” The word “leadership” comes from the Old English phrase meaning "to cause to happen, happen." Leaders take action, which are based on the work of muscles. The leaders clearly see the goal, and then mobilize and organize other (and themselves) to accomplish it. Their actions are effective. However, not every action must necessarily be a movement. Extremely important is the verbal expression of their desires and aspirations. That is, if we do not explain to ourselves what value we have for our actions and for what purpose they are made, we will simply live in the days of boring deletion from the list of ready-made cases. “We will carry out the tasks, not giving yourself a break at work and lost contact with the general picture of life. When we understand why, "for which" carry something, we operate much more efficiently, our attitude is much more cheerful, we are focused and better time management. Take, for instance, a single mother with three children, who tosses three jobs. Since it is very important to her that all her children go to college, the meaning of her daily work for her clear and she can live in a state of inner satisfaction, not to despair”.

The leaders proclaim their goal, Locke mentioned. For example: "I will achieve business growth by 15% this year", "We will strengthen the social security system", "Every family in America should receive adequate health care," "Our army should be equipped with the most advanced technology" "in the next six months I will cast twenty-five pounds," "I'll write a book," "I'll do that in a parents' committee to the beginning of the school year came to 20% more people than last year." For each of these obligations is the story of why this goal is so important (most often we think that's about it when making its oral statement). Thus, in conclusion, Locke’s leadership is more structured and bold.

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Critical Discussion of Secondary Sources

Speaking about the secondary sources, the authors have divided themselves for two groups as well. For instance, according to Dewey and Deen, leadership and ethical responsibility can be neither compared nor exist one by one. The other example is an opposite point of view of Paley. He mentions, that ethical side of the leadership is “the one and only censorship that can build moral boundaries and save people from leaders”. By “save” Paley implies “simple” people who are lead by leaders and sometimes they got hurt because of leaders’ actions or even statements.

Coming back to Dewey and Deen, these authors back up Jock Locke, also mentioning Kafka, Nietzsche and other philosophers who put leadership and one’s ambitions higher than ethic. It is wrong that Locke stands against ethical issue at all, but the authors claim that persons who followed John Locke’s theory were not that ethical in the actions. In addition, they mention that “strong and organized” leader for Locke is just a cover, he talks about defined, charismatic leader and no ethical issues discussion is red thread of his works.

As for Paley’s critical work about Aristotle’s definition of leadership, the read thread of his paper is that ethical leadership, including Aristotle’s attitude to ethic, is the one and only way to exist, not even to live within society. Paley mentions Aristotle’s leaders as a “benefactor, well-doer” and he does not mention any weaknesses or failures that can result in such ethical leadership. All in all, Paley fully supports Aristotle’s attitude to ethical relationship.

When it comes to ethical theories that can handle the problem of ethic in leadership, it is any religion or Übermensch (Overman), the concept by the famous philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche that offered a theory of “super person” that can control himself from A to Z. As for the first theory, it was referenced to religion because any religion implies canons and sobriety of mind, humility – it can definitely help when it comes to moral issues, the church and religion itself is a moral. As for Nietzsche’s concept, it can also give a hand to the ethical theories, but it will not suit all people – only passionate and with a will-power. 

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Discussion of the Relevant Implications of Conclusion

It is agreed with Locke’s ideas because he offers a structured and clear understanding of leadership and a leader itself. Moreover, he offers an up-to-date plan that can be applied to leadership of nowadays. This is the pro of Locke’s theory. When it comes to the cons, sometimes his theory is very principle and it will not fit everyone. Speaking about Aristotle, there is no acceptation of his point of view for leadership as it is vague and cannot be applied for today. In addition, there is one big con in the theory – Aristotle’s leader is not strong as it has to be and that is why he always loses. He simply does not manage to find the gold line between “to be a strong leader” and “ to be a soft one”.

Speaking about relevant implications on the society, nowadays “the society stands for Locke’s model of leadership”. According to Dewey and Deen, Locke has managed to find the gold measure between ethic itself and leadership – as initially these concepts look like blank and white. As an example, it might be taken Apple corporation and its notoriously known leader Steve Jobs, who was a professional, passionate leader with a charisma but he supported any ethical issues or evidences to judge its employees in fair way.  As for Aristotle’s concept of leadership, it can be generally used as an initial theory, as a basic understanding of ethical leadership, but it is not applicable in present society. First of all, Aristotle’s leader measured and this is probably the first and the most important reason why society will not take such leader as a leader – even if the one will be a formal one. Second, the important implications of this issue on the society that leaders are not usually anymore chosen by “society for years and need consideration”. A good example can be YouTube bloggers, some of them managed to gain wide audience (up to 1,000,000 subscribers) just in a year.


According to Locke and Aristotle, ethic and morality are very important issues of the leadership. However, the first philosopher is more realistic and his theories of leadership can be applied in present world without any hesitations. But the problem of ethic of leadership is still opened and relevant as people face it in every day life – at work, in families. As for the following offers for further discussion, the ethical leadership needs more deep understanding and decent background as well as educating platforms to demonstrate people why they do not have to be afraid of leadership and how to come with negative effects of leadership it happened they emerged.

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