Ethical Egoism is Archaic Leadership

A large portion of contemporary leadership material focuses on the growth and development of followers as a means to insure success for the organization, however the practical application of leadership is overwhelmingly self-centered and ego-driven. There is a breakdown between the predominant leadership literature and the application of leadership.

If one considers the fallen human nature as a backdrop of ethical decision making, it is no surprise a large number of leaders lead with an ethical egoism perspective: leading from decisions that maximize the personal benefits of the leader (Fedler, 2006). This perspective is in opposition to what Jesus demonstrated for his people to follow (Mark 9:35). Though this approach to leadership through service is tied to the teachings of Jesus, academically identified leadership styles such as transformational, servant, and authentic all hold the perspective that followers should be valued as a priority over the ambitions of a given leader. (Northouse, 2013)

Harry S. Truman said, “You can accomplish anything in life, provided that you do not care who gets the credit” (Collins, 2001). This perspective is predominant in the research by Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great. Through his research Collins identified one factor that propelled companies to be considered great was a Level 5 Leader. Level 5 Leaders are those who channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company (Collins, 2001). Their ambition is focused on the growth of the organization and employees rather than their own personal ego (Collins, 2001). Such leaders commonly displayed compelling modesty, were self-effacing, and understanding (Collins, 2001).

Level 5 Leadership, and other leadership models and styles that place followers as a priority, appear to result in proven success for organizations, rather than the commonly held ethical egoism approach.


Collins, J. C. (2001). Good to great: why some companies make the leap–and others don’t (1st ed). New York, NY: HarperBusiness.

Fedler, K. D. (2006). Exploring Christian Ethics: Biblical Foundations for Morality. Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press.

Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: theory and practice (6th ed). Thousand Oaks: SAGE.


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