Strategic leadership encompasses the entirety of leading an organization at the highest level (Pollitt, 2005). Unfortunately, highly publicized business and political scandals have turned the spotlight on the failure of leaders to consider the necessity of ethics in strategic development (Hackett and Wang, 2012). In order to be an authentic leader one must have strong ethics (Walumbwa et al., 2008) and must be diligent in developing a culture of ethical standards throughout their organization.
Strategic leaders must possess high levels of energy and have a passion about their role in order to keep up with pace and continue to communicate with their people as strategic leadership is intellectually and physically taxing (Pollitt, 2005). Due to this, strategic leaders must be aware of the sinkholes in their own ethics by paying attention to areas of uncertainty, areas where deadlines are looming, and areas where isolation is felt (Bazerman and Tenbrunsel, 2011). Such sinkholes present themselves by decision uncertainty, stress, and making decisions in isolation that are void of accountability and input (Bazerman and Tenbrunsel, 2011). Strong strategic leaders should build ethical behavior on strong moral character, strong personal values, and strong decision-making based on character and values (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999).
Strategic leaders use ethics as a standard of determining what is right and wrong in relation to actions and volitions (Ciulia, 2014), and it isn’t simply for the leader himself but for the development of the culture of the organization. Since people fail to identify sinkholes in their own ethical development, because of the gaps in who they want to be and who they actually are (Bazerman and Tenbrunsel, 2011), strategic leaders should provide ethical values in strategic development. Organizations can’t afford for employees to live in an ethical delusion where there is a disconnect between moral ideals and the behavior and decisions employees make as they implement strategy.
Bass, B. M., & Steidlmeier, P. (1999). Ethics, character, and authentic transformational leadership behavior. The Leadership Quarterly, 10(2), 181–217. http://doi.org/10.1016/S1048-9843(99)00016-8
Bazerman, M. H., & Tenbrunsel, A. E. (2012). Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do about It (1 edition). Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Ciulla, J. B. (Ed.). (2014). Ethics, the Heart of Leadership (3 edition). Santa Barbara, California: Praeger.
Hackett, R. D., & Wang, G. (2012). Virtues and leadership. Management Decision, 50(5), 868–899. http://doi.org/10.1108/00251741211227564
Pollitt, D. (2005). Curtis Fine Papers aligns strategy and leadership style with business priorities: Three pillars of development for top executives. Human Resource Management International Digest, 13(6), 33–35. http://doi.org/10.1108/09670730510619312
Walumbwa, F. O., Avolio, B. J., Gardner, W. L., Wernsing, T. S., & Peterson, S. J. (2008). Authentic Leadership: Development and Validation of a Theory-Based Measure†. Journal of Management, 34(1), 89–126. http://doi.org/10.1177/0149206307308913