Ethical Leadership


Ethics is an important element of leadership because it determines how leaders influence other people to behave in situations of ethical dilemmas. An ethical leadership defines the best behavior and appropriate action of an individual in a situation of interpersonal relationship in an organization (Pollard & Ahluwalia, 2012). Ethical conduct is a moral issue that guides and motivates managers and employees in the workplace, and brings positive impact on work relationships. The moral philosophy of a leader enables him or her to treat employees fairly and guide them to perform their tasks ethically to achieve the organizational goals. This report discusses various aspects of ethical leadership and how it affects organizational performance. The first part discusses the ethical traits of Jack Ma, and how the leader demonstrates ethical conduct. The second part will provide an analysis of an ethical dilemma involving the introduction of a medical device that heals patient but also causes death in few cases. The report also explains some of my preferred ethical lenses, and whether each lens remains the same in different settings. Lastly, the report highlights the primary values and classical virtues that guide my ethical lenses.

Ethical Conduct of Jack Ma

One of the ethical traits of Jack Ma, the founder and owner of the online retail business, Alibaba, is justice. Ethical leaders should always be fair and just in their decisions and actions. Justice relates to the situation in which leaders deal fairly with all employees, having no favorites, and treating all followers equally and fairly. Under an ethical leadership that embraces justice, employees carry out their activities comfortably without the fear of bias or discrimination on the basis of nationality, ethnicity or gender. Jack Ma exhibits the ethical trait of justice by ensuring that the buyers and sellers on the Alibaba website are treated fairly and equally (Lu, 2018). For instance, Jack Ma has led the company’s employees in an anti-piracy campaign to fight against counterfeit goods. In 2017, the company managed to send over 400 people to jail for selling counterfeit products on their website (Lu, 2018). Thus, Jack Ma is concerned with fair trading, justice and equality.

Another important trait that can be identified from Jack Ma’s ethical leadership is humane character. Ethical leaders are kind and always make decisions that benefit all stakeholders rather than pursuing individual interests (Lu, 2018). The driving factor in Ma’s leadership is the desire to solve problems facing societies. In fact, the decision to form Alibaba was driven by the need to link customers with buyers and reduce the costs and time spent by shoppers in China (Lu, 2018). The simple idea of trying to make lives better for society led to a successful business organization operating throughout the world. Jack Ma also uses his position and resources to empower people and future generations through philanthropic and humane actions.

Jack Ma has demonstrated ethical conduct by focusing on the good of society rather than the interests of the company alone. Jack Ma is a philanthropic leader who uses company revenue to help poor people and promote equity in society. For instance, he supported high school students through their education since the beginning of the company (Lu, 2018). By funding the education of young people, Ma empowers future generations with rich culture and education to solve problems affecting society. The ethical leader also told Barack Obama, former president of the U.S., in 2015 that he has set aside 0.3% of Alibaba’s income to address environmental challenges for the sustainability of future generations (Lu, 2018). Thus, Jack Ma is ethical because he is concerned with the needs of local communities and future generations. Ma is working closely with the police to identify people selling counterfeit goods and send them to court. Jack Ma also deals fairly with employees by providing fair salaries and development opportunities. The employees are also treated equally in a diverse working environment, bringing people together from diverse sociocultural and racial backgrounds.

Ethical Dilemma

In the case study scenario, the company has developed an innovative technology to reduce the healing time for patients. However, the company wants to conceal the fact that the artificial knee joint has the potential of causing deadly infection on some patients. The ethical dilemma here is whether I should obey my contractual commitment of non-disclosure which I signed with the company, or fulfill my duty to disclose critical information to patients. Consequential and deontological perspectives can be used to assess the situation and make an ethical decision.

Deontologists argue that ethical decisions are determined by the duty or right of individuals regarding their actions and behaviors (Hawley and Aveyard, 2007). To establish the right or wrong behavior, deontologists ask whether the method used to achieve an end is right thing to do, and whether the action taken is based on duty. In this regard, an action is right if it is done according to duty and responsibility, and it promotes people’s rights (Pollard and Ahluwalia, 2012). In relation to the ethical dilemma regarding the artificial knee joint, it would be my duty to disclose relevant information regarding their health. The patients also have a right to know the effects of the treatments they receive on their health. Therefore, deontologists would suggest that it is the right thing for professionals and sellers to disclose relevant information to clients.

On the other hand, consequentialists argue that the desirability of the outcome or consequence determines whether a decision is right or wrong. Thus, a decision is right if it provides benefits to individuals or enhances maximum utility for the society. The consequential ethical theorists would ask whether the decision or behavior has achieved the desired goals regardless of the methods used to achieve them (Pollard and Ahluwalia, 2012). In this regard, the decision not to disclose information about the artificial knee joint to patients would be right if it provides more benefits than risks to the patients. Therefore, deontologists would disagree with non-disclosure of the information while consequentialists would agree.

Levels of Cognitive Moral Development

Lawrence Kohlberg identified three levels of cognitive moral development – pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional stages. At the stage of preconvention, children have an externally determined morality (Salkind, 2002). During this level of moral development, a child relies on rules set by people in authority such as teachers and parents. They also judge each action and behavior depending on its consequences. At the conventional stage, moral judgments are based on social and personal relationships. Children continue to make decisions based on the rules set by authorities, but they now do so to enhance social order and positive relationships rather than focusing on consequences. The last stage of moral development is the post-conventional level which entails the application of abstract moral values and principles in decision making. People begin to question unjust laws.

The level of moral development related to the question of what is best for society in the long term is the post-conventional level. At this level, the people challenge conventional norms and consider the best thing to do for the society in the long term. The second question on whether the company will find out and fire me is relevant to the pre-conventional level of moral development. If an employee fears the consequences of revealing the information about the artificial knee joint, he or she displays the first stage of moral development in which the individual relies on the rules set by authority and fears the consequences of disobeying such rules. The third question asks about the best course of action that serves justice. In relation to this question, the scenario can be located in the post-conventional level of moral development. During this level, people question the rules to determine whether they are just. In relation to the case scenario, the rule of non-disclosure is challenged on the question of justice to the patient and society. The fourth question asks whether there are laws that may guide me on whether I should disclose the information. In relation to this question, the scenario would represent the conventional level of cognitive moral development because it relies on laws set by authorities, but the employee does so to maintain good relationship at the workplace. The last question is, if I keep quiet will the company reward me? This question puts the scenario in the pre-conventional level of moral development because it focuses on the consequences of disobeying the rules set by authorities (the company).

Reflection on the Ethical Lens Inventory (ELI)

Based on the results of my ELI, my preferred ethical lens is blended responsibilities and relationship lenses. In this regard, I am placed between the responsibilities lens and the relationship lens. People with a responsibilities lens view ethical success as the freedom to choose responsible behaviors whether others agree or disagree. On the other hand, people who are placed in the relationship lens consider ethical behavior as the ability to build positive relationships with other members of society (Ethics Game, n.d.). I do not have any preference between these two lenses, or preferences between equality and autonomy. Thus, it is important for me to support the rights of each individual to choose how they behave as long as such rights do not interfere with the society’s wellbeing. However, the problem with having a central perspective is that it causes worries about the possibility of causing anarchy and injustice through freedom. As I balance between the two perspectives, I am significantly concerned with the use of rational principles or foundational rules to make decisions.

I possess the same central perspectives in different settings and contexts. Whether at school, home or work, I always like to use rationality, principles, rules and facts to make moral judgments. I also respect the rights of others to hold various views regardless of their position, whether in politics, religion or education. I believe that both sensibility and rationality play a significant role in ethical decision making.

My blind spot is overconfidence or the belief that intention justifies the procedure. Indeed, I tend to build so much confidence in the abilities of individuals to make the right decisions regarding their actions. As a result, I become overconfident about the process involved in achieving something. I tend to believe that my motive of choosing a particular method or making a certain choice over several other alternatives justifies my methods of achieving goals. A blind spot is a situation in which someone is not aware about the appropriate ethical decision, and may unintentionally lead to ethical mistakes (Ethics Game, n.d.). The lack of a definite ethical lens places me in a blind spot that allows me to believe in my intentions, rights and responsibilities so much that I may commit ethical errors. Furthermore, I may focus so much on laws and established processes within the society that I may ignore the need for equality and justice.

There are certain steps that I may take to mitigate my blind spot. First, I should pay more attention to the needs of other individuals in society. To avoid being overconfident, I must learn to listen to other people to understand their interests and concerns. Listening and involving others in decision making helps an individual to build confidence in others and develop empathy, leading to justice and equality (Ethics Game, n.d.). Secondly, planning is necessary to avoid overconfidence. In planning, one should identify his or her goals alongside those of society, and develop methods of achieving those goals while promoting justice and equality. The next step is to stick to the plan and make appropriate choices that will maximize social benefits while achieving individual goals. Lastly, my blind spot can be mitigated by learning and developing cultural awareness. I must focus on the cultural beliefs and values of others to determine different perspectives or methods of achieving the same goals from various cultures and world views. This process allows me to become more flexible and avoid ethical missteps caused by overconfidence.

From the ELI, my primary value is rationality, which shows no preference between equality and autonomy (Ethics Game, n.d.). Rationality involves the use of reason to identify the best rules and principles that may help societies to achieve their goals without compromising the rights and freedoms of individuals. Rational thinking moderated by emotions and experience may help in the process of identifying the best universal principles to guide ethical decision making and achieve fairness and equity in the society. My classical virtues are prudence and justice, which allow me to make wise decisions in various issues affecting society, and ensure that everyone is treated fairly in society. A balance between these two virtues is essential to promote justice and equality in society because it allows me to identify ethical issues and make wise decisions in every situation.

The classical virtues and primary value compare with the top five values identified in the Clarifying Your Values Exercise which include integrity, justice, honesty, respect, and humanity. As become a responsible adult in society, I believe that I have the duty to behave in a respectable, just, honest, and humane manner. These values guide positive relationships and commitment to a just society where everyone has equal rights and freedoms to achieve their highest potential (Ethics Game, n.d.). The value of respect compares with the primary value of rationality because it enhances a positive way of behaving towards other people and mainlining positive relationship. Rationality and respect are related because a rational person knows that respect will give positive consequences in society. Rationality is also related to justice because a just society can be enhanced if individuals use logical reasoning to make decisions and accommodate the views of others. Rationality is also compared to honesty because a rational person uses reason to identify the benefits of speaking honestly, and the negative effects of insincerity in human relations. The value of rationality can also be related to humane and integrity values because the use of logical reasoning enables people to apply logical reasoning in identifying a proper manner of treating others to promote humanity and integrity.

The classical virtues of justice and prudence compare with the values of integrity and respect because respect and integrity promotes positive relationships, leading to justice. Behaving with prudence also requires people to demonstrate respect and fair dealing or justice in their human interactions. Honesty also promotes the value of justice because it enables people to trust each other and interact positively, leading to a fair and just society. Lastly, the value of humanity is related to the classical virtues of prudence and justice because a humane person understands the problems of others and helps them to meet their needs, leading to a fair and just society.

I plan to use the ethical lenses to approach ethical situations in my professional experiences to ensure that I do the right things and behave ethically at all times. The midpoint between responsibility and relationship lens will be critical in my future ethical dealings as I seek to balance between autonomy and equality in society. I plan to use rational thinking approach to help the people make appropriate decisions that will promote justice and equality in society while protecting individual rights and freedoms. I may apply the value of rationality and the balance between justice and prudence to promote fair and just dealings as well as respect for individual rights, leading to improved relationships in society.


This report has highlighted the essential aspects of ethical conduct from a case scenario, ethical leadership in real life, and the ethical lens inventory. In real life, Jack Ma is an example of an ethical leader who demonstrates the values of humanity and justice. Deontological and consequential theorists also provide the guidelines for making ethical decisions during ethical dilemmas. Consequentialists argue that the rightness or wrongness of a behavior depends on the appropriateness of the consequences, while deontologists focus on the right and duty of the behavior. Ethical lens can also be used to analyze ethical decision making approaches. The ELI has shown that I do not fall within a specific ethical lens, but I prefer a balance between responsibilities and relationships. The values of prudence, justice, and rationality are essential in my ethical decision making as they help me to make ethical decisions that promote justice and equality in society while protecting individual rights and freedoms.

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