Ethical Leadership and the Presidential Campaign
Ethics refer to a belief system that drives the individual to behave in a moral or “correct” fashion (ethical) or in an immoral or “incorrect” way (unethical). We expect and hope our leaders in all areas to act in an ethical and compassionate way that would benefit all stakeholders whether it is a business or the public at large. We respect leaders that demonstrate ethical behavior and we are more willing to follow principled leaders and their ideas. Nowhere is ethical leadership more desired and expected than in the highest leadership position in our nation – the office of the President of the United States.
The Ethical Dilemma Among Presidential Candidates
The current race for the Presidency is a stark example of why ethical leadership is so important. Both candidates have engaged in charges of unethical behavior on the part of the other. The mudslinging has played out in the homes of the American public who now have to decide who is the most worthy of the most powerful office in the United States.
Both candidates of the major political parties have identified examples of unethical conduct. On the one hand, Hillary Clinton has been called “crooked Hillary” because it is alleged that she compromised our national security by using a private email server that could expose national secrets; that somehow she has brought ISIS into power; that she single-handedly was responsible for the Benghazi incident. On the other hand is Donald Trump, who has been charged with fraudulent business practices; his misogynistic attitudes towards women; his alleged acts of sexual assaults, his racially charged attitudes and statements against minorities; and allegedly holds inappropriate ties with Vladamir Putin.
The melee has been brought to computers and television by extensive media coverage and has resulted in many heated debates amongst those on social media. A quick scan of the exchanges reveals that the lines of support for a candidate are drawn – some ally themselves with the candidate that best matches their moral and policy lines; some ally themselves along party lines. Each side believes their candidate has the ethical fortitude to lead the nation to its idyllic state.
So, Why Should We Care About All of This?
We need to care since the ethical leadership affects the commitment and the acceptance of the leader’s followers. If there is a lesson that this contentious and unprecedented campaign for the Presidency has taught us, it is that people respond to the ethical “worthiness” of their leader. When there is congruency of leader ethics with that of their followers, the leader’s influence is strong and their ability to command action is high. When followers detect incongruity between their own ethical principles and that of the leader, there is rebellion and resistance to the leaders orders.
In a business, followers may find that they have to compromise their own ethics in order to be retained by the organization or face the decision to leave their job.While an individual has limited power to affect the ethical leadership in a business, the people grant the position of the President. We as citizens of the United States have the right to vote in the most powerful leader in the land. We can set the ethical tone of the leadership of our country for the next four years. It takes your ethical sensibilities and a conscious act — go vote on November 8!
Dr. Bonnie Roach currently teaches in the Business School at Ohio University. She teaches classes in Human Resource Management and Business Law. She received her B.A. in
Psychology from Vassar College. Dr. Roach received her Ph.D. in Management and Human Resources from the Ohio State University as well as her Master’s of Labor and Human Resources (MLHR). She taught for several years at the University Of Illinois At The Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations. She studied pre-law at Oxford University and enrolled for her law degree at the Mortiz College of Law. She received her law degree with a Mediation Certificate and has been admitted to Ohio State Bar and the Federal District Court, Southern District of Ohio. She has provided mediation services for the Franklin County Municipal Court.