Home > Research > Publications & Outputs > Leadership Matters?
View graph of relations

Leadership Matters?: Finding Voice, Connection and Meaning in the 21st Century

Research output: Book/Report/ProceedingsBook



Key questions: Whether in or outside of formal leadership, what is the well-spring of your life? Where do you turn for inspiration as a leader? Do you give sufficient attention to the nurturing of your spirit? What do you relate to in your life that is in some way ‘bigger than you’?

In recent years there has been something of a moral meltdown in the corporate corridors of power. Few sectors have escaped high profile scandals, with public officials and business leaders guilty of malpractice, duplicity, fraud and corporate malfeasance. There are clearly important leadership matters surrounding these moral crises and we can see that leadership therefore matters to us all. Conventional leadership theories appear to be inadequate to equip those with power to act ethically and responsibly. According to the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer – a survey conducted across 27 countries with more than 33,000 respondents – overall trust has significantly declined across countries and sectors around the world, with CEOs ranking second lowest at 43% and government officials the lowest at 36% as credible spokespeople. It seems that in the eyes of a majority of the population, business is eroding rather than building trust, thereby threatening to undermine the very idea of leadership.

This breakdown in trust not only damages relations between leaders and those they seek to lead as well as other important stakeholder relationships (e.g. customers, suppliers, regulators and the communities/ societies in which they are located), but also stands in the way of the risky but necessary innovations that could contribute to solving the problem of sustainable and equitable social and economic development. A number of business leaders, scholars and other observers have suggested that one response to this crisis is to move towards a world in which business is “purpose driven” beyond the goals of profit. For example, initiatives like A Blueprint for Better Business are drawing on insights from the ‘great faith’ and philosophical traditions to argue that both our society and the firms within it are more likely to flourish if we can reframe business to reflect important deeply held social values, moral purpose and broader responsibilities to society.

As authors of this introduction and as editors of the book we need to say something about our collaboration. In terms of some of the issues this book encompasses, it could be argued that the two of us are at opposite ends of a spectrum that runs from philosophically grounded ethics, at the one extreme, and a deeply religious faith in Christianity, at the other. This book represents only one of our responses to the ethical problematic in leadership – we with two other colleagues have also edited a special issue of an international ethics journal which focuses more specifically on philosophical treatments of the topic . It was partly for this reason that we came together to edit this book because we wanted to allow multiple and often-contentious voices to mingle if not merge. In the process of contributing to and editing the book we believe that the continuum can be seen more like a globe where on many issues we coincide even though we may start from distant positions and may channel our end thoughts in diverse directions. This is perhaps the opposite of what is tending to occur through social media where we live in self-contained and self-reinforcing bubbles in which our ideas are forever confirmed and reconfirmed rather than subjected to some level of challenge. The remainder of this chapter is organized as follows: first while traditionally ethics has been treated as an outlier or an additional issue to contemplate in the study of leadership, we discuss the idea of ethical leadership wherein they might become wholly integrated such that it is rare that one is examined without the other. Second this theme of holistic and integrated thinking is applied to the popular notion of leading with integrity