Responsible leadership is often thought of as ethical leadership – and indeed it should be. Virtuousness is an important and powerful second aspect of responsible leadership that has sometimes been ignored. Unlike ethics, virtuousness in the leadership context leads to two important outcomes: a fixed point for coping with change, and organizational benefits that may otherwise have never been achieved.
Virtuousness is more common to theological and philosophical discussions that scientific ones:
Its relevance in the world of work and in organizations has little credence in the face of economic pressures and stakeholder demands… little agreement exists regarding its definition and attributes. Most articles focus on the debate about whether or not virtuousness actually exists…
Virtuousness is seldom associated with leadership and almost never with organizations.
To differentiate virtuousness from ethics; in the latter, a dominant (although not exclusive) emphasis is on avoiding harm, fulfilling contracts, ensuring compliance, and obeying rules and laws. However, in contrast, virtuousness possesses an affirmative bias and focuses on elevating, flourishing, and enriching outcomes.
Taking responsibility as a leader certainly involves accountability, dependability, authority, and empowerment. If responsibility also includes the notion of virtuousness, however, the implications then become much more far-reaching and inclusive. Responsibility implies the pursuit of the ultimate best – eudemonism – and, secondarily, to produce advantages for constituencies who may never be affected otherwise.
Some examples of virtuous leadership that may help executives understand the application of this concept better:
There are two functional benefits of accepting virtuousness as a key attribute of responsible leadership: one is the role virtuousness plays in creating a fixed point in decision making; another is the increase in performance that virtuousness produces in organizations:
Responsible Leadership as Virtuous Leadership. Kim Cameron. Journal of Business Ethics (September 2011).
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