Strategic Leadership and Decision-Making

Values and ethics are central to any organization. What exactly do we mean by values and ethics? Both are extremely broad terms, and we need to focus in on the aspects most relevant for strategic leaders and decision makers.

What we will first discuss is the distinctive nature of ethics; second, we will take a look at work ethics; third we will look into strategic leadership and decision making; fourth we take a closer look into the positive and negative leadership climates and how they influence work ethics; fifth we will see the essence of participative management on ethical standards in an organisation; sixth we will explore the actions strategic leaders can take to build ethical climates in their organizations; and then we will draw out some recommendations before we finally conlude.

Values are what we, as a profession, judge to be right. They are more than words-they are the moral, ethical, and professional attributes of character … Values can be defined as those things that are important to or valued by someone. That someone can be an individual or, collectively, an organization. One place where values are important is in relation to vision. One of the imperatives for organizational vision is that it must be based on and consistent with the organization’s core values.

In one example of a vision statement we’ll look at later, the organization’s core values – in this case, integrity, professionalism, caring, teamwork, and stewardship- were deemed important enough to be included with the statement of the organization’s vision. When values are shared by all members of an organization, they are extraordinarily important tools for making judgments, assessing probable outcomes of contemplated actions, and choosing among alternatives. Perhaps more important, they put all members “on the same sheet of music” with regard to what all members as a body consider important.

Values are the embodiment of what an organization stands for, and should be the basis for the behavior of its members. However, what if members of the organization do not share and have not internalized the organization’s values? Obviously, a disconnect between individual and organizational values will be dysfunctional. Additionally, an organization may publish one set of values, perhaps in an effort to push forward a positive image, while the values that really guide organizational behavior are very different. When there is a disconnect between stated and operating values, it may be difficult to determine what is “acceptable. For example, two of the Army’s organizational values include candor and courage. One might infer that officers are encouraged to “have the courage of their convictions” and speak their disagreements openly. In some cases, this does work; in others it does not. The same thing works at the level of the society.

What does “generally considered to be right” mean? That is a critical question, and part of the difficulty in deciding whether or not behavior is ethical is in determining what is right or wrong. Perhaps the first place to look in determining what is right or wrong is society. Virtually every society makes some determination of morally correct behavior. Societies not only regulate the behavior of their members, but also define their societal core values. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” represent core American values.

Experience often has led societies to develop beliefs about what is of value for the common good. (Note that societies differ from one another in the specifics, but not in the general principles. ) One example is the notion of reciprocity. (“One good deed deserves another. “) Another is the notion of good intent. (“A gentleman’s word is his bond. “) Yet, a third is the notion of appreciation of merit in others regardless of personal feelings. (“Give the Devil his due. “) Work ethics is a crucial factor for the motivation of workers in an organisation.

It can be defined as a set of values, norms and attitudes, or standards of behaviour, which guide the workers organisational behaviour. In the same perspective, Denga (1986) defines work ethics as “ethical standards which guide the performance of group members, governs their preparation or training, and serves as legal or constitutional and ethical control. ” But Iwu (1995) defined work ethics as “behavioural code of conduct which involves both the desirable and undesirable activities of workers in various occupations and associations. This definition shows that work ethics could be positive or negative. While negative work ethics which produces such behaviours as lateness to work, abandonment of duty, insubordination, truancy, disloyalty, indiscipline, absenteeism, non-conmmitment, etc is dysfunctional to organisational effectiveness.

Positive work ethics which produces such lofty manifestations as punctuality, hard work, dedication to duty, selfless service, loyalty, regularity in attendance to work, discipline, cooperation, and so on, is an indispensable condition to high roductivity. Work ethics takes its roots, and indeed is conditioned by, the culture of the society in which the work organisation is situated. Generally, a well established work group or organisation establishes a standard code of conduct suited for the organisation which is designed to guide the organisational behaviour of workers and also serve as a source of unity within the organisation. Positive work ethics serves as a source of motivation, fosters hard work and aims at high productivity which ultimately results in national developoment.

In as much as there is a connection between ethics and values of an organisation to the larger society, the leadership style and decision making process of that organisation have the greatest influence on the value system of that organisation. In this segment of this paper presentation, we will take a decisive look on how leadership and decision making affect the ethics and values of an organisation. First and foremost let us remind ourselves of who a leader is. A leader is generally someone who gets the job done through people.

This brings about another aspect of a leader: a leader must have a follower(s) before he/she can be called a leader. A strategic leader must possess these qualities: optimism, decisiveness, charisma, intelligence, resourcefulness etc. A good leader must have principles and values that he believes in. Such values should permeate into the running of the organisation so that there will be ethical standards that control the behaviour of both the leader and his subordinates. If these ethical standards are missing, it gives too much room to surprises, and most times these surprises are unpleasant, dysfunctional and inimical to organisational goals.

One of the functions that a leader carries out is, decision making. This is a very crucial aspect of leadership and it goes a long way to affect the value system of an organisation. The kind of leadership style that is being operated in an organisation will determine the kind of decision making process that an organisation adopts. Decision making is the process of choosing among competing options and making up one’s mind on the alternative that best addresses a particular situation.

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