The problem to be investigated is to address the relationship between “leadership behavior, perceptions about [a] leader’s trustworthiness, and the ethical duties” (Caldwell, Hayes & Long, 2012, p. 497) associated with interdependent leadership style. As this author reflects upon the different leaders that he has served under over the past forty years, the good ones were epitomized by assigning responsibility and expecting subordinates to live up to those responsibilities, keep their word, and being congruent in keeping their own.
On the other hand, the worst leaders were characterized by being unfaithful in keep their word, appearing not to care about those that worked for them, in being mediocre in their jobs, and tolerating mediocrity in others. This author realizes that principles are not established by individual experience, but the findings of Caldwell, Hayes, and Long, among others, empirically support the subjective experience of the author. Ethical Stewardship The idea of ethical stewardship is presented in Caldwell et al. 2010), who indicate that there are leaders who strive to “maximize long-term wealth creation” through “creating relationships that maximize stakeholder ownership and commitment” (p. 501). Ryan, Buchholtz & Kolb (2010) reviewed research drawing from stewardship theory and “its assumptions of executive good will and firm-interest-maximizing motivation” (p. 681) in discussing relationships between CEOs and corporate boards. This is consistent with the author’s own experience – good leaders are ethical leaders.
As the leader establishes a strong personal relationship, they exert a positive influence on followers to commit and remain motivated to the leaders’ goals and focus. Those leaders, who were most influential and able to call on the time, dedication, and commitment of the author, seemed to have a style of serving together, rather than a me-first attitude (Block, 1993). Poor leaders, however, instead of catching the follower in their own slip-stream, seem especially unmotivating and detrimental in their impact on their organization, and their teams. Karnes reflects that his research showed that “lack of leadership . . disintegrat[es the] employer-employee relationship” (2009, p. 189), which has also been demonstrated in the authors experience. Trustworthiness As the author pondered on the meaning of trust, and what constitutes trustworthy behavior, he identified individuals that he felt were implicitly trustworthy according to his own “mediating lens” (Primeaux, Karn & Caldwell, 2003, Caldwell et al. , 2009), and those that he does not trust. Those that the author finds most trustworthy scored well on the three-factor model of trustworthiness presented by Mayer et al. (1995).
To be trustworthy one must first have the ability to do what is expected, to the level that is expected. Secondly, one must have the integrity to live up to the standards one is expected to live up to. Lastly, one must benevolently desire the good of the person one is serving, even above one’s own benefit. This author had not considered this last factor in his own ruminations, but when reflecting upon two people that he highly respects, and trusts, he found that this factor identified that elusive difference as to why he trusted one just that much more than the other.
From the author’s subjective experience, those leaders who best fostered growth and development of their organization and people were also included on his list of trustworthy individuals. Those leaders, who were not so good, score subjectively lower in terms of trustworthiness in each of Mayer et al. ’s (1995) three factors. This correlation between trustworthiness and ethical stewardship was empirically supported in the research study of Caldwell et al. (2009) where they found validation for Mayer et al. s model of trustworthiness, and for Block’s (1993) stewardship model. Leadership The author has worked with many leaders. Some were dictatorial in their methods and expectations, with little time for the subordinate than to shout an order and march them in the direction of the next task. Some were hesitant, or threatened, in their leadership style – but both equally failed to lead, or motivate. Some, one knew, meant well, but were so overwhelmed with their own responsibilities that they failed to pay much attention to those they were supposed to be leading.
Others were driven to achieve, to accomplish, and strove with an unswerving dedication to their own goals, and were motivating by their own vision of what they wanted for themselves. Yet the leaders that this author has been most motivated and encouraged by, were team players. He felt a partnership with them in accomplishing the goals they set. He felt a desire to do his best because he knew that they were doing all that they could, and he felt a commitment to not let them down.
In terms of Collins (2005) leadership hierarchy, this author has met a couple that might be considered Level 5 leaders (although in accordance with Collins findings, none have been at the top of their organization), a few Level 4’s, and several Level 3’s. This author has tried to learn from them all, but would consider himself a Level 1, “Highly Capable Individual” (p. 140). In reflecting on the leadership qualities of these leaders, the author immediately identified two of the three “critical tasks of leaders” (Caldwell et al. , p. 498) provided by Chemers (1997); relationship building and resource utilization.
The leaders that received the most from this author in terms of commitment, time, and dedication were invariably the ones with a “people-centered focus” (p. 498), while those who focused on tasks, or their own self-centered goals, got the best that this author could do with the limited information and direction that he received. According to Daniel Goleman (2004) the two most important skills for a great leader in employment relationships are empathy, and social skill (p. 5). This supports the critical task of relationship building as an important determinant of leadership.
Ethical leadership priority balancing: The authors experience is also supported by the research of Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee (2001) who found that good employee relations with leadership “create climates in which information sharing, trust, healthy risk-taking, and learning . . . flourish” (p. 44). It is this focus on personal relationships that provides the “normative, or value-based, priorities” that an ethical leader must balance (Caldwell et al. , 2009, p. 498). The other side of the scale is “instrumental or goal-related” priorities most commonly associated with resource utilization (p. 98). The good leaders the author has known have encouraged individual growth and development – the learning of skills that will be of further benefit to both employee and company. Poor leaders appear to often go to the same well, or look for necessary resources from the outside, rather than grooming the people they already have. Congruency: The author identified a character train he called congruency when thinking about the good leaders he has known while incongruence characterized all of the poor leaders he thought of.
Congruency is the trait of doing what one says one will do. This trait is in line with the third factor in Chemers model of leadership – image management (Caldwell et al. , 2009, p. 498-499), although in that model it might be extended to mean that one consistently does what one says one believes. Although this author did not consider congruency in terms of the leaders “commitment to the organizations success” (p. 499), in retrospect he agrees that in good leaders this does seem to be the case. The research study by Caldwell et al. 2009) confirmed that the “three-factor leadership model accurately describes important elements of leadership behavior” (p. 508), although a stronger correlation exists between relationship building and resource utilization and the perception of trust by followers, and the perception that a leader is an ethical steward. Conclusion This author’s deliberations, and the various articles he read, support the proposition that “employees want to work for a company that understands them and their needs, listen[s] to their problems, and is not overly judgmental.
They always seek dialogues with their employers and want to collaborate together on issues” (Karnes, 2009, p. 194). The empirical research done by Caldwell et al. (2009) supports the theory and research of many writers, that the three factors most predictive of good leadership are proper relationship building, appropriate utilization of resources, and ethical image management. Further, their research supported the “role of trustworthiness as a critical antecedent to building personal commitment and trust” (p. 08), and this authors reflections that perceived trust of a leader may be the most important determinant in how that leader is followed, and in the amount of cooperation they receive. Finally, their research validated the correlation between trust and the perception of a leader as an ethical steward (p. 508) – calling for more study of this approach to governance, specifically in terms of how it contributes to “long-term wealth creation and the establishment of strategic competitive advantage” (p. 508).
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