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Essay on Leadership Theories

The book “Leadership: Theory and Practice” written by Peter Guy Northouse is a presentation of leadership theory and a discussion of how it may be used in different situations. Northouse provides 3 approaches which include: ethical egoism, altruism, and utilitarianism. These mindsets are related to leadership theories and may influence the values of the followers.

Ethical egoism asserts that an individual should act so as to create the most good for himself or herself. A leader with this orientation is expected to have a career that he or she well really enjoys. Ethical egoism is usual in some business contexts in which an organization and its workers make decisions to achieve certain aims and maximize profits. Utilitarianism asserts that an individual should act so as to create the good for the largest number. The morally right action would be the action that enlarges social benefits while reducing social costs. Opposed to ethical egoism and related to utilitarianism is the third approach, altruism. It suggests that actions are moral is their initial purpose is to promote the best interests of other people. A leader may act in the interests of other people, even when he acts contrary to his own interests.

I think that some ambitious managers would choose the approach of ethical egoism to make his team the best in the whole company. Altruism is not a too common approach nowadays. The best example of altruist ethics may be found in the work of Mother Teresa, who helped people during all her life. In crisis some managers could use this approach to achieve better results for their departments and companies. Nice example of utilitarianism is an airlines company. Passengers with business class tickets may pay a premium price to have all the amenities of that class that the airline suggests. So, do you really think that the extra luxuries worth the excessive price? You’ll see that the premium price is used to ease out the deficit that the airline would have to cope with, if it is to allow the economy class passengers the opportunity for travel at less price. To connect with their followers, leaders have to use a mindset that will create this connection. The connection calls for a return to the origin of values so leaders may influence the values of the followers.

For Heifetz the primary responsibility of leaders is to create a work atmosphere characterized by trust, honesty and to help followers to cope with a problem. Heifetz thought that leadership as about assisting followers in reaching higher ethical standards when different values conflict. The interaction of leaders and followers must raise the ethical behavior and character of both. Leaders can do so by helping followers to emphasize good qualities like liberty and equality. Greenleaf espoused servant leadership. This perspective is related to altruism. Greenleaf thought that leaders should know everything about follower’s concerns. They are supposed to support and help the followers. Servant leaders help others by their presence. Such leaders inspire followers to gain more knowledge and autonomy. Greenleaf also thought that servant leaders had broader responsibility to society to set right inequalities and injustices. All these perspectives emphasize the relationship between followers and leaders and assert that this relationship is at the centre of ethical leadership. Usage of ethical leadership to an organization is a new phenomenon and herein lays its weakness. People have known the concepts since antiquity, but practical application is still not obvious. Ethical leadership holds a great promise for the future.