Ethical leadership The ifs and buts of a growing concept

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The field of ethical leadership is fixated on the positive sides of ethical leadership, while business leaders often do portray these positive qualities, there are leaders that are less interested in ethicality. Theory dictates that these leaders should be deemed as tyrants and are no leader at all. The goal of this study is to contribute to the ethical leadership debate by providing insight in the discrepancy present between the way business leaders create an image of themselves, and how popular media portrays them, to ultimately help the understanding of the significance public images have. To achieve this goal the following question has been formulated: Why do leadership theories portray ethical leadership as morally good and how do Dutch business leaders try to exploit ethical leadership attributes? To answer this question, two major business leaders have been analysed. These leaders were selected based on their influence on Dutch businesses, their apparent morality and business events. The result show that attributes such as altruism, honesty, and integrity are vital to retain an ethical public image. Based on the results it is recommended that these attributes are carefully looked after by business leaders, to increase the value given to the business while staying away from press. Future research into ethical leadership could try to map the phenomenon of leaders building a façade based on attributes of ethical leadership.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen