First International Conference in Responsible Leadership

DLP Researchers Eduard Grebe (Centre for Social Science Research, University of Cape Town) and Minka Woermann (Centre for Applied Ethics & Department of Philosophy, University of Stellenbosch) presented a paper on the 19th May at the 1st International Conference in Responsible Leadership, hosted by the Centre for Responsible Leadership at the University of Pretoria, and held between the 18th - 20th May. The conference theme was "Developing the Next Generation of Responsible Leaders".

In this paper, entitled "Institutions of integrity and integrity of institutions: integrity and ethics in the politics of developmental leadership", Eduard Grebe & Minka Woermann develop a conceptual framework for thinking about the role of ethics and integrity in developmental leadership and conduct a critical review of the relevant literature on ethics, leadership and institutions.

"We adopt a political process approach to leadership, which implies a focus on the institutions of leadership rather than a focus merely on individual leaders and the choices they make (as is frequently the case in the literature on leadership and ethics). But any sophisticated account of leadership must bridge the structure/agency divide. It is, therefore, necessary to reflect both on how structural conditions can influence individual behaviour, and how individual choices can transcend conditions and contribute to the evolution of institutions.

"In investigating the role of integrity for developmental leadership, we think of 'integrity' in three senses: (a) the question of individual integrity, which relates to the traditional understanding of integrity as honesty, appropriate behaviour ('doing the right thing') or consistency between words and actions (Palanski & Yammarino 2009); (b) the question of the institutions of integrity, which refers to the the structurally and contextually-determined norms and codes that 'bind' us. Although these norms and codes are also based on underlying ethical principles, these principles tend to emerge from contextually-defined practices. In other words, the focus is on developing 'thicker descriptions' of our practices, rather than to try and describe our practices in terms of a priori ethical principles;  (c) the question of the integrity of institutions. Integrity, here, is understood as 'correct functioning' and fitness for purpose—in this case institutions that promote development.

"We look at institutions of integrity both from an ethical point of view (what should people do?) and from an economic/sociological point of view (what do people do, and why?). One valuable source for investigating these questions is the applied ethics literature, specifically the business and professional ethics literature: business ethics is divided into a normative or philosophical field (which addresses the ethical view of integrity) and an empirical or descriptive field (in which the economic view is investigated). As such, the business and professional ethics literature has bearing on both views, and provides insight into the factors which affect institutions of integrity, and the consequences that these factors hold for leadership practices. The economic point of view is also explored from institutional economics, game theoretic and macrosociological perspectives. (How do institutions emerge that generate incentives and constraints on individual behaviour? Why and how do these institutions evolve or break down?).

"The ethical/normative and economic/descriptive perspectives are seldom found together, and there in fact exists a wide gulf between the respective literatures. In business ethics some (e.g. Trevino & Weaver, 1994) have questioned whether the field is, in fact, not more accurately characterised as two fields (BUSINESS ethics and business ETHICS). There exists, however, a relatively limited literature that tries to bridge ethical and economic perspectives on development (see Nussbaum & Sen, 1993 and Sen, 1999). In this critical literature review we attempt to place the economic and ethical literatures in their appropriate contexts, but also stimulate new thinking by bringing the traditions into productive conversation. This attempt to bridge two intellectual traditions is at the same time an attempt to rethink the structure/agency problematic in a creative way and overcome the tendency in ethics to focus on the agency of individuals to the exclusion of structural factors, and in economics to ignore agency and reduce the normative to the descriptive."

Nussbaum, Martha & Sen, Amartya (1993) The Quality of Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Palanski, Michael E. & Yammarino, Francis J. (2009) "Integrity and leadership: A multi-level conceptual framework." The Leadership Quarterly, 20 (3), pp. 405-420.

Sen, Amartya (1999) Development as Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Trevino, Linda K. & Weaver, Gary R. (1994) "Business ETHICS/BUSINESS ethics: One field or two?". Business Ethics Quarterly, 4 (2), pp. 113-128.

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The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) is an international research initiative that explores how leadership, power and political processes drive or block successful development.

DLP focuses on the crucial role of home-grown leaderships and coalitions in forging legitimate political settlements and institutions that promote developmental outcomes, such as sustainable growth, political stability and inclusive social development.

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