Many unethical decisions made by leaders in organisations stem from unawareness. Mindfulness refers to self-awareness of ones present experience. It encompasses of a persons awareness to both external factors (What is happening in the environment) and internal factors (awareness of their thoughts). According to Eisenbeiss, Maak, & Pless (2014), mindfulness is a critical component of the ethical decision process. Leaders who are less mindful may not recognize ethical challenges or be in a position to appreciate conflicts of interests. This paper discusses ways in which ethical leadership practices and mindfulness intersect and how ethical leaders incorporate mindfulness into their relationship.
Mindfulness and ethical leadership intersect in that awareness of an ethical issue is a crucial component of major decision models that leaders use. For instance, awareness is described as the first step in the Rest (1986) model four-stage process (Northouse, 2015). Only after a leader is aware of the existence of an ethical issue is when they bear on the issue. After that, the leader forms intentions and take action. Jones (1991) expounded on Rests model by developing the first stage. Jones focused on the nature of the issue itself rather than the influence of the organisational culture and the traits of the leader.
However, it is imperative to note that ethical decision making may operate outside conscious awareness. According to Eisenbeiss, Maak, & Pless (2014), self-serving judgments are almost immediate and effortless, unlike the effortful and time-consuming process required to come up with un unbiased opinion. Because people tend to perceive themselves to be competent, moral, and deserving, they may fail to appreciate the existing conflicts of interests, and their own biases making them unable to overcome them.
Therefore, leaders can make a better decision by being mindful of the different situational factors. For instance, ambiguity is likely to make it difficult for leaders to identify ethical issues. Studies indicate that self-serving biases by individuals in a leadership position tend to be exacerbated by ambiguity. People may be less honest in a negotiation when they know particular information, and perceptions of justifiability tend to be exhibited in such a relationship.
Social learning theory explains clearly why certain situation factors are linked to the moral attributes of the leader and thus enable them to influence their followers perception as being ethical (Healy, 2014). Followers learn by emulating their legitimate leaders values, attitudes, and actions. By putting into practice mindful leadership skills, leaders are in a better position not only to build a more ethical conscience but also to control our behavior. Mindful leaders are less likely to behave in a manner that is unethical because they understand the link between their self-image and behavior, influencing their followers perception.
Adopting mindfulness also enable leaders to increase the number of precautions enacted, socialize, and develop interpersonal skills that are respectful and also wary of other individuals competence so to arrest failure (Northouse, 2015). Leaders with mindful anticipation are also able to create sensitivity to the organisation's long-term goals through interpersonal communication, moving problems towards expertise and bypassing the conventional hierarchy.
To sum up, leaders should be aware of the different aspects of the environment despite their leadership style to make good ethical decisions. Mindfulness and ethical leadership interconnect in that ethical decision making are dependent on awareness of an ethical issue. Leaders apply ethical decision-making skills by assessing the different aspects surrounding a situation, their values, attributes and perception before making a decision.
Eisenbeiss, S. A., Maak, T., & Pless, N. M. (2014). Leader mindfulness and ethical decision making. In Advances in Authentic and Ethical Leadership (Vol. 10, pp. 191-208). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
Northouse, P. G. (2015). Leadership: Theory and practice. Sage publications.
Healy, K. (2014). Social work theories in context: Creating frameworks for practice. Palgrave Macmillan.
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