The Challenges of Moral Leadership (Study Day May 9th 2014)

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What is it about leadership that makes being a moral leader such a challenge? Why do leaders fall into the same trap over and over again, as history shows? In this conference, we are excited to have top scholars from different disciplines and contexts present their work.

During the Study Day, we discussed this theme through the presentation of three plenary sessions as well as three parallel papers, where participants are invited to choose what interests them most. There was also time scheduled in for discussion as well as networking. We also took this opportunity to launch the first volume of our series “Christian Perspectives of Leadership and Social Ethics” which contained primarily the proceedings from our last Study Day. The proceedings from this Study Day will also be published as a volume in the same series. We will inform you once this is available.

In all, we had a fruitful day.  We thank the presenters as well as the audience for a fruitful Study Day spent together. Please find the abstracts of the different papers presented below.

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Abstracts for the Study Day (By Alphabetical Order)


Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela: Whole brain Leadership as a moral compass in the colours of his rainbow nation.

IMG_1702jpgGerhard Botha Senior Lecturer/Director: Shepherd – Centre for Assisting Spiritual Leaders (South Africa)

During December 2012 the South African Council of Churches (SACC) threatened in an open letter to Pres. Zuma, of the South African Government, to agitate  for a “more healthy democracy” if, its concerns were brushed aside. “During apartheid, some Church leaders wrote to political leaders, but they often failed to listen to these voices. Unfortunately we find a similar trend today,” the SACC, a major player in the struggle against the white-minority rule that ended in 1994, wrote: “We have begun to stray from the path of building a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa,” it continued, adding that political leaders had “largely lost their moral compass”.  At that time, this rebuke gained extra emotional weight with the hospitalisation of former president Mandela, then 94, and revered by most South Africans as architect of the “Rainbow Nation” that emerged 18 years ago from three centuries of white oppression. With this paper the writer will illustrate why Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela did not only had a long road to freedom, but also to morality. By illustrating through the rich sources of examples, his ability to forgive his oppressors and love his enemy.  With specific reference to the preferences of the left and right thinking processes of the brain, the writer will illustrate the value of whole brain leadership skills, as manifested in the person of this now late leader of the first democratic South Africa. The achievement of a moral society by the creative (whole brain) leadership example of Madiba. His recent death sparked publications, comments and appreciation for the true leader he was. This will be presented as what a legacy a leader can leave, when his morality aligns with his leadership. The lessons learned will be vital to future leaders.

The Ethical Challenges of Leadership

IMG_1642jpgJoanne Ciulla Coston Family Chair in Leadership and Ethics, Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond (United States of America)

The talk paper addresses the question, “Why is it difficult to be a moral leader?       ” The answer to this question stems from the nature of a leader’s job where there is sometimes a conflict between ethics and effectiveness. (I see this as Machiavelli’s problem in The Prince and, of course, the ‘dirty hands problem.’) The moral problems of leadership also stem from the socially constructed ideas that people have about leaders and followers. We might all make a similar list of the ethical qualities we want in leaders, but my question is why do leaders’ continue to have the same moral failures over time and across cultures and contexts? The talk takes a historical approach to identifying the ethical problems that are unique to people in leadership roles such as power, success, ego, privilege, self-interest and knowledge, and caring. Using a wide range of literature, I discuss how historical and contemporary leaders continue to fall into the same moral traps that are distinctive to their role.

Leadership and justice, two sides of the same coin

IMG_1735jpgPatrick Nullens Rector, Professor in Systematic Theology, Evangelical Theological Faculty, Leuven, Belgium

Since leadership is a shaping force in society, a critical moral reflection is indispensable. As such leadership is understood as a normative professional practice.  The most fundamental question is the source of its normativity, especially as we use it as an objective standard to judge good or bad leadership. This normativity can’t come out of the professional practice itself (professionalism), nor from the society (social constructivism).  As we deal with asymmetric human relationships and power, a robust moral standard which transcends the practice itself is required. Traditionally a concept of justice receives this normative role (Sandel). How does this function from a Christian perspective? The biblical conception of justice defines the purpose every institution and social order should have (Ramsey). From this basis I hope to explain how justice (not love or benevolence) is the all-encompassing normative notion for all leadership practice. This means that justice (mishpat)/righteousness (tsedeq) and leadership are two fully integrated notions, two sides of the same coin. A separation of the two leads inevitably to chaos and suffering.  There is a theistic as well as an anthropological argument for the unity of leadership and justice. First theistic, God himself and his acts are the source of justice. The ultimate connection between justice and leadership is in the metaphor of throne of God (Ps.97:2) in the writings of Israel. The idea throne and Lordship receives its full meaning in Jesus message of the Kingdom God. Ultimately all people will to stand for the throne of God to be judged. Anthropologically the human being is imago dei. Here the leadership/throne idea is again present, since being an image means to be vassal to bring justice and shaloom to all creation. Consequently, leadership is participating in Gods justice. The most difficult question is how do we understand justice (distributive as well as corrective) as it relates to leadership. Is a religious perspective, based on Gods acts and commandments not to exclusive and even esoteric? This paper interacts with the theistic foundation of justice by the philosopher Nicolas Wolterstorff (as an alternative to John Rawls). According to Wotlerstorff justice is ultimately grounded in human rights. Justice is based on natural human rights that inhere in the worth of human beings, a worth that is bestowed on each and every human being through God’s love.  Rights are normative bonds between oneself and the other. It are boundary-markers for our pursuit of life-goods. These rights are inherent and thus possessed by the human person on account of being a human being. Wolterstorff contrasts this view of “justice as inherent rights” with an alternative notion of “justice as right order,” the view that was espoused by pagan philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle and dominated philosophical thinking until relatively recent times.  As a conclusion some initial ideas are given of how Wolterstorff’s view on justice as inherent rights should be applied to the professional and social practice of what is often called “servant leadership”.


Leading amidst Diversity: The Ethics of Dialogue and Dissent

IMG_1651jpgJack Barentsen Lecturer in Practical Theology, Evangelical Theological Faculty, Leuven, Belgium

One of the key challenges in all domains of leadership today is leading an increasingly diverse organization. This increase in diversity is not simply the societal context in which we live, due to factors such as increasing mobility, ethnic migration and fragmented ideologies, as if particular organizations are peaceful islands of unity. Rather, today’s organization is increasingly diverse, and moving forward does not mean to squelch diversity in favor of a unified goal (read: more profits) with like-minded co-workers (read: effective production workers), but to inspire and mobilize a diverse group of people to collaborate towards socially relevant goals. This applies to all sorts of organizations, such as business and multinationals, political parties, schools and religious communities. Such a leadership task requires a mindset that engages in dialogue and welcomes dissent, as key processes to advance collaboration. It also requires a sense of thoughtful reflection about and empathy for the dissimilar, perhaps even the unlovely co-worker, learning to appreciate difference rather than building a unified company culture which straightjackets the worker into a particular worker identity. Such leadership bridges differences between various group and constituencies within one’s organization. The ethical challenges of this type of leadership are substantial, and the failures are many, in part because an emphasis on heroic leadership tends to dull our sensitivity to difference and reduce our empathy with those whom we perceive as weaker. A Christian perspective contributes significantly towards understanding these ethical challenges, learning from a theology of self-sacrifice and suffering, as well as drawing on principles for interreligious dialogue.

New Testament Diaconal Leadership as Guide to Ethical Leadership in South Africa

IMG_1715jpgGert Breed Director, School of Ministers Training, North-West University South Africa

This paper wants to answer two questions: “What is the type of leadership needed in South Africa today?” and “What guidelines can be gleaned for ethical leadership in South Africa from the study of the diakon– word group in the New Testament?” The first part of the paper looks at the current situation in the South African community as it is as a result of what happened in the past and of what is happening today. From this the type of leadership needed in South Africa is established. In the second part of the paper some passages in the New Testament will be investigated to establish guidelines for ethical leadership from the use of the diakon– word group (“to render a service”) in a religious and theological context. The results of the study are compared to the results of other researchers on ethical leadership. The central theological argument is that South Africa can profit from diaconal leadership as is described in the use of the diakon– word group in the New Testament.

A Mosaic Picture of Leadership: Failure and Faithfulness, Command and Character, in Old Testament Perspective

IMG_1656jpgRichard S. Briggs Lecturer in Old Testament, Director of Biblical Studies, Durham University

This paper explores questions of moral leadership from an Old Testament perspective by considering the case-study of Moses. The picture of leadership it explores is therefore ‘Mosaic’ in two senses: (i) it relates to Moses, and (ii) it shows a complicated mosaic-like picture of competing insights. I use the story of Moses to explore the tension between what scholars have termed the ‘moral vision’ of the Old Testament, and the recognition that the Old Testament (and scripture more broadly) does not seem to have a moralistic framework in place for accounting for questions of failure or sin. The story of Moses illustrates the mix of failure and faithfulness that characterises almost all biblical portraits of leaders. In being embedded in the Pentateuch, which is a mix of story and legal and moral code, the character of Moses is then further illuminated by the kinds of direct reflection on the moral life that are found in the Pentateuch. Here I suggest the key is the interplay between ‘command’ – divine instruction and the resultant requirement of obedience – and ‘character’ – the life lived in the heart and soul and mind and strength of each person. I argue that the Old Testament offers a nuanced picture of the moral life in which questions of character and motivation, and questions of obedience each have their place, and neither completely accounts for the other. A leader who learns from the Old Testament will therefore recognise that there is an irreducible tension between imaginative freedom and obedience to requirements.

‘In Between’:  Imagining Hospitality’s Importance in Leadership

IMG_1681jpgAlicia Crumpton Dean, School of Business and Public Leadership, Johnson University

While historically our focus within leadership studies has been the leader, we realize a deep need to move from leader to leadership in understanding the social spaces and interdependencies between the social, cultural, and physical environments.  Transcending a leader focus is not easy however is possible if we focus on the ‘in-between’ – those norms, qualities, and practices that occur inter-personally and spatially.   This paper is part of a series exploring topics related to context, civility, community, conversation, and creativity. Often when a person speaks about hospitality they refer to a dinner party or the hospitality industry such as hotels and resorts.   Or perhaps a person thinks hospitality is ‘something women do.’   While these representations may readily enable us to visualize hospitality, they tend to minimize its richness and social importance.  Yet Pohl (1999) indicated that “Hospitality was a qualification for leadership in early Christian communities” and that “Christian believers were to regard hospitality to strangers as a fundamental expression of the gospel” (p. 5).    My assumptions:  Given that we share a Creator (God), all of creation is connected.  This deep sense of connection translates into an ethic of care and personal responsibility towards the Other and the planet.  Hospitality, in this sense, represents a distinct orientation. This paper will explore:  What is hospitality?  How does a feminist hospitality compare with other discussions? In describing hospitality, Hamington (2010) proposed a theory of feminist hospitality informed by an ethic of care characterized as ‘an open epistemological stance’ concerned with issues of “identity, inclusiveness, reciprocity, forgiveness, and embodiment”  (p. 21).  Further, in her consideration of feminist hospitality in relation to home tours, Kitson noted, “Hospitality is enacted in striving toward openness, generosity, attentiveness, and tolerance” (p. 138).    Finally, what are the implications for leadership?

People Created in the Likeness of God, an Alternative to the Instrumentality of People in Christian Development Organizations

IMG_1712jpgPeirong Lin PhD Candidate at the Institute of Leadership and Ethics, ETF

Using the context of Christian development organizations as a normative practice, the way that people are managed matters. In this paper, I argue that people management as people are made in the image of God. An ethical framework for people management is constructed based on Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good and what does the Lord require of you?
 To act justly and to love mercy 
and to walk humbly with your God”. Looking at this verse from the perspective of theocentric morality, the three interrelated spokes are discussed in line with people management. To Act Justly, the consideration of just systems for People management, to Love Mercy, the importance of virtues and finally to Walk Humbly, the spiritual formation of staff working for such organizations. Ethical issues and its subsequent resolution will also be discussed in this paper.

Moral leadership in the EU past and present

IMG_1669jpgSander Luitwieler ILE Senior Researcher

Christian political leaders played a crucial role in the founding of – what is now called – the European Union (EU) in the 1950s and in its subsequent development. In particular, devout Catholics such as Robert Schuman (France), Konrad Adenauer (Germany) and Alcide De Gasperi (Italy) felt an urge to lead Europe towards a peaceful union after the bitter experiences of two world wars. This also applied to some Protestant politicians, but in general they took a more reserved position. Protestant countries, such as Britain and some Nordic countries, only joined later on and they often showed to be reluctant partners. The same pattern can be seen among Catholic and Protestant followers. This paper discusses moral leadership in the EU past and present. What were the moral motives of the Catholic ‘founding fathers’ and what kind of leadership did they provide? How can the ethical stance of Protestant political leaders (and followers) be explained? What kind of leadership do we need at present, so that the EU may look forward to a flourishing and hopeful future? After an introductory section, Section 2 will discuss some theoretical approaches to leadership and ethics that may be used to analyse Christian political leadership in the EU. In light of this, Section 3 examines the motives and leadership of Catholic and Protestant politicians with regard to the origins of the EU. Section 4 focuses on some requirements and challenges for moral leadership in the EU at present. Section 5 draws some conclusions.

Contextual Challenges for Moral Leadership: A Case Study of Public and Business Leadership in Russia

IMG_1657jpgYulia Nikolaevna Krasnikova  Senior lecturer, Saint-Petersburg State Agrarian University, Saint-Petersburg Christian University

In my presentation I plan to examine the issue of ethics in the workplace in contemporary Russian society. In Russia, academic research of leadership appeared not long ago, and leadership studies as an academic discipline is still developing. Leadership takes on the peculiar features of the context in which it is practiced, and this impacts the leader in implementation. Uniqueness of cultural mentality often hinders assessment of a particular ethical dilemma, which means that responses to similar ethical dilemmas will vary among different cultures. For example, in Russia the widespread tradition of protecting people by “closing one’s eyes” towards wrongdoing is still ethically acceptable as the proper cultural response. The concept of ethics in the commercial sphere of Russia is considered to be insignificant, and in many cases not obligatory for making administrative decisions. In foreign companies, ethical standards come pre-packaged in finished form, while in the non-commercial sphere, independent development of ethical codes in the Russian Federation is moving slightly faster. Federal law regarding public civil service in the Russian Federation includes requirements for office behavior of civil servants as well as standards of moral character. In 2010, a law on ethics for civil and municipal workers was approved. The document stipulates that government bodies develop their own codes – taking into account features of the work and context. The document also includes written norms with reference to the office, responsibility for violation of codes, and requirements for corruption prevention. The problem of corruption is deeply rooted in Russian society. According to ex-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev: “In our society in general, intolerance of corruption as an institution is practically absent…corruption in Russia has, sadly, centuries of tradition». Societal norms in Russian traditionally guide decision making, which means that leadership decisions are made equally upon the basis of both formal and informal norms. If this balance is not maintained, the solution may not be effective. Ethical codes may enhance the effectiveness of legal decisions, but only if they have clear, objective content, reflecting the uniqueness of their application, and if they complement rather than duplicate or substitute the rule of law. In Russia today, there is an increasing demand for leaders of the “new model” who are not only able to correctly apply leadership skills, but also become agents of ethical values.

Leadership and the Ethics of Responsibility: An Engagement with Dietrich Bonhoeffer

IMG_1670jpgSteven C. van den Heuvel PhD Candidate at the Institute of Leadership and Ethics, ETF

In the literature on leadership ethics, ‘responsibility’ is an emerging concept. Yet there is no consensus on the way it is defined and used. In this paper I seek to contribute to the discussions over the role of responsibility in leadership ethics by engaging the thought of German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1908-1945). He developed a distinctive theology of responsibility, born out of his engagement with personalist philosophy as well as out of his own activities of resistance against the Nazi regime. He perceived responsibility to have the following four dimensions: 1) Stellvertretung, or vicarious responsible action; 2) accordance with reality; 3) the willingness to take on guilt; and 4) concrete action. Together these elements provide a rich account of responsibility, which can be used to connect motives from the Christian tradition with contemporary leadership ethics. In this paper I will first of all describe Bonhoeffer’s theory of responsibility more fully. Secondly, I will critically engage his theory, indicating its shortcomings as well as the possibilities it has for current leadership ethics.

Why ‘Christian’ Moral Leadership? A philosophical analysis

IMG_1724jpgMaarten J. Verkerk Professor of Reformational Philosophy, Technical University Eindhoven Maastricht University

In my presentation I would like to explore the field of moral leadership from a philosophical perspective. I would like to address three topics. Firstly, I would like to give a view from within on moral leadership (I have been a leader in the industry for more than fifteen years and in healthcare more than ten years). I will give an overview of themes from the perspective of a practitioner. Secondly, I would like to give a philosophical reflection on moral leadership. Based on the tradition of Christian Philosophers MacIntyre, Mouw, Griffioen and others, I will propose the so-called “triple-I” model to investigate the field of moral leadership in organizations. The ‘I’ of ‘intrinsic’ refers to the internal values inherent to the primary process of an organization, the ‘I’ of ‘inclusive’ to the justified interests of stakeholders involved, and the ‘I’ of ‘ideals’ of the ideals, values, basic beliefs and religion that underlies a culture and organization and that drive individuals. Finally, I would like to use the “triple–I” model to address the problems, failures, and challenges of moral leadership in general and Christian moral leadership in particular. Especially, I will show that the whole debate about the adjective ‘Christian’ in Christian moral leadership can be framed in such a way that a fruitful debate is possible.


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