Instead of viewing morality as a concept that
adults impose on children (the psychoanalytic explanation of morality) or as
something based solely on avoiding bad feelings like anxiety and guilt (the
behaviorist explanation of morality), Kohlberg believed that children
generate their own moral judgments. Motivated primarily by social relationships—including, but not limited to, parents, siblings, peers,
friends—and secondarily by a variety of emotions—including, but no limited
to love, respect, empathy, and attachment—children develop into moral
agents. Kohlberg’s observations and psychometric testing of children and
adults led him to theorize that human beings progress invariantly and
consecutively in their power of moral reasoning (i.e., in their bases for
moral behavior) through a series of six clearly identifiable stages which
can be more generally classified into three levels. These six stages of
thought processing imply qualitatively different modes of thinking and of
problem solving at each stage.
For Kohlberg, then, human beings develop in response to cognitive conflicts at the current stage of their moral development. But, someone (e.g., parents, educators, friends, religious figures, lovers, business or political leaders) must present human beings with moral dilemmas for discussion which not only help these individuals to recognize the reasonableness of a superior stage of moral thought but also encourage moral development in that direction. Kohlberg believed it was primarily social interaction and moral discourse that foster and promote the moral development of human beings. In this way, for example, parents, friends, and teachers—and for the purposes of this course, leaders—promote moral growth in others as they recognize the stage from which others operate and appropriately challenge them to consider reasoning about the moral dilemma by using the arguments and principles associated with the next stage of moral development.
During his tenure at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, Kohlberg inspired a generation of academics to become moral activists. He sought to put theories of human development into practice by encouraging the formation of democracies or “just communities” inside of schools and prisons as well. His believed moral education would flourish in any environment in which every individual possessed decision-making power.
Kohlberg became physically and mentally ill in the late-1960s and, as his health declined and his world fell apart, some assert, so did much of his work. Toward the end of his life, Kohlberg appeared increasing disheveled and even distraught. While on a day pass from a local hospital on January 19, 1987, Kohlberg drove to Winthrop, Massachusetts, parked his car on a dead‑end street, and plunged himself into the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean where he died. He was only 59 years old with potentially many productive years of scholarship ahead of him.
After his death, some of Kohlberg’s colleagues questioned whether his agenda had died with him. Had his pursuit of practical applications of his theoretical construct undermined his research? Others insisted—and continue to insist—that Kohlberg’s legacy lives on at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in programs such as its “Risk and Prevention” program. And, although Kohlberg’s conclusions have been replicated in cross-cultural studies completed in Turkey, Taiwan, Yucatan, Honduras, India, United States, Canada, Britain, and Israel, whether Kohlberg’s theory has any basis in fact continues to be a much disputed topic.
A. PRECONVENTIONAL MORALITY:
[Orientation: Behavior is motivated by anticipation of pleasure or pain]
STAGE 1: PUNISHMENT AND OBEDIENCE ORIENTATION
What could be called a "premoral" stage, what an agent will do is determined by calculating the immediate physical consequences that might ensue not the moral value of an action. By deferring to power, the agent's overarching goal is to avoid physical punishment. Thus, at stage one, obedience not moral sentiments or compunction characterizes decision making.
STAGE 2: INSTRUMENTAL EXCHANGE (PERSONAL REWARD/PUNISHMENT) ORIENTATION
An individual does what is necessary and makes concessions to superiors but only as required to satisfy one’s self-interest. Thus, right conduct consists of that which instrumentally satisfies one’s self-interest which, in turn, likens moral decision making to a marketplace where a moral agent seeks to maximize personal rewards and minimize punishments. At this stage, an agent is not worried so much about obedience to one's superiors but more so how to accrue rewards from one's superiors. Perhaps the rationale, once again a pre-moral rationale, is best stated by the aphorism “If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours" and justice is “Do unto others as they do unto you.” At stage two, a moral agent values people solely in terms of their utility and revenge is viewed as a moral duty.
[Orientation: Behavior motivated by the acceptance of the rules and standards of one’s group]
STAGE 3: INTERPERSONAL CONFORMITY ORIENTATION
A moral agent acts not from any personal moral sensibility but in order to gain approval from valued others because what is “good” and “right” is defined as conformity with the behavioral expectations of one’s society or peer group. The moral worth of conduct is irrelevant. What counts, morally speaking, is that one's conduct gratify or help others or simply that “Everybody is doing it” because the moral agent's goal is to earn approval from these others. A “sin” or "bad" conduct is a breach of the conventional expectations of the social order. Retribution at this stage is collective—for example, the group will shun an individual—and punishment is intended to deter other members of the group from engaging in similar conduct. A failure to punish is believed to be “unfair,” the rationale being, “If she can get away with it, why can’t I?”
STAGE 4: LAW AND ORDER ORIENTATION
Morality involves respecting rules, laws, and duly-constituted authority as well as defending the given social and institutional order for its own sake. A moral agent's responsibility is directed toward the welfare of others by upholding the status quo. Right behavior consists of maintaining the social order for its own sake as, for example, one receives “a good day’s pay for a good day’s work.” Authority figures are seldom questioned because, the moral agent asserts, “He must be right. After all, he’s the Pope (or the President, or the Judge, or God).” Consistency and precedent must be maintained because, at this level of moral reasoning, the failure to uphold law and order is viewed a threat to fabric of society if not society itself. At stage four, “justice” normally refers to criminal or forensic justice, with the demand that wrongdoers be punished by “paying a debt to society,” what is called "retributive justice." Furthermore, law abiders must be rewarded because of the strict requirements of justice. Injustice, then, is the failure for one’s merits to be rewarded or for others’ demerits to be punished.
Between the conventional stages and the post-conventional stages, Kohlberg posited a transitional stage evident, for example, in college‑age students who have come to see conventional morality as relative and arbitrary, but have not yet discovered universal moral principles. Rather than moving in the direction of using universal moral principals to make moral decisions, however, moral decision making can become a hedonistic ethic of “do your own thing,” as Kohlberg believed the hippie counter-culture of the l960’s evidenced. Disrespect for conventional morality is especially infuriating to the stage four mentality, and is calculated to be so. Counter-cultural behavior is itself a conventional form of moral self-expression as counter-culturalists form social groupings of like-minded individuals.
[Orientation: Universal moral principles]
STAGE 5: PRIOR RIGHTS AND SOCIAL CONTRACT ORIENTATION
Moral agents act out of a sense of mutual obligation and the public good and right conduct tends to be defined in terms of general individual rights and in terms of standards critically examined and agreed upon by the whole society (e.g., the U.S. Constitution). While the moral agent's freedom can be limited by society, it can only be limited when one individual's freedom infringes upon another’s. Moral conduct in a specific situation is not defined by referencing a checklist of rules, policies, or contractual obligations but is dependent upon logical application of universal, abstract, moral principles to the concrete exigencies of the situation at hand. At the same time, moral agents possess natural or inalienable rights and liberties a priori to society and must be protected by society. Because retributive justice does not promote the rights and welfare of the individual, retributive justice is repudiated because it is neither rational nor just. The statement, “Justice demands punishment,” a self-evident truism to the stage four moral agent, is self‑evident nonsense to the stage five moral agent. Thus, justice must be distributed proportionate to circumstances and need. Only legal sanctions which fulfill that specific purpose can be imposed, for example, the protection of future victims, deterrence, and rehabilitation.
STAGE 6: UNIVERSAL MORAL PRINCIPLES ORIENTATION
An individual who reaches this stage acts out of universal principles based upon the equality and intrinsic worth of all human beings who are never means to an end, but are ends in themselves. Possessing inalienable “rights” means more than individual liberty; it means that every individual is due consideration of his interests in every situation, those interests being of equal importance with one’s own. This is the “Golden Rule” model of moral decision making. A list of rules inscribed in stone is no longer necessary because the individual is motivated by universal moral principles.
1. STAGE DEVELOPMENT IS INVARIANT.
One must progress through the stages in order, and one cannot get to a higher stage without passing through the stage immediately preceding it. A belief that such a leap into moral maturity stands in sharp contrast to the facts of developmental research. Moral development follows natural development, and like all growth, takes place according to a pre-determined sequence. According to Kohlberg, to expect someone to grow into high moral maturity overnight would be like expecting someone to walk before he crawls. Though such behavior is conceivable, it is highly improbable.
2. IN STAGE DEVELOPMENT, SUBJECTS CANNOT COMPREHEND MORAL REASONING AT A STAGE MORE THAN ONE STAGE SUPERIOR TO THEIR OWN.
If an individual is oriented to see good almost exclusively as that which brings satisfaction, how will that individual understand a concept of good in which the “good” may bring him no tangible pleasure at all? For example, the moral maxim “It is better to give than to receive” reflects a high level of moral development. The individual who honestly asks why it is better to give than to receive does so because that individual does not and cannot understand such thinking. To that person, “better” means better for him. How can it be better for him to give than it is to get?
3. IN STAGE DEVELOPMENT, INDIVIDUALS ARE COGNITIVELY ATTRACTED TO REASONING AT ONE LEVEL ABOVE THEIR OWN PRESENT PREDOMINANT LEVEL.
The person has questions and problems for which the solutions are less satisfying at his present level. Since reasoning at one stage higher is intelligible and since it makes more sense and resolves more difficulties, it becomes a more attractive option. According to Kohlberg, an adult who consistently functions at level one moral reasoning will end up in prison or dead.
Consider Rawls’ (1999) example of the two brothers and the last piece of cake. While Rawls focuses upon justice, Kohlberg is interested in moral reasoning. Based upon level one moral reasoning, the bigger, stronger brother will probably get the cake. But, what if the little brother, thinking at level two, suggests they share the cake? This solution is, for him, more attractive, namely, getting some cake is better than getting none at all. At the same time, the little brother introduces cognitive dissonance into his brother’s reasoning process, challenging him to examine the dilemma from a higher level of moral reasoning.
4. IN STAGE DEVELOPMENT, MOVEMENT THROUGH THE STAGES IS EFFECTED WHEN COGNITIVE DISSONANCE IS CREATED, THAT IS, WHEN A PERSON’S COGNITIVE OUTLOOK IS NOT ADEQUATE TO COPE WITH A GIVEN MORAL DILEMMA.
The human being who is growing will look for more and more adequate ways to solve problems. If this person has no problems or no dilemmas, it is not likely that this person will look for solutions and, hence, will not grow morally. Again, in Rawls’ (1999) example, the big brother—who can just take the cake and get away with it—is less likely to look for a better solution than the younger brother who will get none and probably suffer a beating in the struggle.
5. IT IS QUITE POSSIBLE FOR A HUMAN BEING TO BE PHYSICALLY MATURE BUT NOT MORALLY MATURE.
If a child is spoiled and never has to accommodate for others’ needs, or if is raised in an environment where level two thinking by others (for example, parents, teachers, siblings, friends) predominates and gets the job done adequately enough, the child may never generate enough questions to propel him to a higher level of moral reasoning.
6. ONLY ABOUT 25% OF PERSONS EVER GROW TO LEVEL SIX, THE MAJORITY REMAINING AT LEVEL FOUR.
Examples include Jesus, Ghandi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Operating from a universal principles orientation, each promoted higher-order moral development not only in others but also in their societies and cultures and, in particular, as each advocated nonviolent resistance to immoral regimes. The universal principles for which each died continue to stimulate moral development in those who study their lives.
Kohlberg’s theory explaining the moral development of human beings provides a perspective to consider how organizations might develop into “ethical communities” (Maclagan, 1998) as well as how leaders and their followers might build these communities.
Adapting Kohlberg’s thought to daily life in organizations, the basic concept would be that leaders would not focus exclusively upon the organization’s functioning from a structural frame perspective (Bolman & Deal, 1997) or that of a machine bureaucracy (Morgan, 1997). That is, leaders would not be consumed by thinking about what must be done and how to do it better within a functional bureaucracy. Instead, leaders would also—and perhaps, more crucially—direct their focus upon how the members of the organization might adopt a more self‑critical, organizational learning perspective (DiBella & Nevis, 1998) albeit at one developmental stage superior to where members of the organization currently make moral judgments.
This broader perspective would take into account not only the issues but also the value conflicts evidencing themselves in organizational problems (McWhinney, Webber, Smith, & Novokowsky, 1997). More importantly, this perspective would also take into account how the members of the organization would envision their organization as an ethical community and how they might contribute their human resources toward the more substantive goal of building that ethical community.
Thus, the concept advocated by adapting Kohlberg’s theory of moral development to organizational functioning is not an “either/or” proposition asserting that leaders forget about organizational functioning and focus exclusively upon building an ethical community. Rather, the concept being advocated by adapting Kohlberg’s theory to organizational functioning is a “both/and” proposition where leaders would remain focused upon organizational functioning while, at the same time, they would also direct their attention to a larger, more substantive purpose, namely, building an ethical community within their organization through its functioning.
Maclagan (1998) utilizes Kohlberg’s theory to formulate a five-step paradigm by which leaders might envision their organizations as ethical communities as well as how they might direct their efforts toward building these communities. The five steps of Maclagan’s paradigm include: a) judgment; b) dialogue; c) ethical development; d) work as “service”; and, e) responsibility.
For Maclagan, judgment is not simply making decisions. More to the point, judgment requires leaders to make a reasoned choice—a “good,” “virtuous,” or “moral” choice, as Aristotle (1958) would define it—given their particular organization and its idiosyncratic circumstances, the particular people involved in and who will be impacted by a decision, as well as how the decision might be implemented in the best way possible given all of these variables (1998, p. 42).
This judgment—what could be called a “J1” judgment—requires leaders to apprehend the organizational dysfunction evidencing itself and to gather factual data which substantiate whether or not this indeed is the case. Armed with this apprehension and these data, leaders can then conceptualize the situation and consider different perspectives about it. A reasoned judgment, then, is a decision about how to proceed, given what theory suggests and the skills possessed by the leaders (what Aristotle calls “practice” [i.e., φονήσιs]). In these “practice episodes” (Sergiovanni, 1986) leaders decide upon a course of action—that is, they make a J1 judgment—which initiates the unfolding of a larger process whereby leaders begin constructing the foundation upon which they and their followers will eventually build an ethical community.
The second step of Maclagan’s paradigm requires dialogue between leaders and their followers. However, taking into account Kohlberg’s theory of moral development, dialogue is not simply “talking” or even “expressing opinions.” Instead, dialogue exposes the relevant issues manifesting themselves in the problems causing organizational dysfunction from a variety of processes, approaches, or methodologies (1998, p. 47). The exposition of these issues by leaders and their followers, in turn, illuminates the conflict of values held by various members of the organization which are embedded within the issues (McWhinney et al., 1997). Dialogue, then, provides a forum in which leaders and followers can understand better the value-laden content of the dilemmas confronting them and which is the root of the problems causing organizational dysfunction.
What actually transpires in this dialogue—and is crucially important to the process of constructing an ethical community—is that leaders move their followers gingerly in the direction of overcoming their “moral muteness” (Bird & Waters, 1989) so that all parties might learn to make collective judgments about how they might proceed, given the differences in and conflicts between the values exposed by this dialogue.
Thus, by fostering this particular type of dialogue, leaders are actually overcoming what otherwise would lead to conflict as they broker and forge a more broadly‑held consensus about how people will move forward, aware that the consensus being brokered will oftentimes be an imperfect consensus. But, at the same time, this imperfect consensus is superior to achieving no consensus at all because it provides a foundation for building a shared moral purpose (Barnard, 1938) and values among leaders and followers which, in turn, solidifies this foundation and makes it possible to build an ethical community. Absent a shared purpose and values, fissures will continue to expand and broaden the gaps among leaders and their followers as well as among followers themselves. Ultimately, the foundation will collapse and the people in the organization will resort to tactics that resemble a “streetfight” more than an “arena” (Bolman & Deal, 1997, p. 326).
Maclagan also notes that dialogue makes it possible for leaders to demonstrate their interest in and willingness to listen to and to appreciate the diversity of viewpoints present within the organization. Sharing a purpose and values enables leaders and followers to develop “ethical rationality” as people listen to and to appreciate a variety of processes, approaches, or methodologies which not only assist in managing conflict but also in overcoming the pressure to respond to other views by constructing counter-arguments (1998, p. 47). In turn, followers can recognize that the leader possesses and is motivated by a higher level of moral reasoning and, thus, followers are capable of reframing “problems” as “issues” and examining the value conflicts embedded in these organizational issues from a higher level of moral reasoning. This is the linchpin of Kohlberg’s theory, as he argues that moral development can only occur as one person challenges another to consider matters from a higher level of moral reasoning. To achieve this outcome, then, there must first be a relationship between the leader and followers, one characterized by trust, that enables the latter to be challenged by the former to consider the issue from a superior level of moral reasoning.
Leaders who are not interested in listening to, do not listen to, or fail to appreciate the diversity of viewpoints and, hence, to examine the value conflicts embedded in organizational issues, demonstrate lower levels of moral reasoning than those followers who are capable of considering alternative points of view. And, because of this, these leaders are incapable of challenging the followers’ moral reasoning beyond that level. Oftentimes, this becomes evident as leaders busy themselves constructing counter-arguments in response to arguments asserted by their followers rather than listening to the arguments being asserted and responding to them from a higher level of moral reasoning.
Thus, dialogue enables leaders to initiate the third step in Maclagan’s paradigm, namely, to promote ethical development within followers (1998, pp. 175-176). That is, dialogue provides leaders multiple opportunities to raise for the consideration of all parties involved in the ethical dilemmas—those fundamental value conflicts at the heart of arguments—embedded in organizational dysfunction. In turn, dialogue assists followers to be challenged by the reasonableness of a superior level of moral reasoning. In this way, leaders encourage their followers’ development in the direction of a higher level of moral decision making. As Kohlberg argued, social interaction and moral discourse not only foster but also promote moral development.
As noted earlier, the fact should not be overlooked that followers may operate at a higher level of moral reasoning than their leaders do.
In this scenario, followers must exercise discretion by inviting or, depending upon the circumstances, challenging their leaders to consider the value conflicts embedded in organizational issues—what the leaders believe are “problems” evidencing organizational dysfunction—from the next higher level of moral reasoning. Balancing one’s insight into the more substantive aspects of organizational dysfunction with one’s role in the organizational hierarchy is not easy, however, and can be fraught with frustration. Followers should remember, however, that in order for their leaders to be successful, followers must not only “stand up to” but also “stand up for” their leaders (Chaleff, 1995). The ability to engage leaders in this form of dialogue gives evidences that ethical principles are not only being introduced into discussion about organizational issues but also that, by overcoming moral muteness (Bird & Waters, 1989), leaders and their followers are building an ethical community within the organization.
Judgment, dialogue, and ethical development solidify and broaden the consensus about a shared purpose and values upon which leaders and their followers can make collective judgments about how they will proceed individually and collectively. Rather than focusing exclusively upon solving conflicts in the false belief that this is what makes organizational problems disappear, the ethical consensus being forged—a judgment made not by leaders or by their followers as individuals but by leaders and their followers as a collectivity (what might be called a “J2” judgment)—represents the recognition on the part of leaders and their followers that every member of the organization bears personal responsibility for promoting the organization’s well‑being.
As an ethical community, leaders and their followers identify a pathway to resolve not only the value conflicts embedded in organizational problems but also to translate the organization’s shared purpose into their own projects (McWhinney et al., 1997). In this sense, then, the organization’s purpose and the shared values implied in it through this ethical consensus now transcend partisan interests as leaders embark upon this pathway with their followers as fellow travelers. Work in the organization, then, is viewed less as a “job” and more so as “service” in support of a shared purpose. Envisioning “work as service” rather than “compensation for services provided” is the fourth step of Maclagan’s paradigm (1998, p. 157).
More importantly, however, the collective judgments forged at the fourth stage specify the responsibility leaders and their followers now bear to promote good organizational functioning (pp. 72-80). Objectively, responsibility results from a formal process of dialogue within which leaders and followers collectively identify goals, tactics, and projects need to be accomplished and, as such, the definitions are not governed by legalisms and contracts but, instead, are shaped and given form through a process of dialogue that involves others than those who are specifically responsible for accomplishing all of these activities. At the same time, however, responsibility requires individuals to exercise discretion about how they will complete the particular projects assigned to them. Subjectively, then, responsibility involves an informal process of reflection within which an individual specifies how to complete one’s projects, given one’s understanding of how one will contribute to the larger organizational effort, that is, its goals.
As an organization and its members learn to function more as an ethical community than a functional bureaucracy, these formal and informal processes specify the “two sides” of the coin of responsibility. Responsibility, then, is not an “either/or” proposition in an ethical community, but rather a “both/and” proposition.
At this fifth stage of Maclagan’s paradigm, a covenant of shared values—evidenced in trust and discretion in decision making authority rather than suspicion and "snoopervisory" inspection of a subordinate's decisions—as well as collective responsibility for the common good rather than contractual obligations characterize the organizational decision‑making process. This covenant provides evidence indicating that leaders and their followers have come to understand themselves and their responsibilities for the organization’s transcendent purpose as well as their roles of service within the organization.
According to Kohlberg’s theory, responsibility for promoting the common good on the part of leaders and followers gives evidence, in ethical communities, of the deeper trust that leaders and followers have developed through dialogue and, moving forward, as they define and carry out their projects as “service” in furthering a transcendent moral purpose. In addition, responsibility gives evidence of the ethical development of leaders and their followers as well as the formation of an organization which now functions more capably as an ethical community than as a functional organization. Whereas Barnard (1938) identifies this as the "moral factor" of executive leadership, it guides both leaders and followers as they share and uphold a transcendent moral purpose in the organizational decision-making process.
Leaders will oftentimes find themselves acting upon their antecedent core assumptions, beliefs, and values in organizations where the culture requires leaders to justify decisions which either support or dismiss partisan interests and demands asserted and justified solely by lower-level moral reasoning (e.g., pre-conventional and conventional moral reasoning). The snare leaders must avoid as situations like these arise—if leaders are to direct their efforts toward constructing an organization which operates as an ethical community—is becoming mute and acceding to the organization’s cultural norms which inhibit the inculcation of responsibility through discourse. Instead, as McWhinney (1992) argues, leaders must exhibit the virtue of courage and defend their position by challenging followers to consider positions that have derived from higher‑level moral reasoning (e.g., post‑conventional moral reasoning).
As numerous philosophers, ethicists, and organizational theorists have asserted, the virtue of courage is what makes it possible for leaders and their followers to consider and to dialogue about the value conflicts embedded in organizational dilemmas from a higher-level of moral reasoning. Then, gradually and as a consequence of the trust that builds up through dialogue, leaders and followers will let go of those personal and organizational “teddy bears” that have provided so much comfort and security (Winnicott, 1971) yet have also served to inhibit both personal ethical development and the development of an organization into an ethical community whose members all accept and bear responsibility for the choices they make.
In an ethical organization characterized by a post-conventional or principled decision-making process, leaders and followers place a premium upon independent ethical thought rather than conformity, what Srivasta and Cooperrider call a “chain of consent” (1986, p. 707). Leaders and followers exhibit this capacity as they examine the salient features of the issues confronting the organization and, through careful deliberation, identify and resolve the conflicts of values embedded in those issues. This ethical consensus honors the responsibilities borne by each member of the organization as together they forge a pathway to resolve the organizational issues confronting them.
At the same time, an ethical organization characterized by a post-conventional or principled decision-making process presents leaders and followers several ethical challenges.
For leaders, the temptation to manipulate followers in order to impose one’s will upon them presents perhaps the most serious temptation, one Machiavelli (1985) so astutely noted in his book, The Prince. To deal adequately with this temptation, Maclagan identifies three rules leaders be aware of.
First, leaders must be sufficiently mature enough to place their espoused values into question and to engage in dialogue with followers. This is the behavior Argyris and Schön (1974) have called “Model II” behavior. As Maclagan notes about this first rule, “managers should seek to increase the awareness of possible manipulation by making explicit their own values and encouraging reaction from employees” (1998, p. 83). Not only does making one’s own values more explicit provide one’s followers the opportunity to offer feedback about the congruence (or lack of congruence) between one’s espoused values and actual values in practice episodes (Sergiovanni, 1986). In addition, the ability to make explicit one’s values enables leaders to model the type of dialogue that they are attempting to foster among the followers and throughout the organization.
Second, Maclagan notes that if leaders are to overcome the temptation to manipulate others, the values held by followers should receive at least an equal of a hearing as those espoused by leaders (p. 83). To this end, leaders might envision their organization more as a “web of inclusion” (Helgesen, 1995) than as a structurally configured hierarchy (Mintzberg, 1979). Through this airing of differences leaders give their followers tangible evidence of a willingness to listen and to respond to a diversity of viewpoints. And, as already noted, this dialogue enables leaders to challenge their followers to examine these differences from higher levels of moral reasoning (and vice‑versa) as well as to forge a more broadly held consensus. This consensus—which, however, may not be a perfect consensus—is grounded in ethical principles not extrinsic coercion (for example, rewards and punishments) or intrinsic organizational norms (for example, conformity).
Third, to overcome the temptation to manipulate followers, leaders must complicate their followers’ understanding by engaging them in developing alternative scenarios based upon their values (Maclagan, 1998, p. 83). While each scenario possesses its idiosyncratic strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats and discussing these makes it possible for leaders and their followers to consider a panoply of alternatives that might not otherwise be considered, Maclagan notes that encouraging the followers’ freedom of choice also makes it possible for leaders to overcome the temptation to manipulate their followers. How? As leaders and followers consider the full range of options or policies that should be brought forward and explored and, then, engage in dialogue about each, leaders allow a collective “chain of consent” to emerge rather than re‑assert a hierarchical “chain of command” (Srivasta & Cooperrider, 1986, p. 707).
Conflict will always be present in organizations if only because leaders and their followers possess a diversity of interests and needed resources are oftentimes scarce (Bolman & Deal, 1997, p. 163). In addition, genuine concern for these interests may require subordinating functional requirements to personal and/or collective needs. However, in transforming an organization into an ethical community, leaders need to manage these differences in a way that encourages every member of the organization to bear personal responsibility for the collective judgments made as well as to ensure the good functioning of the organization. It may well be that leaders must do this by attending to the presence of bias and prejudice in the decision-making process. However, by doing so, leaders are seeking to ensure that these forces do not become institutionalized in the organization’s culture, procedures, or practices.