Paternal Influences on Ethical Decision Making of Senior Leaders

The corporate scandals in North America including WorldCom, International Olympic Committee, Enron, Tyco, Qwest Communications International, Duke Energy, Bristol-Myers Squibb, etc, as well as the sex scandal in the Catholic church, have resulted in a loss of confidence in the management and leadership of these large corporations and institutions. As a consequence, investors have become unnerved and the jolts have shaken international markets. No wonder that a CBS poll taken in the fall of 2002 finds that 79% of respondents believe questionable business practices are widespread and only fewer than one third thinks that CEOs are honest (Wallington, 2003).
These companies have all come to the limelight for the wrong reasons. As a result, the role of the CEO in ethical dilemmas has come under increased scrutiny. While ethical lapses occur at all the levels of organizations, senior executives who fail to set high ethical standards and live by them are senior leaders in organizations assume the responsibility to display high ethical and moral values in their conduct both within the organization and outside. However, many instances have come to where they discard this significant aspect subjected to scrutiny and held accountable for the consequences of unethical practices, damaging the interests of employees, shareholders and the society at large. CEOs and other senior leaders such as members of Boards of Directors are expected to provide role models and help develop and entrench the ethical belief system for all members of the organization. However, when these leaders fail in their commitment to stand up to the ethical responsibilities, the negative impact of their ethical transgressions will remain long after the leader has been punished.
Instances of unethical conduct by senior leaders, which entail serious repercussions, have prompted the need to identify background factors, socialization practices, or early childhood experiences that may account for such behaviour in adulthood. Thus, an interest has developed in understanding various elements that can induce ethical behaviour in a person when he becomes a leader, and bind him or her to certain values and principles.&nbsp.