Virtue Ethics in Leadership Operations: A Pathway for Leadership Development

  • Erich C. FeinEmail author
Part of the Issues in Business Ethics book series (IBET, volume 38)


This chapter argues for the use of a virtue ethics framework as a means of developing individual leaders and leadership capacity within groups and organizations. Major streams of leadership theory are discussed and applications of virtue ethics principles are illustrated with a leader-member exchange (LMX) perspective. Using MacIntyre’s notions of practice and internal goods, an argument is also advanced that leadership processes can be considered internal goods that drive practice within groups and organizations. Future research directions for the use of virtue ethics concepts in leadership development are proposed along with discussions of potential applications in human resource development.


Emotional Intelligence Ethical Leadership Virtue Ethic Leadership Behaviour Leadership Development 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Arjoon, S. 2000. Virtue theory as a dynamic theory of business. Journal of Business Ethics 28(2): 159–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bass, B.M. 1990. Bass and Stogdill’s handbook of leadership: Theory, research, and managerial applications, 3rd ed. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  3. Carmeli, A., B. Ben-Hador, D.A. Waldman, and D.E. Rupp. 2009. How leaders cultivate social capital and nurture employee vigor: Implications for Job performance. Journal of Applied Psychology 94(6): 1553–1561.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Churchland, P.S., T. Sejnowski, W.G. Lycan, and J. Prinz. 2008. Neural representation and neural computation. In Mind and cognition: An anthology, 3rd ed, ed. W.G. Lyca and J. Prinz, 247–268. Malden: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
  5. Cowsill, R., and K. Grint. 2008. Leadership, task and relationship: Orpheus, Prometheus and Janus. Human Resource Management Journal 18(2): 188–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dane, E., and M.G. Pratt. 2007. Exploring intuition and its role in managerial decision making. The Academy of Management Review 32(1): 33–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dansereau, F., F.J. Yammarino, S.E. Markham, J.A. Alutto, J. Newman, M. Dumas, et al. 1998. Individualized leadership: A New multiple-level approach. In Leadership: The multiple-level approaches, ed. F. Dansereau and F.J. Yammarino, 363–405. Stanford: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  8. Day, D.V., and P.M.G. O’Connor. 2003. Leadership development: Understanding the process. In The future of leadership development, ed. S.E. Murphy and R.E. Riggio, 11–28. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  9. Dienesch, R.M., and R.C. Liden. 1986. Leader-member exchange model of leadership: A critique and further development. The Academy of Management Review 11(3): 618–634.Google Scholar
  10. Fleishman, E.A., M.D. Mumford, S.J. Zaccaro, and K.Y. Levin. 1991. Taxonomic efforts in the description of leader behavior: A synthesis and functional interpretation. The Leadership Quarterly 2(4): 245–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fowers, B.J., and A.C. Tjeltveit. 2003. Virtue obscured and retrieved: Character, community, and practices in behavioral science. American Behavioral Scientist 47(4): 387–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Goffman, E. 1971. The presentation of self in everyday life. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  13. Graen, G.B., and M. Uhl-Bien. 1995. Relationship-based approach to leadership: Development of leader-member exchange (LMX) theory of leadership over 25 years: Applying a multi-level multi-domain perspective. The Leadership Quarterly 6(2): 219–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hunt, J.G., and G.E. Dodge. 2000. Organizational management. In Encyclopedia of psychology, vol. 6, ed. A.E. Kazdin, 3–9. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  15. Judge, T.A., R.F. Piccolo, and T. Kosalka. 2009. The bright and dark sides of leader traits: A review and theoretical extension of the leader trait paradigm. The Leadership Quarterly 20(6): 855–875.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kahneman, D., and G. Klein. 2009. Conditions for intuitive expertise: A failure to disagree. American Psychologist 64(6): 515–526.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kerr, S., C.A. Schriesheim, C.J. Murphy, and R.M. Stogdill. 1974. Toward a contingency theory of leadership based upon the consideration and initiating structure literature. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance 12(1): 62–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Liden, R.C., R.T. Sparrowe, and S.J. Wayne. 1997. Leader–member exchange theory: The past and potential for the future. In Research in personnel and human resources management, vol. 15, ed. G.R. Ferris, 47–119. Greenwich: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  19. Locke, E.A. 2002. Setting goals for life and happiness. In Handbook of positive psychology, ed. C.R. Snyder and S.J. Lopez, 299–312. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Locke, E.A. 2003. Foundations for a theory of leadership. In The future of leadership development, ed. S.E. Murphy and R.E. Riggio, 29–46. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  21. Locke, E.A., and J. Woiceshyn. 1995. Why businessmen should be honest: The argument from national egoism. Journal of Organizational Behavior 16(5): 405–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. MacIntyre, A. 1985. After virtue, 2nd ed. London: Duckworth.Google Scholar
  23. MacIntyre, A., and A. Voorhoeve. 2009. The illusion of self-sufficiency. In Conversations on ethics, ed. A. Voorhoeve, 111–131. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Molyneaux, D. 2003. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”: An aspiration applicable to business? Journal of Business Ethics 48(4): 347–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Morrison, A. 2001. Integrity and global leadership. Journal of Business Ethics 31(1): 65–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Neubert, M., D. Carlson, K. Kacmar, J. Roberts, and L. Chonko. 2009. The virtuous influence of ethical leadership behavior: Evidence from the field. Journal of Business Ethics 90(2): 157–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Oakley, J., and D. Cocking. 2001. Virtue ethics and professional roles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Provis, C. 2010. Virtuous decision making for business ethics. Journal of Business Ethics 91: 3–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Sherman, S.P. 1989. Inside the mind of Jack Welch. Fortune 119(7): 38–50.Google Scholar
  30. Sims, L., and A.J. Sinclair. 2008. Learning through participatory resource management programs: Case studies from Costa Rica. Adult Education Quarterly 58(2): 151–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Solomon, R.C. 1999. A better way to think about business. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Solomon, R.C. 2005. What’s character got to do with it? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 71(3): 648–655.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sparrowe, R.T. 2005. Authentic leadership and the narrative self. The Leadership Quarterly 16(3): 419–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sparrowe, R.T., and R.C. Liden. 1997. Process and structure in leader–member exchange. The Academy of Management Review 22(2): 522–552.Google Scholar
  35. Suhler, C.L., and P.S. Churchland. 2009. Control: Conscious and otherwise. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 13(8): 341–347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Takala, T. 1998. Plato on leadership. Journal of Business Ethics 17(7): 785–798.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Tekleab, A.G., and M.S. Taylor. 2003. Aren’t there two parties in an employment relationship? Antecedents and consequences of organization–employee agreement on contract obligations and violations. Journal of Organizational Behavior 24(5): 585–608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Toor, S.R., and G. Ofori. 2009. Ethical leadership: Examining the relationships with full range leadership model, employee outcomes, and organizational culture. Journal of Business Ethics 90(4): 533–547.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Uhl-Bien, M. 2006. Relational leadership theory: Exploring the social processes of leadership and organizing. The Leadership Quarterly 17(6): 654–676.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Uhl-Bien, M., and J.M. Maslyn. 2003. Reciprocity in manager–subordinate relationships: Components, configurations, and outcomes. Journal of Management 29(4): 511–532.Google Scholar
  41. van Breukelen, W., B. Schyns, and P. Le Blanc. 2006. Leader–member exchange theory and research: Accomplishments and future challenges. Leadership 2(3): 295–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Watson, T.J. 2003. Ethical choice in managerial work: The scope for moral choices in an ethically irrational world. Human Relations 56(2): 167–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Whetstone, J.T. 2001. How virtue fits within business ethics. Journal of Business Ethics 33(2): 101–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Yukl, G., and D.D. Van Fleet. 1992. Theory and research on leadership in organizations. In Handbook of industrial and organizational psychology, vol. 3, 2nd ed, ed. M.D. Dunnette and L.M. Hough, 147–197. Palo Alto: Consulting Psychologists Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Netherlands 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Management, Division of BusinessUniversity of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia

Personalised recommendations