Projecting Strong Leadership: Possibilities and Pitfalls

With questions of corporate accountability, CEO responsibility, and individual morality making headline news as banks failed and financial institutions faltered on Wall Street, Professor Kimberly Elsbach presented a talk on leadership in business at the third annual Fall Ethics Symposium at California State University, Sacramento, in October. The symposium, which focused on personal and professional integrity in business, brought together scholars and practitioners with expertise in ethics from across the county to discuss the role of integrity in business decision-making. In her session, “Images of Strong Leadership: Possibilities and Pitfalls,” Elsbach discussed four traits that people expect in strong leaders: control, competency, consistency and certainty. Using real examples, Elsbach explained how projecting these traits can improve one’s leadership effectiveness. But she cautioned that pursuing these four traits can also become leadership traps when control leads to isolation, consistency prevents needed change, competency prevents learning and certainty prevents consultation. She illustrated these leadership pitfalls with a case study of the U.S .Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal.