Ethical Leadership for Machiavellians in Business
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Despite some progress in instilling ethics into business practice, businesses continue to make decisions that result in incredible harms to people and the environment around the world. Academics, the public, and the media have often singled out business leaders as unethical and responsible for the vast harms that their companies have done. As a result, some have looked to ethical business leadership as one avenue of approach to making businesses act more ethically. This thesis explores two leadership styles. The first is Machiavellian leadership, which has a reputation for being one of the least ethical leadership styles, and the second is transformational leadership, which has a reputation for being one of the most ethical leadership styles. This thesis attempts to align the ethical components of transformational leadership with Machiavellian leadership so that Machiavellian leaders will have reason to behave more ethically. The hope is that some component of transformational leadership theory can inspire Machiavellian leaders to behave more ethically. However, I argue that transformational leadership is not as ethical as it seems, since transformational leadership can result in both ethical and unethical behaviours. Ultimately, I conclude that there is nothing in transformational leadership theory that can inspire Machiavellian leaders to behave more ethically. The frightening implications of this conclusion are discussed.