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Doing the Right Thing at Work

Ethical leadership researcher and JMU professor Bob Kolodinsky discusses his recently published co-authored article (with colleague Paul Bierly) on "Executive Wisdom."

Robert Kolodinsky

“If leaders want to achieve long-term effectiveness and build reputation, they need to pay attention to specific management factors,” says Dr. Bob Kolodinsky, director of the Gilliam Center for Free Enterprise and Ethical Leadership. He adds, “People end up in jail when they don’t pay attention to these concepts.”

Kolodinsky, along with the late management professor Dr. Paul Bierly, recently published an article in the Journal of Management & Organisation, entitled “Understanding the elements and outcomes of executive wisdom: A strategic approach.”

Kolodinsky and Bierly thought that few business leaders act with truly long term wisdom. Businesses today have very influential and loud stakeholders, whose primary demands are short term financial results. In order to achieve short term financial results, executives often make decisions that harm other important stakeholders and unwittingly cause problems within the organization.

The team proposed a model of executive wisdom that looks at specific factors that will benefit any organization in the long run.  The authors felt that decision making should involve a balance between short and long term actions and outcomes, sensitivity to a common goal, and developing trust among key stakeholders.

Possessing knowledge takes time, age, and life and business experiences to develop the wise combination of explicit and tacit judgment within a leader.

Moral maturity simply means putting oneself in another’s shoes, and understanding the likely impact of the decision.

Reflective strategic decision-making means involving all stakeholders in the decision-making process, considering all angles and not rushing too quickly into the decision.

The ability to manage uncertainty takes patience to sift through the pertinent data carefully in a dynamic, ever-changing environment.

Refining these attributes leads to leaders with enlightened strategic judgment. An executive with good leadership skills can inspire others, get their buy in, and communicate the benefits, which results in the decisions being implemented and accepted.

The final outcome in this process is principled action. Leaders make decisions in a sensitive, ethical way. This model creates a culture that enhances the reputation of the organization and its leaders, and builds loyalty and commitment of both internal and external stakeholders.

Ultimately, executives who follow this model will see their organizations become more financially successful.

Click here to read the entire paper. 

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