Leadership and the Ethics of Influence  book cover
1st Edition

Leadership and the Ethics of Influence

ISBN 9781138327658
Published March 12, 2020 by Routledge
196 Pages

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Book Description

How do leaders influence others? Although they sometimes appeal directly to good reasons, which we associate with rational persuasion, leaders also use guilt, pressure, flattery, bullying, and rewards and punishment—all to get the behaviors that they want. Even when leaders refrain from outright lying, they are nevertheless known to practice something approaching, perhaps reaching, the level of manipulation. Influence therefore presents a serious ethical problem across leadership contexts.

Leadership and the Ethics of Influence argues that influence puts leaders at risk of using people. It is generally disrespectful of autonomy to figure out what makes people "tick" in an effort to "handle" them. In contrast with physical force, influence works through agency, not around it. Despite this feature of influence—and, to a large extent because of it—the everyday influence associated with leadership is often morally troublesome. What matters morally is not only whether agency is bypassed or overridden but also who is ultimately in control. This book uses philosophy and leadership studies to show how leaders across different contexts can be justified in getting followers to do things.

Connecting moral theory to leadership theory, and especially to charismatic leadership, authentic leadership, transforming leadership, and ethical leadership, this book is essential reading for leadership scholars, students, and practitioners.

Table of Contents

Series Foreword
Georgia Sorenson and Ronald E. Riggio



1. Ethical Starting Points

2. Using Influence Tactics

3. The Special Case of Rational Persuasion?

4. Rethinking the Ethics of Authenticity

5. Leadership Theory and the Role of Moral Valence

6. Autonomous Relationships


Works Cited


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Terry L. Price is Professor and Coston Family Chair in Leadership and Ethics at the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond, USA.


"Price, one of the best scholars in leadership ethics, breaks new ground in this exploration of the ethics of influence. The book tackles the primary task of leadership—how to get followers to work towards a common goal. Price reminds us that when it comes to influence, bad leaders have more in common with good leaders than most of us are willing to accept. He deftly shows how agency that respects the autonomy of followers forms the middle ground between making and letting people do something. This eloquently written book is a ‘must read’ for leadership scholars and anyone who has attempted to lead." —Joanne B. Ciulla, Professor and Director of the Institute for Ethical Leadership, Rutgers Business School, USA


"In this timely, yet timeless, philosophical inquiry into the ethics of leadership influence, Terry Price elegantly (and ethically) ‘gets’ the reader to confront and transcend the familiar but unhelpful divisions between good versus bad leaders; hard versus soft influence tactics; means versus ends; and realism versus idealism in ethical leadership. In the process, he has created the ethical leadership book that I and many other leadership practitioners/scholars have long been seeking. I am pleased to report, having read this fine book, that leadership is still our best hope for autonomy." —Brad Jackson, Professor of Social Innovation, Griffith University, Australia