Prof. Alvin Kibel
Our subject is the ethics of leadership, an examination of the principles appealed to by executive authority when questions arise about its sources and its legitimacy. Most treatments of this subject resort to case-studies in order to illustrate the application of ethical principles to business situations, but our primary emphasis will be upon classic works of imaginative literature, which convey more directly than case-studies the ethical pressures of decision-making. Readings will include works by Shakespeare, Sophocles, Shaw, E.M. Forster, Joseph Conrad, George Orwell, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Henrik Ibsen, among others. Topics to be discussed include the sources of authority, the management of consensus, the ideal of vocation, the ethics of deception, the morality of expediency, the requirements of hierarchy, the virtues and vices of loyalty, the relevance of ethical principles in extreme situations.
OCW has published multiple versions of this subject.