Can using different frameworks, such as those from philosophy or literature help us in analysis of ethical issues in leadership? See this week’s research tidbits.

Modelling leadership in Tolkien’s books
This article contributes to conversations about the “Hitler problem” in leadership ethics and the use of literary narratives in leadership studies by proposing Tolkien’s fiction as a model of leadership. Resonating with Aristotelian and Thomistic themes, these narratives present leadership as more a matter of practical wisdom than of morally neutral craft, or, more precisely, they model leadership as a matter of using craft for the sake of wisdom’s ends.

Those ends become intelligible in terms of a triadic account of human action that depicts it as a response to a gift or call. The author argues that this model of leadership suggests that Hitler-type leaders are corrupted leaders, rather than partially excellent leaders or no leaders at all.

The author also maintains that these insights demonstrate the fruitfulness for leadership studies of approaching literary narratives in something like the way scientists treat their models.

Randall G. Colton. 2020. Modeling Leadership in Tolkien’s Fiction: Craft and Wisdom, Gift and Task. .

Journal of Business Ethics, 163(3), 401–415.

Aristotelian practical wisdom in business ethics
The revival of virtue ethics in contemporary moral philosophy had a major impact on business ethicists, among whom the virtues have become a staple subject of inquiry. Aristotle’s phronēsis (‘practical wisdom’) is one of those virtues, and a number of texts have examined it in some detail. But analyses of phronēsis in business ethics have neglected some of its most significant and interesting elements.

In this paper, the author dissects two neglected components of practical wisdom as outlined in Book VI of the Nicomachean Ethics: sunesis (‘judgement’), a capacity to perceptively evaluate testimony, and gnomē (‘discernment’), a capacity to rightly discern exceptions to ‘universal’ moral rules. Practical wisdom is a product of experience, so the writer examines the role that experience plays in the development of these deliberative capacities, asking what it is that the practically wise will have taken away from their experiences.

It is, in particular, everyday, ‘mundane’ experience that begets these excellences, so the author concentrates specifically on that kind of experience in the domains of sunesis and gnomē as the author searches for insights about how the authors develop phronēsis and how the authors might better do what is right.

Steven Steyl. 2020. Aristotelian Practical Wisdom in Business Ethics: Two Neglected Components.

Journal of Business Ethics, 163(3), 417–428.

Using religious parables to promoting ethical reflection in teaching of social entrepreneurship
This paper proposes a teaching alternative that can encourage the ethical reflective sensibility among students of social entrepreneurship. It does so by exploring the possibility of using religious parables as narratives that can be analysed from Ricoeur’s hermeneutics to provoke and encourage ethical discussions in social entrepreneurship courses.

To illustrate this argument, the paper makes use of a parable from the New Testament as an example of a religious narrative that can be used to prompt discussions about social entrepreneurs’ ethical dilemmas.

The paper adds to the limited works that consider the teaching of ethics within social entrepreneurship education. It also advances studies that seek alternative strategies to teaching ethics in business contexts, making these strategies discernible for discussion within the broader business and management literature.

Nuria Toledano. 2020. Promoting Ethical Reflection in the Teaching of Social Entrepreneurship: A Proposal Using Religious Parables.

Journal of Business Ethics, 164(1), 115–132.

Is the Civil Economy an alternative to German’s Social Market Economy?
The Civil Economy (CE) approach, as developed by Italian economists Luigino Bruni and Stefano Zamagni, aims at introducing reciprocity into the economy as a humanising factor.

Despite being presented as an innovative perspective, the CE approach shares many characteristics with the German model of Social Market Economy (SME). The present paper compares both approaches, showing that they in fact share a normative basis and similar aims but address them from diverse points of view; namely, CE addresses them from a virtue ethics perspective and SME from an institutional ethics one. This leads them to stress different aspects and to focus on diverse problems.

Therefore, CE would not constitute an alternative to SME but a complement. Thus, a combination of both approaches should allow each to take advantage of their respective strengths and lead to a better result in terms of the common good.

María Guadalupe Martino. 2020. Civil Economy: An Alternative to the Social Market Economy? Analysis in the Framework of Individual versus Institutional Ethics.

Journal of Business Ethics,165(1), 15–28.

Is the market failures approach still relevant?
The view of business ethics that Christopher McMahon calls the “implicit morality of the market” and Joseph Heath calls the “market failures approach” has received a significant amount of recent attention.

The idea of this view is that the authors can derive an ethics for market participants by thinking about the “point” of market activity, and asking what the world would have to be like for this point to be realised. While this view has been much-discussed, it is still not well-understood. This paper seeks to remedy this problem.

The paper begins by showing, against some recent commentators, that McMahon’s view and Heath’s view are fundamentally the same. Second, the author clarifies the sense of “efficiency” at work in the market failures approach. Finally, the author argues that, in its current form, this view has little relevance to the real world of business. The author concludes by sketching two ways of modifying it to fit our world.

Jeffrey Moriarty. 2020. On the Origin, Content, and Relevance of the Market Failures Approach.

Journal of Business Ethics, 165(1), 113–124.