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10 virtues of outstanding leaders: Leadership and character

Unlocking the power of character -- 10 great leaders, 10 key virtues


"We need heroes (leaders), people who can inspire us, help shape us morally, spur us on to purposeful action." --Robert Coles

What makes a great leader? While most of us may find it easy to recognize good leadership qualities - honesty, diligence, fairness to name just a few - finding the words to define exactly what inspires people to follow a single individual is not always so straightforward. That's because, claim Al Gini and Ronald M. Green (business ethicists and authors of a thought-provoking and fascinating new book) the ability to lead is based first and foremost on an individual's character, their ethical principles, and their desire to be of service to others - it is a lived process affected by time, place, issues, problems, circumstances, and an individual's personal ability to manage success and failure. Despite what other books may tell us, great leadership does not follow a set of rules or theories. So, with this in mind, is it possible to learn how to become a great leader? And who should we look to for inspiration?

"Leadership is a power-laden, value-based and ethically driven relationship between leaders and followers who share a common vision and accomplish real changes that reflect their mutual purpose and goals."

The last twenty years has seen an emergence of new, empirically-based studies of leadership that makes a powerful contribution to our understanding of the role ethics plays in organizations and organizational life. In Ten Virtues of

Outstanding Leaders, Gini and Green draw on philosophical thinking and scholarship from across the social sciences to guide the reader clearly and comprehensively through the key theoretical as well as practical aspects of ethical leadership, arguing that in order to be an inspirational and influential leader, one must exhibit certain characteristics or virtues - deep honesty; moral courage; moral vision; compassion and care; fairness; intellectual excellence; creative thinking; aesthetic sensitivity; good timing; deep selflessness. With these in mind, they then go on to examine in detail the leadership qualities of some of our more successful leaders, from Charles de Gaulle to Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King to Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln to Oprah Winfrey, revealing for each the virtues they possesses, their ability to learn and adapt (for, importantly, no leader is perfect and most have encountered, and overcome, their own moral and personal failures, referred to in the book as 'misleadership'), and their outstanding conduct for the common good in times of adversity.

Providing a stimulating and fresh perspective on leadership ability, Ten Virtues of Outstanding Leaders demonstrates how, given the right set of circumstances and personal strength of character, the opportunity to become a leader potentially stands before any one of us. We must simply develop good habits through practice and this illuminating and informative book, by both theory and example, helps show us how.


Ten Virtues of Outstanding Leaders: Leadership and Character
July 2013 • 232pp
978-0-470-67231-0 • Electronic Editions Available
$24.95; CAN $26.95; €18.00; £14.99
To speak to the authors or for a review copy please contact: Michelle Martella Tel: +1 (201) 748-6145/email:

About the Authors

Al Gini is Professor of Business Ethics at Loyola University Chicago, USA, where he is also Chair of the Department of Management in the Quinlan School of Business. A co-founder and long-time associate editor of Business Ethics Quarterly, Professor Gini is resident philosopher on the NPR affiliate in Chicago, WBEZ-FM, and a regular speaker on the public lecture circuit. His books include The Ethics of Business (2012), Seeking the Truth of Things (2010); Why It's Hard to Be Good (2006); and The Importance of Being Lazy: In Praise of Play, Leisure and Vacations (2003). Ronald M. Green is Eunice & Julian Cohen Professor for the Study of Ethics and Human Values at Dartmouth College, USA and was director of Dartmouth's Ethics Institute from 1992 until 2011. He is actively involved in numerous fields of applied ethics, particularly bioethics and business ethics, and is a consultant to a number of leading corporations including Ogilvy & Mather. A former director of the Office of Genome Ethics at the National Institute of Health's National Human Genome Institute, Professor Green has also been a member of the NIH's Human Embryo Research Panel. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005. Professor Green's many publications include The Ethical Manager (1993) and Babies by Design (2007).



Part I Character Leadership

1 What Is Leadership? - A Reflection; Ethics, Virtue, and Character

2 Misleadership - What is Bad Leadership?; Misleaders; Bad Followers; A Few Examples

3 Character and Leadership - Character and Integrity; The Dark Side of Character; Character as Goodwill

4 Leadership and Business Excellence - Ethics in Business; Workplace Ethics; Leaders as Role Models; A Culture of Narcissism

5 The Ten Virtues - Deep Honesty; Moral Courage; Moral Vision; Compassion and Care; Fairness; Intellectual Excellence; Creative Thinking; Aesthetic Sensitivity; Good Timing; Deep Selflessness

Part II Leadership in Action

6 James Burke and the Tylenol Poisoning Episodes: Deep Honesty - Burke's Rise to Leadership; Response to Crisis; A Further Challenge

7 Abraham Lincoln/Rosa Parks: Moral Courage - Courage: Physical and Moral; Team of Rivals; An Important Bus Ride; Shared Convictions

8 Winston Churchill: Moral Judgment and Moral Vision - Churchill versus Halifax; The War Cabinet Meets; Churchill's Judgement; The Hinge of Fate

9 Oprah Winfrey: Compassion and Care - Star Status and More; Her Fan Base; The Book Club; Leadership is a Relationship

10 Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Sicilian Slapping Incidents: Fairness - The Slapping Incidents; The Challenges Ike Faced; Ike's Response

11 FDR and the A-Bomb: Intellectual Excellence - The Scientific Background; Roosevelt's Preparation for Leadership; Hitler's Ascent to Leadership; The A-Bomb Decision: The United States; The A-Bomb Decision: Germany

12 Herb Kelleher and the People of Southwest Airlines: Creative Thinking - Southwest's Start; Southwest's Service Innovations; Southwest and It's People

13 Steve Jobs and Apple: Aesthetic Sensitivity - Beginnings; The Macintosh; The Whole Widget; Learning from Failure; Apple Reborn; The Centrality of Design

14 Charles de Gaulle and Exiting Algeria: Good Timing - Youth and the First World War; Up to the Battle of France; Postwar Retreat amidst Political and Military Turmoil; Taking Command; Aftermath

15 Martin Luther King, Jr: Deep Selflessness - His Calling; His Gift; His Legacy

16 Conclusion


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