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The Greece Dilemma: The Failure of Ethical Leadership

By Ike Udechukwu
Google provided a definition of ethical leadership: “Ethical leadership is leadership that is directed by respect for ethical beliefs and values and for the dignity and rights of others. It is thus related to concepts such as trust, honesty, consideration, charisma and fairness.”

Mr. Tsipras, Prime Minister of Greece, came to power a few months ago promising to eliminate or reduce the austerity the Greeks were experiencing. Life for Greece since they joined the EU, had never been harder and more tumultuous than in the last four months.

The Greeks placed their trust in Mr Tsipras to help reduce their burden. As at July 5th, 2015, Mr Tsipras not only rejected the terms of a bail out by the EU and Euro zone in his negotiation with these institutions, he also called for a Greek referendum to reject the terms of that bail out.

He won that referendum with about 61% of the votes. By July 12th, 2015, the same Mr. Tsipras, was found capitulating to the EU and the Euro zone on bail out terms, even worse than what he rejected during earlier negotiations, and in contradiction to what the Greek people had earlier voted in their referendum.

The lesson of leadership here was not merely one of outsized courage and principles, which also matter in leadership, but one that was devoid of key and core elements of ethical leadership by Mr Tsipras at every stage of the negotiations. Mr Tsipras showed diminutive respect for his creditors, the EU and the Euro zone, by calling for an unnecessary referendum designed to embarrass the EU while bolstering his power base in Greece.

He has gone further to engage in creating a severe cognitive dissonance in the minds of the Greek people, whose effect is yet to be fully explored and tallied. Mr Tsipras has in effect, trampled on trust, honesty, and fairness during his leadership in the Greece crisis.

Ethics matter in leadership, whether Mr Tsipras believes in this axiom or not. Leaders must always be aware that whether their decisions are perceived as good or bad, the perceptions of their actions must always be seen as being ethical. Followers are more likely to endure the consequences of a leader’s decision when they perceive such decisions to be ethical and to be in their interest.

A leader who considers ethics to be central in decision-making, can proudly consider them self as being an ethical leader. Too often, such leadership is either in the minority or completely absent when and where they are most needed.

Mr. Tsipras must now devote the necessary energy to help the Greek people deal with their crumbling economy and a psychological state that can best be described as being in a state of cognitive dissonance. Greek leadership must also come to terms about the value of ethical leadership in global transactions where trust and integrity are paramount when huge deals have to be seized.

This Greece situation where ethical leadership was required should also serve as an important lesson for nations seeking global assistance in dealing with their economic, diplomatic, national security issues on the global stage. I hope this lesson has been learned by Mr Tsipras and Greece.




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