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Building Leadership on the Invaluable

Towards the Groundworks for a Phenomenological Approach to the Philosophy of Management

In the perspective of traditional ethics, much of the current debate on the role of business in society and on responsible management lacks any ethical content. The reason for this is that, in this debate, the criterion for ethical action is based on measurable outcomes or effects which, as such, do not tell us anything about the nature of the action which caused them. However, ethics is precisely a matter of the “quality” of action, not of its effects. On the other hand, traditional ethics does not allow us to diagnose the origin and the implications of the mounting demand for this effect-ethics. A phenomenological diagnosis can be attempted in the light of the dominant trait of our time i.e. empowerment to performance. In this light it appears that “ethical” issues such as sustainability, governance, accountability, etc. are but formats for the progressive translation of all aspects of reality (the environment, society, human conscience, etc.) into a steerable circuit of measurable effects (values) driven by the necessity of self-enhancement. Thus, ethical claims are functional to the enhancement of the level of commanded effects, which, being congruous with the dominant trait, is universally perceived as being desirable and good. However, this circuit is fundamentally un-ethical, i.e. marked by the growing absence of an ethos. As long as it consists in the mere implementation of this circuit, management is not only, in turn, unethical, but also irresponsible, i.e. not responding to the dominant trait as such. The paper suggests that the insight into the phenomenon of ontological difference interrupts the exclusive orientation of management towards the implementation of the self-empowerment of the dominant trait, thus indicating a perspective for the education to leadership.

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Published 04.10.2006
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