The moral standing of leaders – What do followers expect?

The moral standing of leaders – What do followers expect?

Date: 3 April 2013 Time: 10.30 am


“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”     Lao Tzu
This presentation will interrogate the moral standing of leaders not from any particular philosophical or political vantage point, but rather from that of the followers. Followers expect leaders to be competent (just as they expect professionals and others); but they also expect leaders to provide moral leadership. Followers frequently judge leaders by standards of morality that are considerably harsher than those by which they judge other people; they may also forgive leaders of sins that they would not forgive in others. As a result, leaders are often cast in black and white terms as either saints or devils. The presentation will argue that criteria used to judge leaders are rooted in fantasy and myth as well as early life experiences. It will conclude by linking the moral standing of leadership to the ethics of care and by the leaders’ perceived ability and willingness to care for their followers. This creates a fundamental dilemma – should the leader treat all followers equally or each according to his/her need?


Yiannis Gabriel is Professor of Organizational Theory at the University of Bath. He has a PhD in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley. Yiannis is known for his work into organizational storytelling and narratives, leadership, psychoanalytic theory, management learning and the culture and politics of contemporary consumption. He has used stories as a way of studying numerous social and organizational phenomena including leader-follower relations, group dynamics and fantasies, nostalgia, insults and apologies. He is the author of nine books, including Organizations in Depth, Storytelling in Organizations and The Unmanageable Consumer (with Tim Lang). He has been editor of Management Learning and associate editor of Human Relations and is currently Senior Editor of Organization Studies. His enduring fascination as a researcher lies in what he describes as the unmanageable qualities of life in and out of organizations.

Contact person: Dr Todd Bridgman.
Ph: 463 5118.