Meeting the Ethical Challenges of Leadership in a Global Society
One may also observe in one’s travels to distant countries the feelings of recognition and affiliation that link every human being to every other human being.
—Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle
Human beings draw close to one another by their common nature, but habits and customs keep them apart.
In this chapter, we examine the moral complexities posed by cultural differences. Ethical global leaders acknowledge the dark side of globalization and recognize the difficulty of making moral choices in cross-cultural settings. To master these challenges, they understand the relationship between cultural values and ethical decisions, address attitudinal obstacles, seek moral common ground, and develop strategies for solving ethical dilemmas in cross-cultural settings.
The Dark Side of Globalization
Globalization may be the most important trend of the twenty-first century. We now live in a global economy shaped by multinational corporations, international travel, the Internet, immigration, and satellite communication systems. Greater cultural diversity is one product of globalization. Not only is there more contact between countries, there is greater cultural diversity within nations. For example, nonwhites account for most of the population growth in the United States, and nineteen of the nation’s twenty-five largest counties have majority minority populations. By 2044, whites will be in the minority. In other industrialized nations, many new workers are immigrants. Italy and Germany will need hundreds of thousands of new immigrants each year to maintain their working-age populations to 2050.1
Supporters of globalization point to its benefits. Free trade produces new wealth by opening up international markets, they argue. At the same time, the costs of goods and services drop. The greater flow of information and people puts pressure on repressive governments to reform.2
Critics of globalization paint a much bleaker picture. They note that global capitalism encourages greed rather than concern for others. Ethical and spiritual values have been overshadowed by the profit motive. Local cultural traditions and the environment are being destroyed in the name of economic growth. The gap between the rich and the poor keeps growing.3
Debate over whether the benefits of globalization outweigh its costs is not likely to end anytime soon. This much is clear, however: As leaders, we need to give serious consideration to the dark side of the global society in order to help prevent ethical abuse. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at how leaders cast the shadows outlined in Chapter 1 in a global environment.