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Self-reflective portfolio

Pre-subject reflection

Before taking this course, I had read much about leadership, ethics, social responsibility, morally, and, to the least extent, stewardship. Accordingly, I had formed my opinions on their meanings basing on personal experiences and conceptions. However, I did not really take time to understand how they could be applied to business situations, given the current tensions in the business environment, where managers have to satisfy stakeholder value, shareholder value as well as individual values. The tension has led to ethical problems, where managers are tempted to consider their individual values.

I have often been confused about the concept of leadership and what it actually means. In typical work scenario, the concepts of ‘leadership’ and ‘management’ have often been used interchangeably to an extent that their distinction has become irrelevant. I seem to be more interested in the concept of leadership, as its application is not limited to an organisation. According to Bachiochi et al. (2000), leaders are agents of change, as their actions affect other people’s actions. At this rate, it appears reasonable to also suppose that a moral leader is likely to have actions that are morally proportionate to the standards of moral behaviour the leader exhibits. Indeed, Marsiglia (2009) expressed that a leader’s ethical orientation is a fundamental factor that promotes ethical behaviours among the followers. Marsiglia (2009) further observes that leaders are accountable for the norms and ethics that guide how employees behave in an organisation.

A general assumption is that leadership refers to an activity of leading followers (Bachiochi et al. 2000). Consistent with the assumption, it is justified to assume that for leadership to occur, an element of interaction has to exist between two or more people, where a leader structures, restructures, or shapes the followers expectations and perceptions. It is also justified to assume that a leader should have a capacity to alter or sustain others’ expectations competencies or motivations, as a leader influences others. A leader may influence the uptake of ethical values or not (Kellerman 2012; Follett 2012).

I am, therefore, tempted to assumed that a leader’s ethical orientation is instrumental in inculcating ‘stewardship’ and ‘servant leadership’ among members of the organization. Therefore, while making a decision, I believe that a leader should recognizes the moral issue at hand, apply moral reasoning, as well as exhibits integrity and moral character to encourage trust and commitment across the organisation. However, I also understand that these are not simple as it sounds.

Overall, I expected this course to enable me to understand ethics, morals and values as well as to apply ethical principles in decision making in order to promote equitable distribution of benefits to the business, the society and the agents of the business, and to curtail ethical problems. I also expected to learn about the distinctions between leadership, management and stewardship, and how they can be applied in an organisation.

Mid-subject reflection

Initially, I assumed that leadership and management are synonymous. However, I have come to understand from the lectures that, in reality, management refers to a set of individuals entrusted with the responsibility of managing an organisation by planning, controlling, and coordinating its resources to attain organisational (Cunliffe 2014). Indeed, in a practical workplace setting, it is normal to see managers control, plan, and coordinate resources (Westwood & Johnston 2011). Conversely, individuals who are leaders, whether in politics or the workplace, motivate and influence their followers, whether they have a designated position or not (Cascio 2002).

An additional significant concept in the modern-day business management is ‘stewardship.’ From the lectures, I have come to understand that stewardship as a concept denoting individual’s willingness to take responsibility for the well-being of a business organisation and the wider society, by serving rather than controlling those around him. Before undertaking this subject, I was not aware of the concept of stewardship in business. Critically therefore, the subject has exposed me to new perspectives of business management. Ironically, after reviewing the management literature, it becomes clear to me that more businesses globally, such as Nestle, are adopting a new concept of leadership through stewardship by encouraging corporate social responsibility in developing nations, and business ethics in all their business areas (Mujtaba 2005; Ezigbo 2012). I know, for instance, that Nestle has also been involved in training business ethics to repair its damaged reputation after the Nestle baby milk scandal of 2013, which caused illnesses to babies. Nestle has in turn initiated CSR activities like the Nestlé Cocoa Plan and Nestlé Healthy Kids programme to promote sustainable farming and reduce infant mortality respectively. As a consequence, the company has restored its leadership position as health, nutrition, and wellness enterprise (Muller 2013).

What this implies to me is that, rather than emphasise my authority through a command-and-control mechanism that traditional managers used in exerting corporate governance (Roberts 2001). The lectures have led me to a rediscovery of a concept of leadership called stewardship. I, therefore argue that intermixing leadership and stewardship can help a leader realise his moral responsibilities. My new assumptions may be justified as they are anchored in the agency theory and stewardship theory. In fact, Marsiglia (2009) explained that stewardship could be reviewed based on the agency relationship, which seeks to shed light on the relationship between agent’s psychological aspects and the principal’s situational features. In effect, the agency relationship perceives a principal-agent kind of relationship where the agent is entrusted with the role of responsibly managing the business assets owned by the principal, who are the shareholders (Rosa et al. 2014; Gini n.d). Hence, the issue of trust and ethics or morality is indispensable in such situations. The agency theory, on the other hand, views the agent as likely to show certain self-seeking (individualistic) behaviour of interest that may diverge from the principals’ interests while seeking to maximise their benefits (Madison 2014). In such situations, and based on what I learnt from the subject, one way in which principal-agent divergence can be minimised is encouraging stewardship and ethics. According to Pulle and Rhodes (2014), ethics in organisations curtail scandals. Indeed, the stewardship theory hypothesises that an agent should have a collectivist rather than self-centred (individualistic) approach to management (Madison2014).

Post-subject reflection

I have become more inspired to be a steward-leader at present and in future. I believe that as a steward-leader, I would be self-driven to influence organisation towards attaining organisational objectives as a precondition for meeting my individuals’ needs and the needs of others. In this way, I would be capable of improving business performance, be ethical in my practice, and in turn satisfy the interests of stakeholders.

On the other hand, given that I have learnt a leader’s actions influence other people compared to the extent to which other people’s actions influence his, I believe it would be justified to argue that when I am a leader who is moral, the actions of my followers are likely to be moral. Indeed, contrary to my initial belief that a leader’s ethical orientation is less significant in business leadership as organisation’s tend to have people with diverse beliefs and values, I have come to understand that leader’s with ethical orientation are likely to encourage an organisational culture that encourages respect for ethical value as well as business values and corporate code of ethics (Nonaka & Toyama 2007; Helin&Sandstrom 2010).

It is also clear that the concepts of managing, leading and stewardship have contributed to my transformation into a dependable follower, manager,and leader. In my view, the course prepared me into being responsible in uncertainsituations that are morally challenging. To ensure this, I believe that the concept of stewardship was included in this subject to enable students like me, who are aspiring to be leaders, to gain deeper insight into how I can encourage and uphold a mutually beneficial integrity of businesses and the wider society. A possible scenario is where I could lead a business into serving its corporate social responsibility, or the needs of the society, rather than its profit aspirations to gain public trust. As a matter of fact therefore, I must acknowledge that the subject has encouraged me to become acquainted with the position of business in the society as well as todevelop a personal commitment tobuilding and maintaining public trust by taking account of the social needs and ethical concerns in the decisions made for a business.

As a leader in an actual business scenario, I would not wait for others to step forward and inform me of what to do. Rather, I would take the initial initiative and accountability to be a steward. Indeed, when I now view the concept of ‘leadership’ through the lens of stewardship, I quickly come to a conclusion that accountability for actions, authority over others, and an increased awareness of the implications of my actions on stakeholder is vital, as it helps conceive the real meaning of leading from a moral perspective.

In conclusion, after completing the subject, I have come to understand the implications of the concepts of managing, leading, and stewardship on better business and team performance. I have come to understand the role of stewardship in making sure that the personal responsibility is linked to ethical decision-making and corporate governance. I am also more capable of being morally responsible in situations that are particularly uncertain.

Reference List

Bachiochi, P, Rogelberg, S, O’Connor, M & Elder, A 2000, «The Qualities of an Effective Team Leader,» Organization Development Journalvol 1 no 1, pp.11-28

Cascio, W 2002, «Strategies for Responsible Restructuring,» The Academy of Management Executive, vol 16, No. 3, pp.80-91

Cunliffe, A 2014, A very short, fairly interesting and reasonably cheap book about management, (2nd ed.), SAGE, Los Angeles, pp. 1-26

Ezigbo, C 2012, «Assessing Enforcement of Ethical Principles in the Work Place,» International Journal of Business and Social Science, vol 3 no 22, pp.231-241

Fleming, P 2014, «Review Article: When ‘life itself ’ goes to work: Reviewing shifts in organizational life through the lens of biopower,» Human Relations, vol. 67 no 7, pp.875–901

Follett, M 2012, Business as an Integrative Unity, Godwyn, M &Gittell, J.H. (eds), Sociology of organizations : structures and relationships, Sage, Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Gini, An.d., Moral leadership and business ethics, viewed 27 May 2016, <>

Helin, S &Sandstrom, J 2010, «Resisting a corporate code of ethics and the reinforcement of management control,» Organization Studies, vol. 31, no. 5, pp. 583-604

Kellerman, B 2012, Twenty-First-Century Leadership — and Followership: The end of Leadership, Harper Business, New York

Madison, K2014, «Agency Theory and Stewardship Theory Integrated, Expanded, and Bounded by Context: An Empirical Investigation of Structure, Behavior, and Performance within Family Firms. «PhD diss., University of Tennessee, viewed 27 May 2016, <>

Marsiglia, A 2009, Comparison of Servant Leadership and Stewardship, viewed 27 May 2017, <>

Mujtaba, B 2005, «Understanding ethics and morality in business,» Smart Business, 27 May 2016, <>

Muller, M 2013, Nestlé baby milk scandal has grown up but not gone away, viewed 5 June 2016, <>

Nonaka, I & Toyama, R 2007, «Strategic management as distributed practical wisdom (phronesis),» Industrial and Corporate Change, vol16, no 3, pp. 371–394

Pulle, A & Rhodes, C 2014, «Corporeal ethics and the politics of resistance in organizations,» Organization, vol 21 no 6, pp.782–796

Roberts, J 2001, «Corporate governance and the ethics of narcissus,» Business Ethics Quarterly, vol11 no 1, pp.109-127

Rosa, H, Daniela, H & Markus, R 2014, «Corporate governance: the rights of shareholders and role of the board – a comparison of US, UK and Germany,» ACRN Journal of Entrepreneurship Perspectives, vol2 iss 2, pp.1-19

Westwood,R& Johnston, A 2011, «Reclaiming authentic selves: Control, resistive humour and identity work in the office,» Organization, vol 19 no 6, pp.787–808