Programme PGPX Term V Academic Year 2021-22

Course title Leadership, Values and Ethics Area Strategy Credits 0.75

Prof. Asha Kaul

Course Description & Objectives
Introduction and Overview:
This course explores the issues involved in leadership, ethics and their intersection. What is the essence of leadership? 

In fact, what is leadership? How is it different from just “managing”? Are the issues and dilemmas the same? For instance, as you go up, are the most difficult decisions those that come out of a “rational” analysis with a unique answer, and can be clearly categorized as “right” or “wrong”, or those involving choices between right and right; between wrong and wrong? Do they call for “optimality” or compromises? But then what is the difference between a sound compromise and a sell out? Are “good” decisions the same as “right decisions”? When do ethical ends justify dubious means? When do you take a stand?

Together with these notions are the ethical dimensions of leadership. Do we have ethical leadership in a business context? On the other hand, can there be something called unethical or even, non-ethical (i.e., ethics neutral) leadership in business organizations? Are personal and business ethics entirely independent? How does a leader set an example in terms of values for the organization he/ she is leading? 

Managers are constantly plagued by these questions and challenges. But when you come into leadership roles, these are the key questions. Besides, many other questions arise. What is leadership? How is a leader different from a manager? How does one prepare to become a leader? Does a leader give a vision? What is meant by vision? When do you dream and when do you come to the ground realities? Is it useless to dream for what appears to be an unrealistic vision? Or is it better to be “practical”? Is a leader just a hero? What is the difference between success and satisfaction? When is ambition a propelling, creative force and when does it become destructive? These are questions that are to be resolved by people aspiring to be leaders, ethical leaders 

Such are the questions that we shall discuss in this course. It does not seek to give formula solutions for such difficult situations, but enables you to reflect and arrive at your own definition of ethical leadership. The focus of the course s to provide an opportunity to you to discuss and debate these questions and develop a deeper understanding of the dilemmas, complexities and subtleties of responsible leadership. It provides an opportunity to think, reflect and expand your mental horizon. It trains you to ask questions for which you very well know there are no final answers, but which are still worth asking. It seeks to develop that quality called judgment and stimulate the development of that ability to look at things in perspective. In short, it seeks to enable you to take not more correct decisions, but better decisions (hopefully!)

Another important contribution of the course, hopefully, is to introduce you to the world of literature and show how to interpret great works and draw lessons from them. Literature is not just fascinating to read (especially when they are not to be read for examinations in degree courses!) but also immensely rewarding in the process of self-development for it helps you to pause, think and reflect. 

Stated formally, the objectives of this course are: 
  1. To understand key concepts in leadership such as world view, vision, meaning, reality, values, ambition, virtue, cleverness, intrigue, etc. with the help of humanities inputs. 
  2. To understand some key concepts in ethics.
  3. To use such concepts in trying to understand better the role of emotions, and how to manage them, both in oneself and in others.
  4. To understand the relationships between organizational needs, role demands and personality differences, and 
  5. (most important) To develop the skills for selecting and interpreting great works of literature so as to learn meaningfully from humanities, to assume an ethical leadership role, and to expand the mental horizon, which will propel you on a path of meaningful self-development.

The course approaches the topics of leadership and ethics through a study of literature. Why literature? Many works of literature give glimpses of the different aspects of life, and issues of leadership are really issues of life. In many of the pieces you will read in this course, you will not find clear, inspiring tales of heroism or sainthood, although in some readings there are. Many of the characters we shall come across will be people like you and me, with strengths and flaws. They cannot be categorized as “ethical leaders” or “unethical leaders”. They are, in Nietzsche’s phrase, “human, all too human”. That is why they reflect life in its true reality. These works of literature present their puzzles before you and say, “Let us see whether you can interpret these for us”. Interpretation forms the essence of the course. These pieces of literature give insights into the thoughts and feelings of leaders, and are the key to understanding successes and failures. Told, hopefully, in a highly readable way. 

There are 15 sessions in this course. One film, “Making of the Mahatma” by Shyam Benegal will be shown outside these sessions, but will be discussed in the class. Over these fifteen sessions, we shall take up twelve works, including the above film. You will form exactly 12 study groups some of which will have 5 participants and others 6 participants. Each group will take up one work (the reading for one session) and analyze it fully, reflect over it, present its understanding and insights to the class, and lead the discussion. But before doing so, they have to meet the instructor first, as a group, at least one day prior to the class (at a mutually convenient time) and discuss what they propose to present in the class. These presentations will be for about 20 to 30 minutes, followed by discussions and supplementary inputs by the instructor. 

The film “The Making of the Mahatma” will form a part of the course. In addition, films on Don Quixote and Joan of Arc can be screened to those interested. These screenings will be purely optional and outside the main course outline. The feedback on these films from the earlier batches of PGP and PGPX has been that they enhanced the appreciation of the main readings tremendously. However, they are NOT a substitute for the main readings.