business ethics, ethical leadership, ethical influence, coercive power, reward power, legitimate power, expert power, referent power
Today’s rapidly changing economic and social environment requires reconsideration of leadership issues, a special attention paying to ethical issues that are an integral part of socially responsible business. There are numerous studies on the subject matter of ethical leadership but until now the matter of developing business students’ ethical leadership competences has been hardly touched. This is one of the gaps to be filled if we want to speak about the Europe of knowledge at all. The purpose of the present study is twofold: to summarize the previous research in the field of ethical leadership and to research Latvian business students’ perception of ethical leadership. Hence the tasks of this study are: to conceptualize main notions of the ethical leadership; to disclose the concept of power bases and social influence;) to work out the research design and to perform the survey on student perception of the ethical aspects of exercising influence; to interpret results and work out practical suggestions for teaching business ethics. The primary method used in the present inquiry is quantitative survey applying the Likert scale (the sample of probability is N=206 – business students attending classes in business ethics taught by the author of the present paper). The students were asked to put themselves in the shoes of the business organization manager and to decide for themselves what steps they would take in order to influence their subordinates. The results were grouped according to five power bases (coercive power, reward power, legitimate power, expert power, referent power). No form of power is inherently immoral; still some of them (especially related to power and coercion) can be more unethical in certain circumstances. The results of the survey showed that ethical issues of business leadership in general were of no special concern for students, although they recognized some critical aspects and cases of unethical behavior. The results made it possible to work out suggestions how to improve the course plan in business ethics (introducing new aspects related to leadership; including more subject related case study discussions; preparing practical exercises, etc.).