Ethical Leadership - The experience of JCU's 3rd IBD cohort

Chapter 4 – Combating Evil

 Six Perspectives on Evil


  1. Evil as Dreadful Pleasure

·        C. Fred Alford defined evil as a combination of dread and pleasure.  People commit evil acts to get rid of inner darkness by making others feel dreadful.  Pleasure comes from being the victimizer instead of the victim.

·        Evil can also be caused by chronic boredom when entertainment venues such as sports, television, shopping, or the internet do not fill the void.


  1. Evil as Deception

·        Scott Peck describes evil as a form of self-absorption.  Mentally stable people usually submit themselves to something greater than them (e.g. god).  Evil people refuse to submit and want to control.

·        Evil people try to hide their true nature in hopes of “projecting a righteous nature”.


  1. Evil as Bureaucracy

·        Administrative evil is when members of an organization commit heinous crimes while carrying out their daily job responsibilities.

·        The members are not asked to engage in evil but inflict suffering while performing their duties.

·        An example of this was the holocaust where members of the government committed evil acts while performing the job assigned to them.


  1. Evil as Sanctioned Destruction

·        Nevitt Sanford and Craig Comstock say widespread evil occurs when the victimizers are given permission to attack groups that have been devalued.

·        Sanctioned evil can come from a direct statements or hints/praise for people who commit the acts.


  1. Evil as a Choice

·        Most people become good or evil through small incremental choices at different forks in the road through life.  The sum of the choices we make guide us towards one pole or the other (good or evil).      


  1. Evil as Ordinary

·        Social psychiatrists such as Hannah Arendt and Philip Zimbardo say certain situational factors cause ordinary people to do evil things. 

·        Many of the ordinary people commit evil acts when “pressured to participate in such acts, obey authority, remain anonymous, and are given permission to engage in antisocial behavior.”

·        Examples provided in the book are prison guards at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Adolf Eichmann who was responsible for the deportation of millions of Jews to concentration camps.


Breaking the Cycle of Evil


“A growing number of social scientists believe that forgiving instead of retaliating can prevent or break cycles of evil.”


The Forgiveness Process



·         Case Study 4.1 – To Forgive or Not to Forgive?

o        Simon Wiesenthal was a former concentration camp prisoner who lied to a Nazi’s mother to protect her son’s credibility of being a murderer; he later brought more than 1,100 Nazi war criminals to court

o        Wiesenthal describes the encounter with the son, who had asked Wiesenthal for repentance, and poses the same question the son asked in his book The Sunflower;

§         Is forgiveness a cheap grace, especially to situations that seemingly can’t be forgiven? Can only the offended offer forgiveness? Does not true remorse deserve forgiveness?

Robert Enright and other social scientists define forgiveness as “a willingness to abandon one’s right to resentment, negative judgment, and indifferent behavior toward one who unjustly injured us, while fostering the undeserved qualities of compassion, generosity, and even love toward him or her.” (Box 4.3 on p. 117 provide of scale for how likely one is to forgive)


Forgiveness is a 4 stage process (Box 4.4, p.118)


  • Uncovering – victim initially denies problem exists but feels angry, shame, and betrayal when acknowledging the hurt.
  • Decision – Hurt individual considers the possibility of forgiveness and commits themselves to forgiving.
  • Work – The victim attempts to understand the motivation of the victimizer.  He or she may feel compassion and empathy for the offender absorbing the pain instead of passing on the evil.
  • Deepening – the victim finds peace and gains a greater appreciation for and perspective on life.

Donald Shriver describes forgiveness from a different perspective using four strands of a cable:


  • Moral truth – The victim and victimizer agree that a wrong has been committed.
  • Forbearance – Victim rejects revenge in favor of restraint
  • Empathy – Feeling of empathy for offender’s humanity and believes offender and offended share much in common.
  • Commitment – The victim is committed to restoring broken relationships.

Spirituality and Leadership


Spirituality is a good way for leaders to equip themselves with the tools needed to combat evil.  Given the growing importance of organizations and work in people’s lives, spirituality has become more common in the workplace.






Scientists have discovered that spirituality enhances the workplace through:


  • Commitment to mission, core values, and ethical standards
  • Organizational learning and creativity
  • Morale
  • Productivity
  • Collaboration
  • Loyalty
  • Willingness to mentor others
  • Job Effort
  • Job satisfaction
  • Social Support
  • Sensitivity to ethical issues

Donde Asmos Plowman and Dennis Duchon describe workplace spirituality using three pillars:


  • Inner Life – employees have spiritual needs just as they have emotional, physical, and intellectual wants
  • Meaningful Work – employees want more than material rewards for their work such as serving the needs of society
  • Community – members of the organization desire connections with others.

Laura Reave lays out 6 traits of a spiritual leader:


  • Demonstrates respect for other’s values
  • Treats others fairly
  • Expresses care and concern
  • Listens responsively
  • Appreciates the contributions of others
  • Engages in reflective practice

Spiritual values help leaders to develop ethical organizations.  A spiritual leader will create a culture that prioritizes membership and connection.  In this culture, members are more likely to help others in the community.


A framework was developed by Carole L. Jurkiewicz and Robert Giacalone to judge the spiritual climate of the workplace.  A spiritual workplace has the following:


  • Benevolence – kindness towards others
  • Generativity – long-term focus
  • Humanism – policies and practices that respect the worth of every employee
  • Integrity – adherence to honesty and sincerity
  • Justice – even-handed treatment of employees
  • Mutuality – employees feel mutually dependant
  • Receptivity – open  minded organization
  • Respect – showing consideration and concern
  • Responsibility – member follow through on commitments
  • Trust – confidence in each other
  • Case Study 4.2 – Genocide in Slow Motion
    • Arabs have been displacing and murdering black villagers dating back to 2003; media presence is plenty, although fears of removing aid from the country are plenty due to the Sudanese government, Janjaweed, and all associated conflict carrying over even to western Chad
    • Reaction has been slow as varying political figures are helping or failing to provide adequate measures to quash the Sudanese violence; however, the UN peacekeeping force has improved and aligned its values to help victims
      • Also, many activist groups are exposing and commenting on groups that have taken active role in preventing aid i.e. China’s  refusal to cut off business with the Sudanese government
  • Case Study 4.3 – Covering Up Evil
    • The sexual abuse problem of Catholic priesthood, exposed in 2002, targeted  approx. 90 priests accused of harming victims for over 40 years;  not just children but families and parishioners were extremely betrayed
    • The initial response from the church was covering up the priests, still providing, paying off critics and victims, and failing to provide proper repercussions