Confronting destructive leadership and corruption in business

Destructive leadership and corruption in business

New York-based ESC faculty member Roxana Toma introduces a ground-breaking new book on corruption, its causes and possible solutions.

A new book describing and analyzing corruption in business, which I co-edited with my colleague Dr. Alan Belasen, Confronting Corruption in Business: Trusted Leadership, Civic Engagement (Routledge, 2016) was published at the beginning of this year. 

It is the first book to focus on corruption at the country level and within business, and students in international business, management, ethics, and leadership classes will find it a valuable read.

The book focuses on the contextual issues that trigger corruption to give the reader a more thorough understanding of destructive leadership. It provides students with a unique, critical perspective on issues of leadership, corruption and policy in different countries, industries, and companies. While there isn’t a universally agreed definition of corruption in the social sciences, it generally refers to efforts to secure wealth or power through misusing public power for private gain. This kind of destructive leadership is typically treated as an anomaly, but this book closes the gap in our understanding by highlighting the wider consequences of this behavior within business and on an international level. Armed with this understanding, one also learns how to mitigate its causes and consequences.

The book includes contributions from colleagues at Empire State College with international expertise on leadership, strategy, political science, finance, organizational change, and public policy, alongside leading scholars from other institutions. This book is a powerful testament to the college’s intellectual energy and a true example of how the synergy of our joint work allows all of us to shine. 

I contributed three chapters to the book, including the conclusion. In one I describe the negative impacts of corruption on economic development and social cohesion, drawing on examples from around the world. I then discuss the interrelatedness of trust, social capital and civil society with the prevalence or absence of corruption. My conclusion is that trusted leadership is a vital ingredient in the fight against corruption. As they say, a fish rots from the head downwards!

In my second chapter I analyze the phenomenon of corruption in Romania, in the context of the transition from Communism to a free market economy and democracy. I use both quantitative and qualitative methods, including surveys and elite interviews, to develop an overview of the problem and of potential solutions. I see the development of civil society as essential to building the social capital necessary to ensure transparency and honesty in public life.

The conclusion of the book looks at patterns and similarities relating to negative social capital and destructive leadership that produce corruption. Finally, mechanisms to overcome corruption and executive misconduct and opportunities for growing positive social capital in countries and industries are discussed. One direct outcome of a higher level of social capital is civic engagement, which is proposed as an important factor in leading an organization or social system on a path that is both ethical and responsible.

I should express my special thanks to my faculty colleague and lead co-editor, Alan Belasen, for being such an inspiration. His energy is contagious and empowering for those of us around him. 


Roxana Toma
Faculty mentor, SUNY Empire State College

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