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Character centered leadership: Muhammad (p) as an ethical role model for CEOs

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to examine the leadership style of Muhammad (p) within a character-centric framework as a useful alternative to the transactional, self-centered model and the value-neutral transformational approach that currently permeate business management. The author differentiates such perspectives from the character-centered, moral approach to leadership suggested by the Qur'an and modeled by Muhammad (p), and proposes that this approach may be of practical use to CEOs. Design/methodology/approach ‐ A conceptual, comparative discussion of Muhammad's leadership style based on the primary Islamic sources is shown to have practical implications for the leadership process in management. Findings ‐ The current malaise in business leadership can be resolved by a new focus on character and on virtues. Practical implications ‐ The character-centered, moral approach of Muhammad provides exemplars of virtues and behaviors that, if emulated by CEOs, may help pre-empt potentially self-serving, individualistic and narcissistic tendencies. Originality/value ‐ The leadership model of Muhammad has been applied to a number of arenas before, but this is the first attempt at explicating the Qur'anic emphasis on the role-modeling aspects of his character (khuluqin azeem). When fully expounded, it is likely to offer a more virtue-centric alternative to transactional and/or transformational approaches to leadership and their associated relativistic values.

Keywords: Behaviour; Character; Ethics; Islam; Muhammad; Practical wisdom; Servant leadership; Transformational leadership; Virtues

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2012-10-19

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