The caring leader – What followers expect of their leaders and why?

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72 Citations (SciVal)


This paper examines the moral standing of leaders not from any particular philosophical or political vantage point, but rather from that of the followers. Followers expect leaders to be competent just as they expect professionals and others; but they also expect leaders to provide moral leadership. Followers frequently judge leaders by standards of morality that are considerably harsher than those by which they judge other people; they may also forgive leaders sins that they would not forgive in others. As a result, leaders are often cast in black and white terms as either saints or devils. The paper argues that criteria used to judge leaders are rooted in fantasy and myth as well as early life experiences, and goes on to highlight the archetype of the caring leader. This is a leader who offers personalized attention to his/her followers and is willing to go beyond the call of duty in dispatching his/her responsibilities. The paper then links the ethical archetype of the caring leader with some current discourses on the ethics of care and the obligations it creates for a caring leader. Using some illustrations from hospital leadership, the paper concludes by identifying some of the difficulties that leaders face in meeting the exigencies of an ethic of care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)316-334
Number of pages19
Issue number3
Early online date1 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015


  • archetypes
  • care
  • ethic of care
  • ethics
  • Followers
  • idealization
  • moral leadership
  • post-heroic
  • psychoanalysis
  • servant leadership


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