Listening: The Heart of Leadership? : An Exploratory Study on the Role of Listening and Mental Models for Ethical Decision-Making Using the Boeing 737 Max Scandal as an Illustrative Case
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- Master Thesis 
This exploratory study examines the role of listening and mental models for ethical decision-making. A model on listening is presented based on a review of the literature. The model proposes that the effectiveness of a decision-maker’s listening impacts how much data the decision-maker can access from stakeholders and how much of that data the decision-maker will accurately understand. This can affect the decision-maker’s ability to fill in own blind spots and consider stakeholders’ interests and concerns when making decisions. The model also proposes that the effectiveness of a decision-maker’s listening can affect a stakeholder’s psychological safety and basic needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness, thereby affecting the stakeholder’s well-being and the degree to which they feel they can express their true selves. A case study is then presented based on the decision-making that led to the two fatal Boeing 737 Max accidents. Findings from the case illustrate how key decision-makers at Boeing seem to have been narrowly focused on only a few stakeholders and dimensions of the competitive challenge they had to solve. Financial pressure, ineffective listening to employees, and lack of self-awareness are discussed as potential explanations for why decision-makers at Boeing failed to meet their ethical obligations.