Courage and Moral Leadership

The discovery of Listeria monocytogenes in ice cream products from Blue Bell Creameries in 2015 has posed an important challenge for the leaders of the company. Blue Bell Creameries response to Listeria contamination in 2015 cannot be considered as a demonstration of enormous courage; however, despite being a little bit slow in their reaction, the leaders have made decent and careful attempts to pursue the ethical and moral aspects in this complicated case.

It is beyond any doubt that there was a significant ethical issue, since the situation involved the hospitalization of ten people from the different states and three lethal outcomes (CDC, 2015). The fact that Blue Bell Creameries has first encountered the problem with listeria in 2010 (Derla, 2016) leads to the logical assumption that listeriosis in 2015 could have been avoided in case the appropriate preventive actions were taken. On the other hand, actions of the headquarters of Blue Bell Creameries cannot be considered unethical, since the company was not trying to avoid the responsibility, and did accept all the recommendations of CDC as well as took necessary steps. Although the effort applied could be definitely bigger and the time required for those actions – shorter.

The most recent illness onset date was January 2015, however, the BBC has recalled the contaminated products from retailers only on March 13, 2015 and also shut down the production line at the factory where the products were made (Falkenstein, 2015). Blue Bell accepted the responsibility in 2015 as soon as the CDC announced of the listeriosis, and took the actions to stop the disaster, however, their preventive activities can be estimated as minimal. This presumption is made on the basis of several facts: the company did recall the products from their retailers, but did not publicly inform the consumers not to buy the specific products; the company has recalled only a specific type of their dairy products, but not all of them; the company recalled all its products from the market and closed the production facilities only 2 months after the first listeria had been discovered.

Leadership is tightly connected with moral courage leaders demonstrating the face of challenge. A leader should consider how his or her actions affect wellness of others in the first place (Daft, 2015). The behavior of Blue Bell leaders cannot be regarded as that with the lack of courage – in fact, they took responsibility in the face of danger. However, the company seemed to spend too much time to analyze all the risks. After the headquarters were informed of the listeriosis in February 2015, they promptly recalled the tainted product, however without a public announcement (Elkind, 2015). In this case, the company’s executives demonstrated a lack of courage to take all the risks publicly and shut down all the production facilities for a global sanitary check at once.

One of the companies that encountered similar listeria disaster is Roos Foods Dairy Products. After FDA found the listeria genome in March 2014, the headquarters took all the responsibility within a couple of days, recalled the tainted products that can be estimated as a quick and timely reaction. As per recommendation of FDA, the production facilities of Roos Foods Dairy Products were closed (Whithworth, 2014).

It cannot be stated that the executives of Blue Bell Creameries demonstrated lack of morality, ethics or courage in this case, since they did not deny their fault in the listeriosis outbreak. However, the company leaders were too slow in their attempts to resolve the problem and were not enthusiastic about any public announcements of the listeriosis case. Thus, the actions of Blue Bell leaders could have been more timely and measurable.


CDC Official Website (2015, July 13). Multistate outbreak of listeriosis linked to Blue Bell Creameries products (Final update). Retrieved from

Daft, R. (2015). The leadership experience (6th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.

Derla, K. (2016, January 4). Blue Bell Creameries under criminal investigation over listeria response. Tech Times. Retrieved from

Elkind, P. (2015, September 25). How ice cream maker Blue Bell blew it. Fortune. Retrieved from