What is ethics?
Ethics is the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation (Ethics, n.d.). There are many factors associated with being ethical like integrity, honesty, fidelity, charity, and responsibility. The key factor of being ethical is intention. Intent driven with the aim to enrich the welfare of all, including oneself, is ethical. Many argue that being ethical should exclude the self-benefit (to prevent indulgence in excessive selfish behavior), but it is a prevalent distortion that being ethical is self-sacrifice while it is the enlightening of self-interest. The difference between self-sacrifice and self-interest is the former is punishment while the latter is nourishing. This distortion of ethics must be clarified so that ethical people should not feel the societal norm of immorality when enjoying the standards of moral conduct. Another distortion of ethics is that the result is more important than the intent. As Muhammad believed, “All actions are judged by the motives prompting them.” To elaborate on this quote, human behavior is imperfect and should not be criticized as bad for faults if the intention is good. The only true mistakes in life are the ones that one does not transform into a lesson.
Why is ethics important to leadership?
Why was Russia was slow to recover after World War II? They kept Stalin around!
All jokes aside, the importance of ethical leadership is the importance of ethics of an individual but magnified because of the power and influence of the leader. Throughout history, the negative impact of unethical leadership is prevalent, like the repression of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler. Conversely, positive impact of ethical leadership can be seen with efforts of Bill Gates and benevolent projects like the Giving Pledge (a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.)
With knowledge of ethics and the importance of ethical leadership, it is useful to utilize the components of ethical behavior. According to James Rest and his colleagues at the Center for the Study of Ethical Development at the University of Minnesota, ethical behavior is the product of four intrapersonal and interpersonal communication processes. The four components of ethical behavior to help our performance and our followers include: moral sensitivity, moral judgment, moral motivation, and moral character (Hackman & Johnson, 2009). The first component of moral sensitivity is recognition of a moral problem. This initial element is critical to acknowledge a problem so that one may remedy it. As a leader, it is important to highlight and address the issues. As a follower, it is important to participate with communication and understanding of the problem. The second component of moral judgment is assessment of the problem’s solution to be moral. For many, determining the application of moral conduct is difficult. As a leader and follower and outside, it is important to communicate from all possible perspectives. The third component of moral motivation is the perseverance via the ethical choice when it conflicts with disruptive values (like wealth). As a leader and a follower, it is important to respect and appreciate the other to improve the teamwork toward the shared dream work. The fourth component of moral character is the implementation stage of the model (Hackman & Johnson, 2009). As a leader, it is important to lead the followers for action driven with ethical intent to make the necessary change in this world. Unfortunately, many leaders and followers are unethical and they would individually benefit and others would benefit with better understanding ethical behavior and its importance.
Hold or Roll by Manly Grant from Rhymes for the Land
Rocks hold firm while water’s might
Sends pebbles rolling left and right.
Call pebbles rock? Set firm their goal?
First flash flood, still pebbles roll.
Not name, nor goal divide the two.
It’s how they act. It’s what they do.
Size dictates to stone, but you’re in control.
Are you rock or pebble? Will you hold or roll?
Why should you be ethical?
It is important to rock with ethical awesomeness to enhance the world around you to be as ethically awesome. It is important to not rock with an unstable moral foundation. As Manly Grant poetically illustrates, being strongly embedded with the size and strength of a sturdy character is critical to withstand the floods of the mainstream. This can relate to ethical leadership and followership by firming the goals with morals to strengthen the size and weight of importance to control and hold with actions against the unsettling conflicts. To put it simply, you should be ethical in this unethical world to be the change you wish to see.
Ethics. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster Online. Retrieved April 8, 2013, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ethics
Grant, M. (2010, July 17). Will you Hold or Roll?. Reehab’s Ramblings. Retrieved April 8, 2013, from http://undercovermuslimah.com/?p=359
Hackman, M. Z., & Johnson, C. E. (2009). Ethical Leadership and Followership. Leadership: a communication perspective (5 ed., pp. 336-368). Long Grove, Ill.: Waveland Press.