Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ethical Leaders

To be an ethical leader is to make decisions that better the majority. I have met student leaders as well as professional leaders that have qualities that make them ethical. They are selfless rather than selfish and advocate for helping everyone as a whole rather than meeting the needs of one or two people in particular.

Debbi, my former dance teacher and good friend is a great example of someone who puts her own agenda aside to better serve her students. Dealing with over one hundred girls ranging from the ages of 4-18 years old, Debbi is wonderful in dealing with people of all ages. Not only does she have to remain patient, understanding and level headed but she also has to deal with the parents. Debbi would sometimes confide in me of how stressful her work could be, which I can only imagine can be difficult at times. There are parents who complain, don't pay tuition on time, don't approve of costume choices, changes in dance schedules...and Debbi has to deal with all their complaints. Although Debbi wants to please all of her students, and their parents, she knows that she can't please everyone and has to make the executive decision that will better help her dance school as a community.

Famous people that come to mind who resemble ethical leaders: Our Founding Fathers...Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, to name a few.. men that fought for our freedom and created our government system today. They took an ethical approach in trying to meet the needs of as many people as possible. And as other people have mentioned, leaders whose purpose in life is to help the "greater good" and those who possess values and morals who treat people with respect and whose laws and regulations help others rather than hinder. People who are fair and do not favor one group of people over the other and respect everyone equally is someone I feel is a good leader.

And now for the unethical leaders, sure we could talk about Hitler but everyone talks about Hitler. Hitler was insane, a man who had the desire and means to execute so many people just based on a hatred is sickening to me. A leader who brainwashes the minds of others I feel does not deserve the right to be considered a leader, or at least a good one. Everywhere you look you can find someone who holds a leadership position; whether it be a high school teacher, principal, coach, lawyer, doctor, architect, chef...basically any sort of profession you find you will be sure to find SOMEONE who is disrespecting the people he or she works's just bound to happen. There are certain people who hold a certain amount of power and don't know how to channel all that pride and confidence in a health way without creating conflict.

Principles of Leadership

When assuming a leadership role, those who follow you expect you to be ethical. They expect that everything you do will be honest, right, moral, and positive. For me personally, no leader at a national and international level is completely ethical. Each leader makes a deals to try to get what they want and need for their constituents. However, some leaders struggle by simply not making deals with the devil and being ethical. For me, when deciding if a leader is ethical, I look at the product they produced, the scandals that erupted during that time and how they handled it, the period in which they lived in and the issues they were fighting for and against.

One great example of an ethical leader was Harold Washington. He is a lesser known mayor of Chicago, who died tragically in office during his 4 year. He was the first and only African American mayor. His tenure as mayor was from 1983 through 1987. During his time in office, he faced racial hostility from white democrats and white ethnic voters. He constantly fought for what was fair. This included fighting the city council's decision to deny his appointments to council and using his power to veto to overrule their decision. His many bills proposed-that were either proposed and died in the house or either implemented after his death and later repealed by former Washington adversary and later mayor Richard Daly-included a human rights bill (which extended the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965) and an bill to protect the GLBT community in Chicago.

Harold Washington was very positive and real. He spoke to the constituents as if they were friends and laid the cards out on the table. He held carnivals and went door to door and gain support and earn the trust of his followers. He was very headstrong and listened to the peoples concerns. He went to problem areas and looked at how he could make Chicago beautiful and end the racism and corruption. He was a man for the people.

Despite not being able to finish his work in office due to his untimely death, Washington was up against a lot-the Council, racism, and failure. However, he gave Chicago a taste of change with his initiatives and his grassroots approach to politics. His tenure in office influenced a very young Barack Obama and to this day, in Chicago, on the anniversary of his death, they play an interview he had, where he talked candidly about his life, time in office, and struggles to get where he was at the time of his death.

An example of an unethical leader would be Rod Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois. Blagojevich's tenure saw a 0% approval rating and many scandals erupting including fraud. His legacy is tarnished due to his decision to sell President Obama's senatorial seat to the highest bidder. He is also noted for threatening to cease business with Bank of America over a shut down factory in Chicago.

Blagoveich acts reckless and has a very non-chalant attitude. He appears to act in the interest of the people but cut corners to get results.  He is very private and most of his scandals erupt after months have expired since the deal happened.

Both of these leaders have represented progress and recession in Chicago and Illinois as a whole. Furthermore, these two leaders represent different leadership styles and how contrasting styles can lead you into dangerous territory-i.e. corruption and etc. Lastly, to me these leaders represent the famous quote, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely", in which Blagoveich's complete rule over Illinois corrupted  him, while Washington's control of Chicago saw no corruption due to the check and balance system.

Believe in the good and rise against the bad...

" An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind" - Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi was a man of brilliance, honor and integrity. He was viewed to many past leaders as the foundation of their beliefs when it came to non-violence and civil disobedience. Gandhi's belief in non-violence was a principle he followed called Ahimsa, which is defined as doing no harm. He encourage everyone to conquer evil with the good in the world through our inner strength. When Gandhi said," An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind" he meant that if people react in violence to another and so on, there will be a never ending chain reaction of hate.
He strived to reteach everyone what has already been taught, that the two most important things in life are the truth and non-violence.He loved everyone and believed that those who have wronged others was still had hope, the hearts of even the cruelest and most violent individuals could be won. Gandhi practiced for the greater good, he wanted everyone to realize that there was a way of 'fighting' back, but with our love and inner strength. It wasn't all about the guns, the warfare, and the anger that made a person win a battle. It was and still is about how a person makes their point across without harming those it their path.
In 1930, Gandhi made a bold move, for he was a bold man. He started a campaign of nonviolent protesting against the British salt monopoly in India who taxed India for their salt. Mahatma Ghandi challenged the authority of the British by marching for 24 days and 240 miles, along the way he gained supporters that took part in his march. This man wanted what the people deserved whether it be the truth or no taxation on salt, he did it in the most unconventional way that many saw as humble, strong and powerful.
- "Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will" - Mahatma Gandhi

Its funny that those who we look to lead this country tend to be the biggest group of unethical leaders. Most politicians make decisions upon the greater good for the country but lead us down the wrong path. As of right now we are slammed by a Recession and a war, and not to forget we are bombing another country 'to save civilians', but in reality that may possibly start up another war that we don't need. There are a long list of unethical people that have led this country with lies, deceit, and injustice all so they can be remembered for they did for this country which was cut another gash into the flesh of this earth leaving their scar behind. The wars will stop when we realize its the most barbaric way to show our power.

But going into specifics, I would have to go across the waters and pick Saddam Hussein. He was a horrible man that thought only of himself. He lead with the promises that he would change Iraq. Instead he lead for 24 years suppressing his people and causing an Iraq - Iran war that lasted eight years. He invaded other countries that had no reason to be, and held "weapons of mass destruction" with the intent of killing millions in other countries, specifically America. This man had no inner strength, he lead with the idea that power was violence and he could bulldoze whoever he wanted with the force of his military.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ethically Leaders in History

   Abraham Lincoln has shown himself as a leader who towers above the rest and a leader who has dealt with some of our nation's most difficult issues. Lincoln may admittedly be a typical choice for an essay on leadership, but people do not seem to really understand just how powerful of a force he was to the country at the time and shaping of what it has become today. Obviously, the abolition of slavery and the addition of t he 13th amendment are fundamental steps that Lincoln took to push America towards industrialism, and thus make America a world power. However, what made Lincoln such a great leader, capable of such gargantous task? Lincoln carried with him a finely tuned series of ethics, these ethics were found in his attitude, behavior and character.
   Lincoln's attitude towards life and those he interacted with was a just has he could make it. His career prior to presidency was in law. There he gained the knowledge of ethical choices and skills to implicate fair decisions based upon the law of our land, which is derived from core morals that were inherit in those who then transcribed them into written form. It was not uncommon for Lincoln to face opposition in his line of work, both in law and as president. However, even though he may not have like someone, in order to get the job done Lincoln would find a way to negotiate and find some sort of common ground to agree on. As he even said himself: "I do not like that man, I should get to know him better". His behavior to his work and the people in his life were given his full commitment. That commitment was essential to his achievement of preserving the Union. Lincoln's behavior towards his duty and his country were not only full hearted but also considerate of others. Though he is know to have a sturdy opinion and a well built argument, he is not opposed to listening to what others have to say. Besides, an argument can't technically be when only one person is speaking. Lincoln also established reconstruction methods for healing the devastated south after the Civil War as well as provide aid for newly freed slaves, even though much of these methods were acted out by his predecessor Andrew Johnson. Though leniency on the South became a debate, on how and to what degree the states should be punished. Lincoln fought for fair treatment and leniency, knowing full well the great resentment the South would carry for years to come.
   King George III on the other hand lacked many attributes for a successful leader. Many of his faults were inherent, and are the product of leadership that is thrust upon someone. Having his father suddenly fall ill and die, being prepared for the daunting task of ruling the kingdom and colonies of Britain was virtually impossible. Instead, George III spent a large portion of his later rule entertaining himself. George III lacked keen management skills when it came to organizing and handling national and international affairs. He also was never a very strong role model for his people and could have provided much more moral for the British army during the American Revolution. His dealings in that war alone are subject to leadership scrutiny. Overall, George III suffered from mental illness brought about by porphyria. This certainly put a toll on how he operated ethically. George III was know to isolate himself and play with little toy soldiers, even during the war in America. The people did not approve of George, and thus turned away from him. Any chance of him making a turn around would have been pointless due to the lack of faith people had in his ethical judgment. King George III, with his mental decay, poor judgment, and skewed management skills, is just one example of a leader who would not qualify as a proper leader.

A Stark Comparison of Ethical and Unethical Leaders

When I ask myself whom do I know of in history who is an ethical leader I would have to say Martin Luther King Jr. I know it is like going for the obvious but it is the truth. The man never made any decision with out careful thought to how his actions as a civil rights leaders would effect the people of America as a whole not just himself or African Americans. "Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." King was always for peaceful resolution to injustice. King also had a flawless understanding of what was moral and immoral a when it came to whether a law was just or unjust. King also possessed courage. He was willing to put himself at risk for the greater good not matter what the conviction or consequence. He sat in a Birmingham jail cell for the people of Birmingham, Alabama. Anyone willing to do that and face any conviction for another person is an ethical leader.
As we talk about an ethical leader lets talk about what makes an unethical leader, like oh I don't know...HITLER for example...we are talking about a man who wanted to create an arian race of German people and exterminate any one else on the face of the earth who wasn't like him. When we look at him from the scope of how ethical he was we can mention concentration camps and how he used them to torture, kill, and keep captive the races he wanted to rid the Earth of. He made decisions based of his own interest and did not care what others thought. His actions costed his country millions of dollars in debt after WWII and left an entire group of people scared for life. Dangerous toxic leadership like his is poison to others and is not ethical to say the least.

Ethics in Leadership

What does it mean to be an ethical leader?

From our discussion last class I have been thinking a lot about the difference between values, morals, and ethics, and how they fall into my life both as an individual and as a part of society. While all three play an important and often-distinct role, none can stand alone.

This, I think, is even truer for people with authority over others, or people who lead. We talk about whether or not a leader is “ethical”; but I would argue that we must consider also whether they have strong values and hold true to their personal moral beliefs as well. As Mr. Nayor noted in his lecture, a leader has to a) do what’s right—not necessarily what’s popular; b) be fair and consistent; c) lead by example; and d) admit when he is wrong. I think these expand further than ethics alone: they consider personal morals and values too.

That said, an example of a great historical leader is Alan Paton. He is most noted for his ant-apartheid activism in South Africa in the 1940s-1960s, as well as his seminal—not to mention heart breaking and beautiful—novel, Cry, The Beloved Country. He founded the South African Liberal Party in opposition of the apartheid legislation in 1953, and was known worldwide for his commitment to peaceful activism.

First, he did what was right for the greater good, though it certainly was not popular: he suffered at the hands of the separatist National Party because of his efforts. However, over time the influence he created eventually swung the pendulum and exposed the corruption of the National Party to the global audience. Next, he maintained fairness and consistency when the opposition did not; he practiced what he preached. He even denounced the actions of his own colleagues when some turned to violence to oppose the apartheid. Certainly, values and morals such as integrity, respect, commitment to personal beliefs surrounding freedom, and empathy drove his actions as well as ethical considerations defined by society. Thus he achieved his goals via ethical, moral and value-oriented means.

More common throughout history we find unethical leaders. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Pinochet…of course, the obvious examples, probably take home the cake here, but I see unethical practices happening everywhere I look, whether I’m looking in a History textbook, today’s paper, or at an FDA-approved nutrition label. So because it seems rather obscure (although I argue that it is the opposite) I’ll take the example of the FDA. The FDA is a vastly influential agency, essentially overseeing the regulation of one-quarter of the nation’s economy, as well as having a very direct influence over us individually with each bite of food, each pill, each prescription, and each piece of health advice we take. Thus the authority of the FDA comes with enormous responsibility. Not only does unethical behavior in the agency have momentous consequences, but also inaction—failure to take progressive, honest, and purely ethical action—is likewise a crime. The recent history of the FDA has shown leadership that has either acted on a personal—and thus unethical—agenda, or has failed to take action at all, supervising the degrading health of our nation with utmost apathy.

The FDA Commissioner in 2005, Lester Crawford, was one of the worst offenders, ultimately charged by the U.S. Department of Justice for violating conflict-of-interest laws and falsely reporting his ownership in stock by companies regulated by the FDA. Among other offenses, he falsely stated in a 2004 government filing that he and his wife sold their shares of Sysco and Kimberly-Clark, when they actually continued to hold them. Further, he opposed progressive policies such as non-prescription contraceptives in the light of his own popularity with the Republican Party. For the cherry on top, Crawford was also involved in investigations surrounding an extra-marital affair with an FDA Board member. Obviously, moral and ethical considerations were forgotten.

Succeeding Crawford was Andrew von Eschenbach. In fact, he was listed in the Times’ Time 100 “People Who Shape Our World”, writing that as head of the FDA, which "wields enormous influence on American lives", von Eschenbach "could make a signal contribution to the public's health" by focusing on issues of diet and obesity in addition to drugs and disease. Too bad he failed to do so. Under Eschenbach as well as his predecessors, the FDA has done very little to proactively address the descent of the public’s state of health. In fact, the agency does not even seem to acknowledge much of a problem, much less a plan for solving it. The leaders of the FDA have allowed this toxic approach in the interest of Big Pharma, Kraft and Monsanto. Last on their priorities is the interest of public health. Ethics here are not merely forgotten; they are denied.

Monday, March 21, 2011


In class we defined ethical decision making as doing what is right for the greater good. My dad is an example of an ethical leader.

For sixteen years he has served the City of Boston as fire fighter and prior to that he served in the US military. He’s a humble civil servant; always ready to help out on and off the job. He has shown his leadership skills on scene by carrying out whatever task he is assigned, whether it is leading the incident command staff, or being an active team member on the hydrant crew. Any member of his house can attest to this.

I remember when my father took us on a road trip to Disney Land. My sister and I were so excited the whole way there; we barely slept. It was dark outside as we were driving on the highway, and my dad saw a crumpled up car on the side of the road. It was late so there weren’t many people out. My dad pulled off the road immediately to assess the situation. There was a young man stuck in the car, probably in his twenties. My dad pulled him out and laid him on the back seat of our truck while he told my mom to call the paramedics. My dad made sure the young man was as comfortable as possible by removing as much glass as he could from the man’s clothes, tying towels around wounds, and talking him through everything, telling him to breathe through the pain. I remember being scared listening to the man crying out in agony, but I knew he was going to be ok because my dad was the best fire fighter on the job. I will never forget that day; I got to watch my dad save a life. My dad didn’t have to do this but as an ethical leader, he could see how his actions would impact others in a beneficial way.

Adolf Hitler is an example of an unethical leader.

His methods were based only on his moral beliefs; he saw the Aryan race as right and everyone else as wrong. If someone did not fit into the Aryan description they were to be burned, slaughtered, or sent to concentration camps. Because Hitler was acting with his moral compass, he failed to see what was important for the greater good. Killing millions was actually detrimental to the greater good.

Both leaders demonstrated a strong sense of self, which is important. A leader has to know who she is before she can be an example for others. As an emerging leader, I am trying to gain a better sense of myself so I can affect positive change in others.