Leadership comes in a multitude of packages and roles. Many people see being in a high-profile leadership position as a sign of success; you have worked hard and are now entitled to a lifestyle of leisure and recreation. You have an assistant to schedule your calendar and are paid to speak at conferences around the world. Like everything in life these upsides come with downsides, and most people never know the dilemmas that may weigh on a leader’s mind, keeping them up at night. Sometimes there are no good options and they must choose between the least negative outcomes. It’s in these moments that ethics are the most important.
Ethics are important for any person, especially for someone who is also a leader. While many of us may think of the ability to make ethical decisions rudimentary, and the majority of us seem to instinctively know the “right” course of action most of the time, there are times that the ethical choice might not be so obvious. Sadly, many leaders often turn to unethical ways, including asking employees to lie, knowingly selling faulty material or keeping a company’s finances hidden. Learning to define and apply an ethical eye to a complicated situation can make a world of difference between positive and negative outcomes for individuals and organizations.
Through the CLS Ethics in Leadership class, students are introduced to different ways of thinking about morality that help them recognize and appreciate diverse views in a more knowledgeable way. Many students begin the course with a very limited perspective regarding the context of ethics. Having only their personal experiences to draw from, students do not take into account the many different points of view that affect how we interpret and perceive situations. Cultural, religious, and regional history can all play a part in how we form our moral identities, and learning different ways to think about morality has been a life-changing experience for many, including myself. I have had the privilege of witnessing students positively transformed in their ability to critically analyze a wide variety of situations and come to ethical conclusions.
In our increasingly diverse society and ever-shrinking world, it is essential that leaders be aware of cultural differences and have the skills to effectively lead diverse groups of people. In order for leaders to create safe environments, they need to have the ability to recognize and interpret cultural differences in the work place. Sometimes, drastically different and conflicting cultures meet in an organization. A globalized view and a strong understanding of how ethics can transcend cultural differences are powerful tools a leader can use to not only avoid conflict, but help further their organization’s goals.
Through CLS’s Administrative Leadership degree program, the topics of ethics and leadership are explored individually and in combination. As an interdisciplinary program, leadership is approached from different perspectives and different disciplines to emphasize the complementary skills of critical thinking, organization, team building, and effective communication. The skills that our students acquire from their education will assist them to become both ethical and effective leaders.
Himanshu Bhatia, Founder and CEO of ROSE International Inc., reminds us, “As a leader it’s a major responsibility on your shoulders to practice the behavior you want others to follow.” Let us begin the journey together!