LSAL 5153: The Ethics of Leadership
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
— Abraham Lincoln
Ethics take new meaning in the context of leadership. By its very nature, leadership implies that a person or group wields power over others. Throughout history, this power has often been absolute; however, in modern business, political and religious settings, leaders are more able to coerce their followers into doing certain things or living in a particular manner. This kind of power structure means that ethical behavior is imperative, and that the leader should embody these principles even more rigidly.
Leadership can often be tricky, however. There is a serious challenge in wielding power judiciously and without undue self-interest, maintaining moral integrity in both public and private life, understanding the duties of leadership and of followers, trying to aim for the greatest good and grasping the cultural limitations of one’s own upbringing. It is often simple to assume that there is only one way to do the “right” thing. In leadership, however, the lines become blurred – what might be right in one situation might not be in another.
The Ethics of Leadership is cool because the class examines one of the biggest issues facing corporate society today. Ethics, in the broadest sense, refers to how we relate to other people, animals, the environment and ourselves in terms of what we should do. In this course, students examine the ethical dimensions of leadership from many perspectives by working on case studies and a final project that applies the concepts learned in the class. They examine the work of ethical philosophers, are asked to make connections between them and ultimately reach their own conclusions.
The study of ethics is more than just memorizing a moral code or religious doctrine, however. Thorough understanding of this topic helps students in various ways. It allows them to examine ethical problems from several important views, adequately frame the problem for optimal understanding and to practice ethical reasoning in developing a practical solution.
Throughout this course, students gain skills that are essential in human life. The more honed an individual becomes in making good and ethically sound judgments, the more valuable they become in the decision-making process of any organization. Students in this class quickly realize that the topics they cover will be useful in any context, enabling them to become capable leaders in any career they choose.
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