Saturday, May 30, 2009

Are leaders above ethics?

Business people often think that they are above ethics. They often pride themselves in how they can deceive a customer. Politicians also often see rules as meant to be bent rather than lived. What these people are doing is relying on the other people to be ethical, and taking advantage of a general ethical understanding in society, and thinking they can get ahead by bucking the system.

If everyone started bucking the system, then the system would collapse, society would crumble. You would not be able to trust a word anyone said. The moment you turned your back, you would be stabbed. The moment the police were not looking, you would be robbed in broad daylight.

Why do certain people think that they are better then others, that they do not need to adhere to rules like the masses? They think they are part of a superior class. Machiavelli sees that he can turn on and off truthfulness as he chooses to accomplish his own ends. These “superior” people see that ethics are for the simple people. Simple people need rules to live by, they need to be told what to do, herded like sheep. But the leaders, they are not bound by the same code. They make the rules, they do not have to live by them.

But if the leaders continue to not live by ethics, how can the ‘simple’ people be expected to continue to uphold the ethical code? And if the ‘simple’ people do not hold the ethical code, then chaos breaks out. The whole world begins to look like Beirut or Rwanda.

In Canada, we have just come to assume that our leaders will be un-ethical. We do not see a political leader as a person that could improve the country. Rather, they are the one with the most tenacity to fight the political games, cut down enough of their opponents and climb to the top.

It is interesting that people see Barak Obama in a different light. People see him as genuine and consistent with the concept of an ethical leader.

Maybe the reason society needs to be cleaned up by substantial events such as the enlightenment and waves revivals is because the leadership in society is continually trying to shirk their ethical responsibility and thus slowly bringing down the ethical climate of society. Only by having these occasional cleanings can society get a renewed ethical perspective and continue to function rather then descend into anarchy.

What would ethical leadership look like?

I am seriously trying to understand this as I am currently teaching a course on ethics. One of the roles of a professor is being an ethical role model. It is not a question of how I can scam the system. Rather it is a question of doing what I believe needs to be done to care for my students and ensure they get the best possible learning experience I can deliver. It is actually a refreshing way to look at the world. There is cleanness to it. I can get excited about it. It is a consistent framework that makes sense. Sure, it is not easy, but in the end I feel like I have done something.

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