Ethical Leadership – A Personal Exploration

Ethics. Big topic.

Lots of professional courses, programs and degrees about it — and, there is always someone willing to engage in a conversation — especially in fields like bio-ethics or medical-ethics. One might think it shouldn’t be too difficult to describe an ethical leader:

  • Honest
  • High Integrity
  • Transparent … are three traits that come to mind

I think most of us actually aspire to these attributes for ourselves. And, when we are discussing leadership around us, we expect our leaders to have these same traits. But, is there something else — something more? When I see a truly great leader there is ‘something‘ that makes them stand out from the rest — that makes them special.

Maybe it’s their charismatic personality.

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Implicit Bias – Yup, I’m Talking About You!

You are biased.

So am I.

One of These Things is Not Like the Others

We all categorize things — it’s how we sort our world and make sense of it. Good things over here — bad things over there. Similar things in this box — other things in another box. Even Sesame Street encourages us to sort our world.

We also categorize people. Yes, we do. All of us. Sometimes we assign them a description without knowing enough. And, if you think you don’t do that — you’re wrong.

  • We read a news article about a person and consciously assign intent or bias
  • We see someone speeding down the road and label them as dangerous and thoughtless
  • We dislike someone’s decision so, therefore, that person ‘just doesn’t get it’

We all do it. But, why?

  • It’s easier to assign intent to others which then justifies our own bias — the other person is either in-line with our own thinking and an ally, or their intent is misguided and they are an adversary.
  • By assigning intent without inquiring about it, we limit the amount of time we need to put into understanding someone.
Actually … It’s All of Us

Pick a topic, especially one that has a pretty clear line of delineation — global warming, poverty, systemic racism are three that come to mind. All three have some pretty polarizing viewpoints. It’s easier to align oneself with those who are similar to yourself and also assign blame or ignorance to those who are not.

Don’t believe me?

Let’s take a look at social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I wrote a Nov 2020 blog post about how social media platforms have algorithms that use Artificial Intelligence to find persons who are aligned with your way of thinking. Your clicks, swipes and pauses all help shape the opinions you see on these platforms. Social media builds your belief that many others think just like you — it’s a main reason why the platforms are so popular.

“But, that’s not me. I’m an objective person.”

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Resilience – Digging Deeper Than We Thought We Could

Human beings possess what some researchers call a psychological immune system, a host of cognitive abilities that enable us to make the best of even the worst situation.

Lara Aknin, Jamil Zaki and Elizabeth Dunn, The Atlantic (July 2021)

We are capable of more than what we probably think we are capable of sustaining. Researchers Aknin, Zaki and Dunn conducted a review of close to 1,000 research studies examining hundreds of thousands of people across nearly 100 countries and they came to a conclusion:

We are remarkably adept at finding solutions to what might appear to be insurmountable problems.

THE MENTAL HEALTH CHECK

You’ve probably heard that the coronavirus pandemic triggered a worldwide mental-health crisis. This narrative took hold almost as quickly as the virus itself. In the spring of 2020, article after article—even an op-ed by one of us—warned of a looming psychological epidemic.

As clinical scientists and research psychologists have pointed out, the coronavirus pandemic has created many conditions that might lead to psychological distress: sudden, widespread disruptions to people’s livelihoods and social connections; millions bereaved; and the most vulnerable subjected to long-lasting hardship. A global collapse in well-being has seemed inevitable.

Lara Aknin, Jamil Zaki and Elizabeth Dunn, The Atlantic (July 2021)

Alarm bells were ringing.

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