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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Climbing the Mountain is About Believing It’s Possible

You hear it.

No one else hears it, yet it can be quite loud — as well as effective. ‘Self-talk’.

And, it’s critical for effective Leadership.

When we talk about Leadership qualities, most of the conversation tends to be about what an effective leader DOES. Leadership is certainly about doing good stuff but, at the heart of it is having the right inner voice. Leaders who have it propel themselves through a solution-seeking lens of optimism and hope and are the ones who lead us through difficult times.

There’s an interesting article on self-talk by Dr. Shonna Waters (The Power of Positive Self Talk and How You Can Use It, June 2021) where she discusses this strength.

WHAT IS SELF-TALK?

Self-talk is the stream of consciousness that runs through our head every day. It can be positive or negative — and typically falls in line with whether you are a positive or negative person. Successful people use positive self-talk to overcome the stray negativity that enters their mindset from time to time.

I’d rather be optimistic and wrong than pessimistic and right.

Some people don’t like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster.

Elon Musk

Besides the obvious benefit of using positive self-talk as a spring board to create solutions, there is some research that also points to some interesting physical and psychological benefits:

benefits-of-self-talk

These are big WINS that are worth paying attention to!

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