The following is commentary by Dr. Charles H. Wheatley
The fourth quality of leadership I decided to reflect on may be expressed as follows: “Leaderd Should be Ethical and Civic Minded.”
After deciding on this topic, I put it down and began to look inwardly to see if within me there was the sincerity needed to speak about it. Before I made a decision the following words by Archbishop Welby in his homily for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth Ii ignited a spark of confirmation for me. His words:
“The pattern for many leaders is to be exalted in life and forgotten after death. The pattern for all who serve God-famous or obscure, respected or ignored-is that death is the door to glory. People of loving service are rare in any walk of life. Leaders of loving service are still rarer. But in all cases those who serve will be loved and remembered when those who cling to power and privileges are forgotten.”
When I speak about ethical leadership I refer to leadership which demonstrates the virtues of prudence, courage, temperance, and justice.
Throughout the history of the British Virgin Islands, there have been many leaders whose leadership respected those virtues in active service to their organizations be it the Territory, school, church, bank, civic organizations, or any organized group. On the other hand, one does not have to search hard and long to find many leaders who have fallen short in their responsibilities. These two types of leaders are as common today as they were in 1949 when four men, Theodore Faulkner, Howard R. Penn, Isaac G. Fonseca, and Carlton L. deCastro led B. V. Islanders to a higher level of political consciousness and planted the seed of political self-determination in the leadership of the Territory. Somewhere along the road, between then and now these virtues have been diluted and infected with pollutants that have weakened the leadership of the Territory and in the Territory. Therefore, there is need for B. V. Islanders to evaluate our past journey and see where we have stumbled or fallen, and apply these virtues as we continue to move forward.
Gini (1998) defined ethical leaders as leaders who use their social power in their decisions, their own actions, and their influence on others in such a way that they act in the best interest of their followers and not enact harm upon them, by respecting the rights of all parties.”
On the other hand, Brown et al (2005) defined ethical leadership in terms of behavior as ” the demonstration of normatively appropriate conduct through personal actions and interpersonal relationships, and the promotion of such conduct to followers through two-way communication, reinforcement, and decision-making.”
Ethical leaders model and encourage ethical behavior in subordinates by communicating their standards and using rewards as well as discipline to reinforce appropriate and less appropriate behavior. That is the environment into which I was initiated when I joined the teaching profession many mornings ago. Sometimes it seems that we have lost our axe head. The leader’s intent should be to avoid harm unto the followers and act in the interest of others-a rare commodity in the B. V. I of today.
Ethical leaders focus on the virtues of prudence, courage, temperance, and justice. When practicing prudence, the leader keeps a balance in case of a moral dilemma, carefully considering the consequences resulting from a decision and personal moral values. Prudence is a condition but not sufficient by itself for ethical conduct. For example, Jack intends to murder Sarah who runs in your house for rescue. You protected her by telling Jack a lie about her whereabouts. Should you have told a lie or allow Jack to murder Sarah? Prudence kicks in to carefully consider the situation and weigh the consequences of your decision. It takes a lot of strength and persistence, in other words courage to be an ethical leader, especially in the gravity of today’s community. Courage itself is not ethical because one can be courageous in evil behavior, as we say “bold face” and indeed many of us have witnessed such. However, ethical leaders do need courage to help to resist trying actions and trying times. In this instance the leader is offered “good money” to approve the promotion of an undeserving subordinate. The leader needs the courage to stand by an ethical decision. Temperance is concerned with the individual self-interest or self-indulgent behavior. Is it me or us? Is it ours or mine? When faced with such situations ethical leaders should focus on humility and restrained themselves from grandiose and material over-reach. Leaders who are respectful and do not seek benefits at the expense of others can be considered just. In such cases justice is an integral part of ethical leadership. Ethical leadership requires a fair amount of fairness. The fairness should be reflected in procedures, distribution and interpersonal fairness. Ethical leaders are expected to do their utmost to create a fair and trustful environment and promote stimulating ethical pro-social follower’s behaviors.
We need more ethical leaders in the B. V. I. if we are to survive in this turbulent global community.
(Civic-mindedness will be considered in another Wheatake.) (Some of the ideas in this Wheatake came from the The Journal of Personnel Psychology 2012 Vol 11(1).