Ethical Leadership

As I mentioned in the intro to my last post, I spent last week cloistered in the woods south of Atlanta at a week long company sponsored leadership training.  I had a combination of both high a low expectations going in: high expectations about the quality of the course which were set primarily based on the quality of the materials and exercises we completed ahead of time; low expectations about what  I would actually walk away with that I could use, much less that might “change my life.”  Fortunately, my high expectations were met and my low expectations were dashed.
No, I didn’t have any life altering revelations, although I did take a few notes in my journal that might lead to some solid self discovery upon further reflection and meditation.  Rather, I learned what the work of a leader actually is.  I determined inductively long ago that it was more than just giving orders and organizing projects.  That realization only told me what it wasn’t.  I had been operating for a long time without a definition of what it was.  The time spent last week sharpening the saw helped me color in the outline of a definition.
One aspect of leadership that bothered me going in and which I made a little progress on is that of the ethics of it.  Can you ethically lead someone or is it always some form of manipulation or coercion?  Answering that question was actually one of my objectives for the course.  I’m not sure that I have a complete answer, but I think I may have discovered yet another strange loop:  People can be lead in an ethical way if they have a tremendous amount of both self and world knowledge.
To lead ethically, you need followers with self knowledge to ensure that their needs and values are being met by what you are suggesting that they do.  Your followers also need to have world knowledge so that they make their own projection about how things will turn out if they follow you.  The obvious question is of course, if you have tremendous self and world knowledge, why do you need a leader at all?  Like I said, it’s not a complete answer yet…which only says to me that it’s a really good question!






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