Action Wheel Leadership

Ethics in Leadership

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Bob Terry

Bob Terry on leadership ethics:

What is especially crucial is that, if ethics in leadership is not perceived as essential it will continue to be ignored or included in leadership programs solely for idiosyncratic reasons—the instructors interests, the culture's latest fad, or the participants' whims. Only what is perceived to be essential in leadership is always included.

Even when ethical leadership is included in a leadership program, all too often key ethical principles are not identified, evaluated, or placed in a useful relation to each other. Urging ethical behavior is not the same as thoughtful wrestling with ethical principles or problems. More is required of us as teachers than a peripheral nod to ethical thinking. ~Bob Terry, Authentic Leadership: Courage in Action

Dr. Robert Terry, author of Authentic Leadership: Courage In Action, wrote extensively about leadership ethics.

Action Wheel Leadership, Inc. has developed a framework for thinking about the values, preferences, and dispositions that drive individual and group decision-making. This assessment instrument is called View to Values (VTV).

Most Western ethical philosophy can be divided into three views:

  • Ethics are virtues such as justice, charity and generosity benefit the person and the person's society. (Largely based on Aristotle's ideas.)
  • Ethics are central to morality - a human duty - based on rational people's respect for other rational people. (Notably supported by Kant.)
  • Ethics are a guiding principle based on conduct which produces the greatest happiness or benefit to the greatest number of people. (Referred to as utilitarianism - this might be also be considered 'the greater good' concept.)
Ethics in Leadership

Ethics in Leadership and the Action Wheel

The Authentic Action Wheel suggests six areas that should be considered in a definition of reflective ethical action:

  • Ethical sensibility (existence): Without the socialization that produces values, we could not recognize any situation as an ethical dilemma requiring reflective action.
  • Ethical tools (resources): Just as the science of economics uses such concepts as supply and demand, marginal utility, and cost-benefit to analyze economic issues, ethical reflection has its tools of analysis. These tools are such concepts as love, justice and freedom which must be built into any comprehensive ethical framework.
  • Ethical methods (structure): Methods link tools to issues, reflection to action. Appeals to scripture, third-party scrutiny, or recognized social standards fit this category.
  • Ethical motivation (power): Motivation, or commitment, is the energizer. It engages the methods and links methods to principles. Without commitment, there is no spur to engagement.
  • Ethical principles (mission): Principles point the way to ethical action. Without ethical principles, particular actions get lost in detail or stray off course.
  • Meta-ethics (meaning): Doubt accompanies ethical reflection and action. Why be ethical? What supports ethical action and encourages it to endure? Not everyone asks meta-ethical questions. Yet in times of great distress, these questions demand action.

The Action Wheel Assessment (AWA) is an MRI for organizations. Do you need to know where your organization is strong and where it is vulnerable? Based on the Action Wheel framweork developed by Dr. Robert Terry, this simple assessment has been used for 20 years in organizations of all shapes and sizes to create a snapshot of organizational health.

Action Wheel Model

"There are no universally agreed upon rules of ethics in leadership, no absolute standards or controls, and no fixed and firm reference points. This is fascinating given how hugely important ethics have now become in modern life and society." ~Warren Hoffman  

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Related Pages:

Leadership Ethics

A Definition of Leadership

Characteristics of Good Leadership

Leadership Versus Management

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