Leadership

February 7, 2014

Ethical Leadership: What is it? How to develop it?

More articles by »
Written by: Duane Covrig
Tags: , ,

I teach LEAD645 – Ethical Leadership at Andrews University.  In LEAD 645, we explore what ethics is and what leadership is and how  both-concepts can be developed together.There is a dual relationship to the concept. First, I see the call to ethical leadership as a very important call in one’s life. Secondly, it should be recognized as  a universal call. It can be termed as a serious and joyful call. It is creative yet full of duty. We do ethical things to help each other and we lead, also to help each other. Leadership, far from lording it over others, is about trying to serve the needs we see.

I plan the course to be more than typical ethics talk or toying around with moral puzzles or learning how to weave philosophically sophisticated sentences that can at least be designed to make us look important or at worse obscure righteousness. It is not even mainly an academic experience either although we do load up on readings. It is about personal and professional transformation. It is about closer alignment of thought and life to God’s ideal.  Ethics is not just to meet some state standard or some national organization’s requirement for professionals. It is a community working together to understand right and wrong and to do something about our learning that has practical leadership results.

If education and redemption are one, then education and training for ethical leadership is not only about OUR redemption but about taking part in the redemption of others.

Beyond that serious goal, the course is fairly simple. Ethics is about understanding right and wrong and ethical leadership is about figuring out better ways, creative ways and courageous ways of being and doing that right and steering oneself and others toward right and away from wrong.

We use several metaphors to explore this process.  My favorite, and the one I am using to write my book on ethics is the metaphor of a growing tree. Jesus put it succinctly: Make the tree good and the fruit will be good.

For growing trees…

the roots need to go down deep (this is the theological and social foundations of understanding right and wrong),

the trunk needs to pull from those rich resource to make itself a thick and healthy conduit of ideas and learning (education and basic skills and attitudes of learning)

the branches (our varied understandings of applying what we are learning to specific areas of life like family, work, etc..

this move into limbs–the practices and skills of specific daily decisions

and then one needs leaves (to gather even more facts and resources at the point of the tips of life’s choices and to always be looking for more insight.

doing this will  produce fruit (good works)…or at least it should. Jesus curse of the fig tree (it had all the resources and decisions but never good come to bear His type of righteousness–fruit of service to others).

We spend weeks in the class creating some foundations—basics of moral sociology and psychology and some theological and philosophical ideas.

Then we focus on the trunk—good decision, good professional practice, good applied religion.

From that we branch into topics leaders need to know about related to group dynamics, organizational processes, etc…

Throughout the journey there are opportunities for examining our selves (checking if we have a good tree and how the fruit is coming out) and everyone has to do a project that bears specific service to a specific family or work or community need. What is the point of ethics if we don’t get fruit? I imagine Jesus will curse many an ethics class that doesn’t bear moral fruit? I hope mine want be one of those!!

Elsewhere I talk about this tree metaphor as it relates to ethics.

Growing trees takes water, sun, soil and someone working them to shape the tree (See Genesis 2:5-9).

But tree growing is not the only metaphor useful for helping us understand the complex field of moral development, especially the moral development essential for ethical leadership.

Kolb learning cycle has helped me reinvent moral leadership training. It focuses on all complex learning. Complex learning requires thinking with doing and reflection. We use the Kolb learning cycle in all our leadership programs as it keep us all (students and faculty) focused on the social and physical skill development that requires reading, writing, reflection, doing and adventure in experimentation.  (see http://www.simplypsychology.org/learning-kolb.html )

In addition to growing trees (Gen 2 and Psalms 1), the other metaphor that has helped me teach ethical leadership and try to live what I teach, is this idea we are all involved in moving ourselves and other closer to align with God’s moral government or away from it. Moral leadership is about moral imagination as we contemplate the vision and purpose God has for the universe and specifically for the human race.

No longer letting our hearts be discouraged by our own sin or the world of sin, we focus on the healing that can come in Christ and the restoration he wants for all.  “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”

This has a powerful uplifting, sobering but encouraging impact on a leaders life. We are part of a bigger solution God is working on the world.

Some people get concerned about leadership as if it is a glory trip. It need not be.

The one definition I keep coming back to on leadership is the one by Warren Bennis’:

“No leader sets out to be a leader. People set out to live their own lives, expressing themselves fully. When the expression is of value, they become leaders. So the point is not to become a leader. The point is to become yourself, to use yourself completely–all your skills, gifts, and energies–in order to make your vision manifest. You must withhold nothing. You must, in sum, become the person you started out to be, and to enjoy the process of becoming,” Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader, expanded edition p 2003, p. 104

Both our understanding and experience of ethics and leadership are works in progress.

We see in part we “ethic” in part.

We understand in part, we “lead” in part.

But together we can grow as individuals and as a community and ethical leadership focuses on both areas of growth. Leaders–worth the title- look out for the growth and needs of others. They operate out of a genuine concern to figure out what is right, and then rally the resources and people and personal tool bag of leadership skills to help create solutions.

I am continually humbled by what the participants in the class accomplish and what their thinking has done to my thinking by maturing my understanding of the moral leadership of God.

God: we want to have your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Let it be so in our leadership.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I teach LEAD645 Ethical Leadership at Andrews University. We explore what ethics is and what leadership is and then how to grow both together.

I see the call to ethical leadership as a very important call on one’s life and a universal call. It is a serious and joyful call. It is creative yet full of duty. We do ethical things to help each other and we lead, also to help each other. Leadership, far from lording it over others, is about trying to serve the needs we see.

I plan the course to be more than typical ethics talk or toying around with moral puzzles or learning how to weave philosophically sophisticated sentences that can at least be designed to make us look important or at worse obscure righteousness. It is not even mainly an academic experience either although we do load up on readings. It is about personal and professional transformation. It is about closer alignment of thought and life to God’s ideal.  Ethics is not just to meet some state standard or some national organization’s requirement for professionals. It is a community working together to understand right and wrong and to do something about our learning that has practical leadership results.

If education and redemption are one, then education and training for ethical leadership is not only about OUR redemption but about taking part in the redemption of others.

Beyond that serious goal, the course is fairly simple. Ethics is about understanding right and wrong and ethical leadership is about figuring out better ways, creative ways and courageous ways of being and doing that right and steering oneself and others toward right and away from wrong.

We use several metaphors to explore this process.  My favorite, and the one I am using to write my book on ethics is the metaphor of a growing tree. Jesus put it succinctly: Make the tree good and the fruit will be good.

For growing trees…

the roots need to go down deep (this is the theological and social foundations of understanding right and wrong),

the trunk needs to pull from those rich resource to make itself a thick and healthy conduit of ideas and learning (education and basic skills and attitudes of learning)

the branches (our varied understandings of applying what we are learning to specific areas of life like family, work, etc..

this move into limbs–the practices and skills of specific daily decisions

and then one needs leaves (to gather even more facts and resources at the point of the tips of life’s choices and to always be looking for more insight.

doing this will  produce fruit (good works)…or at least it should. Jesus curse of the fig tree (it had all the resources and decisions but never good come to bear His type of righteousness–fruit of service to others).

We spend weeks in the class creating some foundations—basics of moral sociology and psychology and some theological and philosophical ideas.

Then we focus on the trunk—good decision, good professional practice, good applied religion.

From that we branch into topics leaders need to know about related to group dynamics, organizational processes, etc…

Throughout the journey there are opportunities for examining our selves (checking if we have a good tree and how the fruit is coming out) and everyone has to do a project that bears specific service to a specific family or work or community need. What is the point of ethics if we don’t get fruit? I imagine Jesus will curse many an ethics class that doesn’t bear moral fruit? I hope mine want be one of those!!

Elsewhere I talk about this tree metaphor as it relates to ethics.

Growing trees takes water, sun, soil and someone working them to shape the tree (See Genesis 2:5-9).

But tree growing is not the only metaphor useful for helping us understand the complex field of moral development, especially the moral development essential for ethical leadership.

Kolb learning cycle has helped me reinvent moral leadership training. It focuses on all complex learning. Complex learning requires thinking with doing and reflection. We use the Kolb learning cycle in all our leadership programs as it keep us all (students and faculty) focused on the social and physical skill development that requires reading, writing, reflection, doing and adventure in experimentation.  (see http://www.simplypsychology.org/learning-kolb.html )

In addition to growing trees (Gen 2 and Psalms 1), the other metaphor that has helped me teach ethical leadership and try to live what I teach, is this idea we are all involved in moving ourselves and other closer to align with God’s moral government or away from it. Moral leadership is about moral imagination as we contemplate the vision and purpose God has for the universe and specifically for the human race.

No longer letting our hearts be discouraged by our own sin or the world of sin, we focus on the healing that can come in Christ and the restoration he wants for all.  “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”

This has a powerful uplifting, sobering but encouraging impact on a leaders life. We are part of a bigger solution God is working on the world.

Some people get concerned about leadership as if it is a glory trip. It need not be.

The one definition I keep coming back to on leadership is the one by Warren Bennis’:

“No leader sets out to be a leader. People set out to live their own lives, expressing themselves fully. When the expression is of value, they become leaders. So the point is not to become a leader. The point is to become yourself, to use yourself completely–all your skills, gifts, and energies–in order to make your vision manifest. You must withhold nothing. You must, in sum, become the person you started out to be, and to enjoy the process of becoming,” Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader, expanded edition p 2003, p. 104

Both our understanding and experience of ethics and leadership are works in progress.

We see in part we “ethic” in part.

We understand in part, we “lead” in part.

But together we can grow as individuals and as a community and ethical leadership focuses on both areas of growth. Leaders–worth the title- look out for the growth and needs of others. They operate out of a genuine concern to figure out what is right, and then rally the resources and people and personal tool bag of leadership skills to help create solutions.

I am continually humbled by what the participants in the class accomplish and what their thinking has done to my thinking by maturing my understanding of the moral leadership of God.

God: we want to have your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Let it be so in our leadership.



About the Author

Duane Covrig
I teach leadership and ethics at Andrews University. I am a Seventh-day Adventist eager for the Second Coming of Christ and positive about His judgment hour work (Rev 14:6-12). I use that reality to understand morality and ethics.




One Comment


  1. […] process. See Kolb Learning Styles process to help with this. I have blogged about Kolb applied to ethical leadership […]



Comments

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.