Ethics is part of the foundation of leadership. Without its support, leaders become dictators and organizations become workhouses. In the modern world, ethics is constantly in the public eye. We see organizations, businesses, and even nations stumble because those leading them are unethical. Ethics, it is increasingly acknowledged, is something that we must teach. We must not assume that those willing to lead or able to lead are ethical. Ethical habits must be taught, nurtured, and reinforced.
Teaching the habits of ethical leadership is vitally important. If our future leaders can form those habits, ethical leadership will come naturally when they are placed in a position of power. By its very essence, community college is dedicated to preparing students to contribute to their community and society. Teaching ethics and nurturing leaders is a natural part of that mission. Whether those leaders are students or employees, there must be a commitment to grounding potential leaders in ethics.
Ethics is vital to leadership. The correlation is obvious. What is not so obvious is exactly how to impart ethical principles. The area of ethics has long been an abstract, philosophical discipline. Taking those ideas and transforming them into practical behavior within an organization is not easy. Training in ethics often devolves into a philosophical discussion of morality, and those being trained gain little practical knowledge in how to be ethical.
As participants in an Educational Leadership program, the 2009 class of the Sylvia Thomasson Educational Leadership Enhancement program were intensely aware of the both the importance of ethics and the difficulty in teaching ethical behavior. We sought to create a curriculum which would provide inspiration and serve as a resource for groups interested in exploring and mentoring the skill of ethics.
The material provided here is not intended to be a definitive, all-inclusive training package. It is intended to be a starting point, a guide map in creating ethical training. It addresses the tension between the philosophical and the practical in organizational ethics, and it strives to address both aspects. The curriculum provides information about concepts of ethics and of leadership; it provides practical exercises and applications to develop the skills required for ethical leadership, and it provides a range of references so that users may find additional resources and materials to supplement and support their training goals.
Our goal is to provide a quality resource free of charge that can be used in a variety of settings, from student leadership to management training. We sincerely hope that you find the material we have compiled to be useful, and we hope that it inspires you to pursue further research and learning in the area of ethics in leadership.