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EDUC 726 Critical Analysis # 2: Meeting Ethical Challenges (p.

(based on Meeting the Ethical Challenges of Leadership: Casting Light or Shadow, Johnson, C.E. (2012)
Stephen Franklin

This weeks reading explores two areas that I agree are essential to the practice of ethical

leadership: character in all of its various manifestations, and understanding the impact of evil behavior

and intention on ethical leadership. The notion of developing strong ethical character, I believe is lost

sometimes in the instant gratification, me first, society we live in. Wanting something now, often invites

actions or decisions that are counter to the principles of character and ethical leadership.

I grew up in a West Indian influenced culture, where personal character was of paramount

importance. This is not to say that other cultures do not hold similar value or belief as it relates to strong,

positive character, but in West Indian culture, Barbadian (Bajun) in particular, your word means

everything. My grandfather on many occasions shared this advice, A man is only as good as his word, if

his word means nothing then he stands for nothing Strong words indeed, but his words of advice, guide

my actions to this very day. I was surprised to read that the study of virtue ethics goes back to the times of

Plato, Aristotle and Confucius (p. 80), but at the center of ethical leadership is the intersection of virtue

ethics and character. The premise as Johnson relates is clear in its simplicity, Good people (those of high

moral character) make good moral choices (p. 80).

Johnson (p. 80) mentions that there are four important features of virtuous behavior: 1) virtues are

woven into the inner lives of leaders, 2) virtues shape the world view of leaders and their behavior, 3)

virtues act independent of a given situation, and 4) virtues permit leaders to live happier lives. The

construct expressed asserts that a leader who possesses strong virtues, personal character, and positive

morals can only act in an ethical manner. Acting in any other manner goes against the deeply engrained


Elements of character discussed on pages 81-94, illuminate; courage, prudence, optimism,

integrity, humility and compassion. In my office I have a plaque that sits on a stand, and is positioned

where I see view it easily at any given time during the day. The quote by Mary Anne Radmacher (.n.d.)

says, Courage doesnt always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice, at the end of the day saying. I

will try again tomorrow. This quote applies both to ethical leadership as well as to the concept of

courageous followership discussed on pages 81-82. Followers who practice courageous followership have

an equally moral obligation to assume responsibility, challenge when necessary, participate, and

ultimately to leave when practices do not align with followers beliefs and values. Ethical leadership is

not only about the leaders actions and decisions, it is also requires the followers to participate and hold

themselves and the leader accountable.

Chapter four open with a strong assertion, the ultimate product of evil is death (p. 118). The

statement goes onto list the methods in which evil brings about death; to self-esteem, and physical and

mental well-being resulting in death to relationships, communities and even nations. The six perspectives

of evil mentioned on pages 121-125 illustrate how evil can influence ethical leadership, if left unchecked

by courageous followers. The six perspectives are: evil as dreadful pleasure, evil as deception, evil as

bureaucracy, evil as sanctioned destruction, evil as choice, and evil as ordinary. Of these six perspectives;

evil as sanctioned destruction, and evil as ordinary harken to a mob mentality approach to decision

making. Once a particular group has been sanctioned to permit violence against them to occur, followers

or victimizers (p. 123) often move forward with little to any thought about the ethical nature of their

actions. The same hold for evil as ordinary, in which circumstance permit otherwise ordinary people to

commit acts of evil doing (p. 124).

Unethical leadership combined with uncourageous followership permits an environment to exist,

in which mob mentality or herd mentality takes over. If everyone is doing it then why should I be the

whistle blower and face social death? This notion is supported when Johnson discusses the fear of being

ostracized as a result of speaking up or challenging unethical practices (p. 82). He further elaborates on

pages 123 and 124, stating that being good or evil is a continuum, with none of us truly neutral. Through

a series of incremental decisions we move towards one end of the continuum or the other. The fulcrum, if

you will is the intersection of our ethics and character. The countervailing principle to evil is forgiveness.

On pages 127 and 128 Johnson refers to the work of Peck as it relates to loving acts overcoming evil, and

that forgiveness as opposed to retaliation can alternately break and/or prevent cycle of evil. I think the

Beatles said it best, All we need is love

Forgiveness is often viewed, regrettably, as a sign of weakness. In fact forgiveness is very much so, a

sign of strength, both in our personal and professional lives. Johnson refers to the work of Enright on

pages 129-130 when he addresses the misconceptions about what it means to forgive, and defines

forgiveness as, a willingness to abandon ones right to resentment, negative judgement, and indifferent

behavior towards one who unjustly injured us (p. 130). Johnson lists eight misconceptions: 1)

forgetting past wrongs to move on, 2) excusing or condoning bad, damaging behavior, 3) reconciliation

or coming together again, 4) reducing the severity of the offense, 5) offering a legal pardon, 6) pretending

to forgive in order to wield power over another person, 7) ignoring the offender, 8) dropping anger and

becoming emotionally neutral.

As it relates to ethical leadership, forgiveness work to break the cycle of evil, by restoring

relationships. Forgiveness does not excuse poor behavior, rather it holds the person accountable, while

simultaneously extending mercy extraordinarily. Giving mercy at a time when retaliation is expected,

establishes the ethical leader as one who is consistent and compassionate, which often results in the

offender being pulled in as a courageous follower.