Global Ethics Corner: Can Effective Leaders be Ethical Leaders?

Nov 23, 2008

Are ethics primary questions that precede and surround practical leadership? Are these daily questions that inform each political decision?

Recently, Joseph Nye outlined six skills that are crucial for effective leaders. But, how does moral choice fit into these skills?

Are ethics primary questions that precede and surround practical leadership? Are these daily questions that inform each political decision?

This dilemma focuses the compromise that leaders face, between principle and effectiveness. When is half a loaf better than none?

Soft power, the power of attraction, emphasizes three skills:
1) Emotional intelligence, the ability to master your emotions and to use them to attract others,
2) Vision, the ability to portray a picture of the future that attracts followers, and
3) Communicating that vision, both nonverbally and verbally.

Hard power, coercion and carrots, employs two skills:
4) Organization, managing information flows and reward systems, and
5) The Machiavellian ability to size up the weakness, strengths, likes, and dislikes of others and build winning coalitions.

The sixth, overarching skill is contextual intelligence, aligning your tactics and strategy with the times.

What do you think? Is moral choice a part of every skill, or something that only informs one, like vision?

When do leaders slide down from principle to unscrupulous behavior?

Do these skills constrain or enable ethical political decisions?

By William Vocke

To post a comment, go to the Global Ethics Corner slideshow.

You may also like

APR 19, 2022 Podcast

Why Democracy vs. Autocracy Misses the Point, with Jean-Marie Guéhenno

The advent of the age of data is a formidable accelerator of history. As society faces a crisis of politics compounded by the emergence of ...

A United States Marine escorts a Department of State employee to evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, August 15, 2021. CREDIT: <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Afghanistan_withdrawal_Image_3_of_7.jpg">Sgt. Isaiah Campbell/Public Domain</a>

AUG 23, 2021 Article

The Ethics of Exit from Afghanistan

Carnegie Council President Joel H. Rosenthal discusses the post-9/11 evolution from counterterrorism to counterinsurgency and analyzes the ethics surrounding the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. ...

CREDIT: <a href="https://pixabay.com/illustrations/abstract-geometric-world-map-1278080/">Pixabay (CC)</a>.

DEC 17, 2020 Podcast

The Technical Limits of AI Ethics

In recent years, the global discussion on "AI ethics" has succeeded in mainstreaming key principles to limit the risks that would otherwise arise from the ...