Global Ethics Corner: Can Effective Leaders be Ethical Leaders?

November 21, 2008

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

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