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Howard Gardner
Scholar

Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner is the Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Senior Director of Harvard Project Zero.

Leaders must justify the value of their principles

Q: In defending Craigslist against charges that it facilitates prostitution and casual sex and undermines the news business, founder Craig Newmark relies on an unwavering commitment to free expression, free markets and an open Internet. Is such an unwavering commitment to core principles the essence of leadership, or is leadership more about accommodating core principles to other social needs and values?

Leaders need core principles, carefully arrived at, clearly articulated, maintained steadfastly even in the face of challenges. Otherwise, others will simply be confused by their actions and the reasons for them. But anyone who believes that core values are free of ambiguity or of reasonable critiques is naive or disingenuous. Free speech is an important value but it does not extend to hate speech or shouting "fire" in a crowded theater.

Lying is wrong, but not when one is hiding innocents being sought by Nazis. Proponents of Craig's list "free speech above all else" need to be able to justify this value in the face of evidence that the site is being used regularly to solicit prostitution and on occasion has led to sex with minors and even murder. In the absence of a careful justification that addresses these transgressions candidly, waving the banner of 'free speech' is just an empty gesture.

By Howard Gardner

 |  September 7, 2010; 10:32 AM ET
Category:  CEOs , Corporate leadership , Ethics Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Voluntary standards not the same as mandatory law | Next: Adopting principles for profit is weak leadership

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