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Archive: Ethics

Managing anger and fear

Somehow it's become accepted to publicly manifest one's anxiety, especially through anger. This is not to say that we won't face significant challenges in the years that lie ahead, but giving way to fear is the first self-indulgent step toward giving up...

By West Point Cadets | January 12, 2011; 06:43 PM ET | Comments (4)

What's your piece of the mess?

Hyperbolic politicians and the media and gun laws may or may not have contributed, Best as I can tell, we are already into heavy demonizing of "the other" in the aftermath of the tragedy...

By Marty Linsky | January 11, 2011; 07:29 PM ET | Comments (1)

Making the case for civility

The Tucson tragedy is at least a momentary reset in the super-heated discussion in Washington. The truth is that no one knows what the long-run impact is going to be, and everyone is scrambling to find the right note...

By Donald Kettl | January 11, 2011; 07:22 PM ET | Comments (3)

Our role in this tragedy

Our pattern seems to be a brief awakening during a crisis, at which time we are startled and sickened by the horror of what happened, but then we soon return to a semi-conscious state that serves to distance us from...

By Katherine Tyler Scott | January 11, 2011; 07:10 PM ET | Comments (3)

May this be a wake-up call

Leaders set a tone. When leaders in public life speak about their opponents in hateful, over-the-top vitriol, it makes people more fearful of those they disagree with and what they are doing to our country. When "lock and load" and "second amendment remedies" are part of the discourse, it sets a tone that...

By Paul Schmitz | January 11, 2011; 06:59 PM ET | Comments (9)

We need more Joseph Welch moments

Some of the louder voices in our society these days seem to believe that extremely bitter criticism of the government equates with the deepest patriotism. That's not necessarily the case...

By Yash Gupta | January 11, 2011; 11:47 AM ET | Comments (2)

Sandbox rules for politicians

Thus far, this system of communication has worked on some level because we're tuning in; we're supporting networks, radio stations and publications that broadcast this rubbish; and on some level, the American public is buying in...

By Alaina Love | January 11, 2011; 10:47 AM ET | Comments (4)

The peacemakers: Daniel Ellsberg and Veterans for Peace

For those of us who in this holiday season hope for peace on Earth, let us renew our commitment to work for a peaceful world. And if we believe that war is not the answer in 2011, let's join those who are standing up for peace. After all, Daniel Ellsberg has been...

By Juana Bordas | December 22, 2010; 05:25 PM ET | Comments (53)

When what you do outweighs who you are

A cloud of allegations hovers over this year's Heisman recipient, and a shadow has been cast on his character and on the integrity of those who chose him. In his case, fact and fiction are somewhat muddled; but what is clear is...

By Katherine Tyler Scott | December 16, 2010; 09:26 AM ET | Comments (2)

Cam being Cam

Once in an interview in response to the question '"How do you manage all those newly rich, testosterone-rich, self-absorbed men on a professional football team?" Bill Parcells answered exactly the opposite...

By Marty Linsky | December 15, 2010; 01:47 PM ET | Comments (1)

Offer redemption, then show the door

Spending time with my five grand kids always reminds me that children are great mimics. Spending a few minutes with the daily newspaper reminds me that adults are too--and often with far less charming results...

By John R. Ryan | December 15, 2010; 01:39 PM ET | Comments (1)

Integrity is essential

Today, more than ever, leaders are expected to set the standard. To be role models and...

By Susan Peters | December 14, 2010; 05:32 PM ET | Comments (3)

Recruiting character and talent

When Joe Gibbs was building the Washington Redskins into Superbowl champions, his stated criteria for drafting players was...

By Michael Maccoby | December 14, 2010; 03:51 PM ET | Comments (0)

One strike and you're out

No exceptions, no matter how high your station, no matter how important you are to the organization. When you violate the fundamental rules of the institutional culture...

By Benjamin W. Heineman, Jr. | December 14, 2010; 12:46 PM ET | Comments (1)

The meaning of an asterisk

Add Cam Newton's reception of the Heisman Trophy to the long list of examples of athletic "excellence" coming before sports "integrity." Many names come to mind, but the quintessential example...

By Coro Fellows | December 13, 2010; 11:28 PM ET | Comments (0)

Strong character trumps perfection

As a veteran executive once told me, hire for character. Don't expect to develop something that is not there. If a person lacks a moral compass, don't think you...

By John Baldoni | December 13, 2010; 06:54 PM ET | Comments (0)

The road to ruin

Yes, Cam Newton is an incredible football player (I love watching him play), but we must care about the total person we hold up for emulation in our society. This is about repairing, not maintaining, the moral fiber of...

By Don Vandergriff | December 13, 2010; 03:35 PM ET | Comments (0)

Losing sight of Lincoln: A mid-course resurrection to save Obama's presidency

Remember, back in 2008, when everyone compared Barack Obama to Abraham Lincoln? After he was elected president, Obama himself talked about what he was learning from the 16th president. Fast forward to today: no one is talking about those parallels. Only the most foolish among us would put Obama anywhere near the rarefied stratosphere reserved for our most revered leader.

By Nancy Koehn | December 8, 2010; 01:04 PM ET | Comments (19)

Give us liberty (and, while you're at it, save us from death)!

the TSA should launch a public education campaign. Such an effort should be devoid of slick propaganda and clever slogans. Rather, I want statistics as well as evidence of nuanced thinking on the part of the decision-makers.

By Coro Fellows | November 23, 2010; 02:13 AM ET | Comments (10)

Newmark defending dangerous precedent

Free expression and a free market are values that strengthen a prosperous and democratic society. But appealing to values of free expression and a free market can also justify amoral or immoral actions. That is why there are laws and regulations that limit freedom when its expression damages people or limits the freedom of others. To proclaim unbridled freedom as a principle...

By Michael Maccoby | September 8, 2010; 11:55 AM ET | Comments (0)

Managing the tension between intent and impact

Leadership is not value neutral; some values serve a positive social purpose and some do not. The espoused reason for the existence of Craigslist was at risk of being overshadowed by those who values are the commercialization of sexual expression. A leader would ask himself whether...

By Katherine Tyler Scott | September 8, 2010; 11:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

Stick to your principles Craig!

Like Craig Newmark, I am a vigorous advocate of the First Amendment and an open internet. Government should not prohibit nor interfere in the content of Craigslist's ads. Where there is concrete evidence of criminal activity or obscenity, the government can request that particular ads be taken down. Craigslist can then make decisions on a case by case basis. But pressure from the government for removal of all ads...

By Kathryn Kolbert | September 8, 2010; 11:09 AM ET | Comments (0)

Leadership is more than maximizing profits

The First Amendment allows Craigslist to post what it will, but it doesn't make it socially responsible. Nor does it justify whining about criticism that asks for that responsibility. Leadership calls for far more than simply maximizing profit...

By Slade Gorton | September 7, 2010; 04:12 PM ET | Comments (0)

Finding the lesser of two evils

Leadership is the ability to navigate the poles of the liberty-equity spectrum and draw the best solution for the context - and further, to inspire and influence others to achieve the desired end state. With regard to the United States, the framers created broad limitations steeped in a liberal tradition, but...

By West Point Cadets | September 7, 2010; 03:55 PM ET | Comments (1)

Tactical flexibility, Reagan-style

Ronald Reagan set the leadership model here - no, not on "prostitution and casual sex," but on remaining firm on strategic goals yet loose on interim measures. Reagan's strategic goals were clear and remarkably consistent. His final address as president in January 1989 featured...

By Ken Adelman | September 7, 2010; 01:10 PM ET | Comments (0)

Craigslist changed policy, not principles

Craiglists's policies put a premium on free expression. That is fine, but when it has been shown that some users of Craigslist have abused that privilege and using it to purvey and procure sex services, management is within its rights to change the policy. It can put limits on free expression...

By John Baldoni | September 7, 2010; 12:17 PM ET | Comments (0)

Adopting principles for profit is weak leadership

In today's economy, we all too often see corporations and leaders using principled arguments when they are convenient and when they are profitable. The question of the essence of leadership, in this case, boils down to how transparent and consistent Craig Newmark has been about the issues of...

By Doug Guthrie | September 7, 2010; 11:52 AM ET | Comments (0)

Leaders must justify the value of their principles

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...

By Howard Gardner | September 7, 2010; 10:32 AM ET | Comments (0)

Voluntary standards not the same as mandatory law

Leaders have significant freedom of action in determining whether voluntary standards apply in all cases or require some modification.They have far less freedom in responding to the dictates of law.

By Benjamin W. Heineman, Jr. | September 7, 2010; 10:21 AM ET | Comments (1)

Confusing leadership and values

I believe that this question confuses 'leadership' and 'values'. Different people can have different values and still demonstrate leadership. If Craig Newmark wants to take a stand and be a leader in the fight for free expression, free markets and an open internet...

By Marshall Goldsmith | September 7, 2010; 10:16 AM ET | Comments (0)

Newmark fighting for free speech, upholding the law

In this instance, Craig Newmark and his colleagues are doing the right thing in trying to stick by their ideals. That's because from everything I've read, the law is quite clear: publishers of advertising content are not responsible for...

By Jeffrey Pfeffer | September 7, 2010; 08:42 AM ET | Comments (3)

Falling back on the same old song

A leader needs a compass to guide the way through the uncertainty that always comes with tough decisions. Malcom X reminds us that "If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything." But falling back on the same map for every question that comes up is...

By Donald Kettl | September 7, 2010; 08:35 AM ET | Comments (0)

Craigslist founder saw the writing on the wall

The art of leadership is knowing when to stick to your guns and when to accommodate other views. Newmark saw the handwriting on the wall. He was not willing to risk sacrificing the franchise on the altar of freedom to advertise the forced sexual exploitation of young women.

By Marty Linsky | September 7, 2010; 08:28 AM ET | Comments (0)

Don't underestimate the employee-supervisor bond

No one would question the importance of top management. But a recent study of the financial industry, undertaken by Harvard undergraduate Evelyn Chow, underscores the important role played by immediate supervisors...

By Howard Gardner | September 1, 2010; 01:32 PM ET | Comments (1)

Time is now for imam to speak on mosque

The motivation for leaders to speak varies. It might be a matter of conscience, the heat of political pressure, affiliation and loyalty to a group, an opportunity to influence, a chance to exploit the situation for personal gain, or just flagrant egotism. We have observed behavioral manifestations of all of these in the past year. The controversy over the Islamic Cultural Center and Mosque ...

By Katherine Tyler Scott | August 24, 2010; 02:54 PM ET | Comments (14)

The Courage to Disappoint

Hang tough Barack. Stay focused on your purpose and do not squander your political capital on a side trip that will feed only the most banal instincts of some of your more rabid constituents.

By Marty Linsky | July 16, 2009; 11:58 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Different Playbook

Without special discretion, investigations of national security issues can turn into public spectacles, placing our military and intelligence officials at risk and harming our image overseas.

By Robert Goodwin | July 14, 2009; 04:48 PM ET | Comments (12)

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Bringing bipartisan fact-finding and analysis to this difficult set of issues is just as much in the national interest as health care or climate change or economic recovery.

By Benjamin W. Heineman, Jr. | July 14, 2009; 03:41 PM ET | Comments (0)

We Can't Handle the Truth

For the most part the American public simply doesn't want to hear or believe anything that creates cognitive dissonance with our time-honored views of ourselves.

By Alan M. Webber | July 14, 2009; 03:35 PM ET | Comments (7)

Justifications for Looking Backwards

In this instance of the CIA misconduct, there's suspicion of a recurring pattern and allegations of illegality. Hence the justification for looking back on this matter rather than charging ahead.

By Ken Adelman | July 14, 2009; 03:31 PM ET | Comments (1)

Forgive More, Judge Less

The desire to 'punish' you predecessor can come back to haunt a leader. Who knows what decisions President Obama will have to make - that he may not want to discuss - to protect national security.

By Marshall Goldsmith | July 14, 2009; 07:44 AM ET | Comments (29)

Be Firm with Witch Hunters

The president should take a firm approach with his supporters on the left who cannot seem let go of the Bush administration. "Guys," he needs to tell them, "we have too many other important things to do."

By Paul R. Portney | July 14, 2009; 07:37 AM ET | Comments (28)

Fantasies of Revenge

The one certainty about using the criminal justice system to settle political and policy disputes is that it will not "clear the air."

By Slade Gorton | July 14, 2009; 07:34 AM ET | Comments (29)

Be Our Moral Compass

The president must take this opportunity to assure the people that nobody is above the law in this country - no individual, no agency, no one.

By Yash Gupta | July 14, 2009; 07:21 AM ET | Comments (12)

The Core of Our Beliefs

This is not a political question but a legal one that goes to the core of our belief in the rule of law and our greatness as a nation.

By Andy Stern | July 13, 2009; 04:11 PM ET | Comments (5)

A Cancer that Can't Be Ignored

Much as Obama might want to focus on the future and not the past--might not want the media spotlight and his administration's energy put on these issues--he may need to deal with this issue now or risk having the malignancy spread.

By Deborah Ancona | July 13, 2009; 03:59 PM ET | Comments (4)

Leadership Pop Quiz

What is the best predictor of bad judgement?

By Warren Bennis | July 13, 2009; 03:37 PM ET | Comments (0)

Doomed to Repeat It

If violations of laws and fundamental rules go unsanctioned, a strong message is sent that such behavior will be tolerated in the future, so the future will be like the past.

By Jeffrey Pfeffer | July 13, 2009; 02:09 PM ET | Comments (3)

"Moving On" Not an Option

"Moving on" without a clear repudiation of constitutional violations -- and perhaps appropriate punishment -- is simply not an option if the rule of law is to have any meaning.

By Mickey Edwards | July 13, 2009; 02:03 PM ET | Comments (1)

The Unbottled Genie

If there were illegalities or gross improprieties carried out by the CIA, with explicit White House approval, the current administration has no choice but to allow an investigation to go forward. Otherwise, the current administration becomes party to a cover-up.

By Howard Gardner | July 13, 2009; 01:20 PM ET | Comments (2)

Immorality, Magnified

The public is more willing to forgive political leaders' love affairs than their indiscretions on the job. They are like us - fallible human beings - but unlike us, we entrust them to look after the common good.

By Joanne B. Ciulla | July 1, 2009; 08:37 AM ET | Comments (1)

Forgetting Your Followers

It's so simple and yet so many leaders forget -- in the heat of passion, greed, or embarrassment -- to ask themselves what the people they serve would think?

By Patricia McGinnis | June 30, 2009; 03:14 PM ET | Comments (2)

Transgressions vs. Contributions

An examination of our most respected historical leaders reveals some extraordinary flaws, especially when it comes to marital fidelity. Regrettable as they were, such infidelities did not erase their contributions.

By George Reed | June 30, 2009; 03:00 PM ET | Comments (7)

Forgiveness Is Beside the Point

Forgiveness is beside the point here. Once a leader has done something to shatter the trust of the people he leads, he can't get it back.

By Yash Gupta | June 30, 2009; 11:22 AM ET | Comments (9)

Dereliction of Duty

With his dalliance in Argentina, Gov. Mark Sanford abandoned his office and the executive responsibilities inherent in it. Similar dereliction of duty by a military officer would constitute grounds for immediate "relief" of command.

By Gen. Monty Meigs (Ret.) | June 30, 2009; 11:17 AM ET | Comments (48)

Marital Vows, Constitutional Vows

We need more people who lead by example and practice what they preach, including in connection with their moral and ethical behavior.

By David Walker | June 30, 2009; 11:15 AM ET | Comments (3)

Even Americans Are Forgiving

The idea that sexual indiscretions invariably cause the downfall of leaders is empirically incorrect. What Americans punish more than infidelity is being lied to.

By Jeffrey Pfeffer | June 30, 2009; 10:58 AM ET | Comments (5)

The Puzzle of Trust

Marital fidelity is a good predictor of overall character, albeit not the only predictor.

By Gail S. Williams | June 30, 2009; 10:54 AM ET | Comments (5)

The Adulation of Thousands

Why do so many of those who fall seem to be the ones who put themselves, with our collusion, on such an unrealistic moralistic pedestal in the first place?

By Marty Linsky | June 30, 2009; 10:42 AM ET | Comments (4)

Not a Predictor of Leadership Skill

Marital fidelity, in and of itself, is not a predictor of how well one will exercise leadership.

By Kathy Kretman | June 30, 2009; 10:35 AM ET | Comments (4)

Sanford's Character Flaws

Sanford's "acting out" and the complicated steps he went through to conduct the affair suggest a major character flaw that imperils his ability to lead.

By Abraham Zaleznik | June 30, 2009; 10:31 AM ET | Comments (1)

Getting Away With It

If your wandering eye is well known, and you don't make a big deal about family values, then you can get away with escapades.

By Howard Gardner | June 29, 2009; 04:34 PM ET | Comments (1)

A Clinton Exception?

It's difficult, in the light of the Clinton presidency, to assert the proposition that Americans "disqualify from top leadership positions people who haven't lived by the highest moral standards."

By Slade Gorton | June 29, 2009; 02:21 PM ET | Comments (5)

Leaders We Can Live Without

Circumstances matter, and if a leader has an affair with a subordinate or shows other lapses of judgment, then we're better off without them.

By Deborah Kolb | June 29, 2009; 01:53 PM ET | Comments (1)

Adultery Is Private, Politics Are Not

The public dislikes infidelity in its leaders but is willing to ignore it if the leader is seen as truly working for the common good.

By Michael Maccoby | June 29, 2009; 01:44 PM ET | Comments (1)

Mostly About Sex

We know of lots of great leaders from earlier periods who were tireless philanderers, not just in politics but in all walks of life. Would we have been better off if these leaders had been driven from their leadership positions? I don't think so.

By Steven Pearlstein | June 29, 2009; 01:32 PM ET | Comments (7)

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