What role does ethics play in leadership? In many ways this has been an underlying theme throughout January with media reports on political entitlement in regards to travel allowances and the changing of the guard in the White House.
The refrain of the former federal health minister Sussan Ley was that she was only claiming what she was entitled to according to the parliamentary entitlement system. At what point do politicians consider how it might appear to you and me? Just because it is legal does that make it ethical?
Ethics is defined as moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour or the conducting of an activity. Each of us demonstrates our ethics daily in the way we interact with each other and the decisions we make.
The Ethics Centre says ethical people try to answer the question of how to live by reflecting on difficult situations. They then act in a way that is true to who they are and what they believe.
Do we expect our leaders to be ethical? I suspect that here in Australia the answer is still yes. That is why politicians’ travel entitlements are receiving significant headlines and a reluctant health minister eventually resigned. It is also why there is a predominant sense of horror at the election of the 45th president of the United States. Ethics does not appear to be a word in his vocabulary.
As Christians we are called to the highest ethics. We are called to love each other as we love ourselves. Jesus’ parables are about caring for the lost, the rejected and the outcast. Paul’s letters talk about personal behaviour and expectations of leaders.
Self-reflection is a necessary ingredient as we strive to live a Godly (ethical) life. Whilst we might be appalled by the behaviour and words of the new US President, at what times are our behaviour and words equally appalling? How often do we take advantage of opportunities presented which might not always fit within our own moral compass?
Christ urges us to remove the log from our own eyes before we take out the speck from the other’s. Ethics is complex. King Solomon’s ruling regarding the rightful mother of a child reminds us of the importance of emotional intelligence in leadership.
As we reflect on the complexities of our world, let us not diminish the issues to black and white, and judge those who are faced with trying to seek solutions. Instead let us pray for our leaders – political, community and church – who, like us, are in need of the Wisdom of Solomon.