Recognizing Ethical Issues (Part 6)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

In Part 1 of this series on Recognizing Ethical Issues, I addressed the gaps in our thinking that require us to develop an ethical alert system. in Part 2, I explored why some leaders who want to do the right thing still don’t “do the work” to learn how to do it. In Part 3, I dug into the importance of ethical awareness as the basis for ethical decision making. In Part 4 I described ways to develop ethical thinking. In Part 5, I shared some recent blog posts about how to recognize ethical issues in current events and make good decisions about them. In Part 6, I provide an overview of each post in the series and an opportunity for you to practice recognizing ethical issues with your teams.

Recognizing Ethical Issues Series:

Click the title of each post summary below to read the full post.

Part 1 – Why We Need an Ethical Alert System:

“When a plane experiences heavy turbulence, a light on the overhead panel alerts passengers to take a seat and fasten their safety belts. The instructions are clear, people know what to do, and it’s usually an orderly process. When people make decisions in their daily rounds, though, there is no external alert or audible alarm to signal that they are stepping into an ethical issue or an ethical gray area and need to carefully consider ethical issues.”

Part 2 – Why Some Well-Intentioned Leaders Don’t “Do the Work

“Most of us have probably seen leaders verbalize their decision making, describing how they recognized an ethical issue, and how they thought through it to reach their decision about how to handle it. Doing that demonstrates transparency, which is an important element of ethical leadership. We have likely also seen leaders ignore ethical issues and refuse to discuss them when questioned. Why doesn’t every leader who wants to make responsible choices ‘do the work’ necessary to avoid making ethical mistakes?”

Part 3 – The Importance of Ethical Awareness as the Foundation for Decision Making

“Making ethical decisions relies on a solid foundation of ethical awareness, and staying aware as times change is a perpetual process…Staying ethically aware also requires taking the time to determine whether or not information is “true” before buying into it and/or sharing it, and being responsible media consumers.”

Part 4 – How You Can Begin to Apply Ethical Thinking

“After developing ethical awareness, a first step in developing ethical thinking is to become aware of the ethical self, and the factors that make it difficult to maintain, as well as learning the difference between critical thinking and ethical thinking. Critical thinking narrows our perspective to a conclusion, but doesn’t necessarily include consideration of ethical factors unless we intentionally add them into the process.”

Part 5 – Recognizing Ethical Issues in Current Issues/Events

“Read the current issue posts below that strike you as the most relevant, to learn how to recognize ethical issues in current events and make good decisions about them… To learn more, see the video-based series What is Ethical Leadership?: Part 1 answers “Which lenses must we look through to be ethical leaders?” Part 2 answers “Why haven’t people agreed on one definition of ethical leadership?” and Part 3 answers “What happens when there is a serious conflict between two ethical values?”

Team Discussion Questions

Review the first 5 posts in this series (Parts 1 – 5 above), then choose a current event in the news (that is not political in nature) to analyze using the discussion questions below:

  1. What ethical issues can you find in this situation?
  2. Which ethical issues you found would fit into the categories of ethical self or the ethical treatment of others?
  3. Which of the ethical issues you found involve ethical impact on the planet or supporting the greater good of society?
  4. What is the cautionary tale in this situation that you can apply to your ethical leadership?

Recognizing ethical issues takes practice. Use this series on Recognizing Ethical Issues, and subscribe for new posts that help strengthen your internal ethical alert system!

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership

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