As contemporary organisations face major challenges in building and leveraging from leadership capabilities, so is the challenge for schools to prepare our future leaders.
Hence, the case for teaching leadership and ethics in schools is a compelling one.
Leadership means different things to different people including both practitioners and researchers – there is no universal agreed definition of leadership.
Despite this lack of consensus, most people realise that leadership is a ‘big social’ concept, one of great size and importance. Leadership, for example, plays a critical role in determining access to health care and quality of education, fair trade, corporate governance, business results, and economic and social prosperity.
Ethics refer to the accepted standards in terms of personal and social welfare of what’s right, interrelated values concerning preferable modes of conduct, and the set of ‘rules’ for making what one considers to be a ‘right’ decision. They are also concerned with the understanding of a life worth living. Hence, ethical literacy matters because it guides decision-making.
The Challenge – We Need Better Future Leadership
In the corporate world, becoming a leader has become a catchword and mantra. As a result, the leadership industry has experienced explosive growth. This is based on the belief that leading is a path to power and money, achievement, and creating change – as pointed out by Harvard’s Barbara Kellerman in her book The End of Leadership.
Yet, this multibillion dollar industry is failing to deliver the expected results. Up to 86% of 1,500 of the world’s foremost global leadership experts believe that the world is currently experiencing a leadership crisis, citizens around the world lack confidence in public and private sector leaders, and organisations are worried they do not have enough good leaders (Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015 by World Economic Forum, 2014).
Unethical business practices, and the escalation of bribery and corruption in the global economy are costing more than 5% of global GDP ($2.6 trillion), with over $1 trillion paid in bribes each year (The World Economic Forum).
In Australia, for example, abrasive leaders (commonly referred to as bullying bosses) are costing the economy between $6 billion and $36 billion a year (Productivity Commission). Not to mention the unethical practices of the Financial Planning Industry, and the losses due to fraud and corruption that have damaged the Banking and Financial Services sector (Grant Thornton Australia).
In reference to gender equity, despite the public rhetoric from many organisations, most work practices, norms, systems and discourses still reflect a male dominated world (Piterman).
Clearly, developing ethical, credible and effective leaders is a challenging task, even in ‘prosperous’ nations.
The Solution and Benefits – Prevention Is Better Than Cure!
Teaching leadership and ethics in schools is bound to have major long-term benefits by preventing future regrets.
The shorter-term benefits for young students include:
- Promote introspection, self-examination, and personal growth and development.
- Afford the opportunity to find and use their voice and critical thinking.
- Recognise the systematic abuse of power, and encourage them to deal with current problems they face (e.g. bullying in all its forms) by standing up for each other and learning to build community.
- Build their confidence and self-esteem.
- Instil the principles of: Do no harm; make things better; respect others; be fair; and be loving.
The above could be summarised under the umbrella term of character education – teaching which promotes civility, morality, and socially acceptable beings. This includes teaching social and emotional learning, moral reasoning, cognitive development, critical thinking, ethical reasoning, life skills education, health education, violence prevention, and conflict resolution.
© 2016 Sebastian Salicru
Sebastian Salicru (Business Psychologist) | Leadership Development Expert, Executive Coach, Facilitator, Trainer, Researcher and Author | email@example.com | www.pts.net.au