This is how we build ethical student leaders of tomorrow

Efforts should be made to create a suitable platform to lead in order to address the issues surrounding them

By Dr Sakul Kundra

Integrating Ethics and Leadership

It is paramount to integrate leadership and ethics if the students aspire to be the leaders of today and tomorrow. Global South academic and student leaders strive hard to achieve a place for themselves. Overall, every teacher is responsible for teaching not just the subject alone but also promoting ethical values like honesty, integrity, respect, compassion, and fairness.

The students should be encouraged to consider the ethical implications of their actions, thereby nurturing a sense of personal responsibility and accountability. Students should comprehend and develop leadership skills to make rational decisions in real-world scenarios when they are faced with ethical dilemmas.

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Efforts should be made to create a suitable platform to lead in order to address the issues surrounding them. The encouragement on the ethical aspects should be taken into consideration.  The cultivation of leadership abilities and ethical behaviour shall shape the human capital to be the future leaders who shall contribute positively within the society and nation building. This op-ed highlights Encounters and Dilemmas of everyday life to motivate the students to be the future leaders of tomorrow with ethical values.

Ethical Encounters and Ethical Dilemma

An ethical encounter for a student can be when a student has an assignment due the next day, what shall that student do, does he/she attempt to research and write the assignment, or does the student copy from the internet or a friend to submit the assignment?

In professional life, an ethical encounter can be a close friend misses his assigned task in an organisation, what shall the person do to let the colleague continue the unethical practices, or should one report it to the concerned authorities? If one goes a bit higher at a national level, should capital punishment be banned/legalized in different nations? When addressing global issues, is it acceptable for developed nations to test their nuclear test in the Pacific Islands, as happened in the past?

Noel Preston (Understanding Ethics, 2007) defines “ethics as concerning about what is right, fair, just or good; about what we ought to do, not just what is the case or what is most acceptable or expedient?” Some scholars believe critical reasoning and a critical mind take time to develop through continuous lifelong experience.

Ethical Dilemma is generally explained when the alternatives all seem wrong/right in some way but one has to choose among the available options. Ethical Dilemma involves ‘the need to choose from two or more morally acceptable courses of action or sometimes the need to choose between equally unacceptable alternatives’ (Hamric, Spross, and Hanson, 2000).

Image: the Trolley Problem

Philippa Foot (1967) poses ‘the Trolley Problem’: a fictional scenario in which an onlooker has the choice to save five people in danger of being hit by a trolley by diverting the trolley to kill just one person. What will you do: to save one person? Let the five people die? or you can do nothing by standing as an innocent bystander?

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This problem was made complex by ‘The Trolley and the Fat Man’ (J.J. Thomson, 1985). You are standing on an overpass that looks out over the track. There are five people tied down on the track, and the trolley is speeding toward them. This time, there is no spur, but there is a fat man near you on the bridge. If you throw him over the edge, he will land on the track and stop the car with his weight. In the process, he will die. What do you do: Will you push the fat man? Do nothing so five people will die? Be an innocent bystander?

To answer these ethical dilemmas, two approaches are usually adopted by theorists, the first being consequentialist that argue that the actions that lead to harm is permissible if it promotes a good end, whereas non-consequentialist would disagree with this and purports that killing someone (in the above to scenarios) is incorrect in all circumstances regardless of the consequence.

The Virtue of Ethics and Golden Mean

Ancient Greek philosophy, especially Aristotle’s ethical theory, is the source of the virtue of ethics and the idea of the golden mean.

Ethical virtue, according to the golden mean, may be attained by striking a middle ground between two extremes by adopting a balanced approach. The virtues of two extremes are considered as vices by Aristotle. The golden mean is the point of balance between these two extremes. For example, the vice of deficiency is cowardice, the golden mean is courage and the vice of excess is rashness; another example vice of deficiency is indecisiveness, the golden mean is self-control and the vice of excess is impulsiveness.

Golden Mean, as an ethical principle, helps the person to strive towards achieving a balance decision by avoiding both the extremes of moral deficiencies and excess. Determining the Golden Mean requires rational judgement by taking all factors into consideration. It is worth noting that Golden Mean is not a hard and fast straightforward formula for making ethical actions, but it requires practical wisdom and the capacity to adjust to the intricacies of real-world circumstances to adopt a virtuous action. Everyone has a different approach to take day-to-day ethical encounters but it depends on the personal choice to adopt the means to tackle them. Some may support the Golden Mean approach while other differs. 

Image: Dr Sakul Kundra (Supplied)

Contributing Author: Dr Sakul Kundra is an Associate Dean (Research) and Assistant Professor at the College of Humanities and Education at Fiji National University. The views expressed are his own and not of his employer. 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The Australia Today is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts, or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of The Australia Today and The Australia Today News does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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