meeting the ethical challenges of leadership through reflective practice n.
Skip this Video
Loading SlideShow in 5 Seconds..
Meeting the Ethical Challenges of Leadership Through Reflective Practice PowerPoint Presentation
Download Presentation
Meeting the Ethical Challenges of Leadership Through Reflective Practice

Loading in 2 Seconds...

play fullscreen
1 / 31

Meeting the Ethical Challenges of Leadership Through Reflective Practice - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

  • Uploaded on

Meeting the Ethical Challenges of Leadership Through Reflective Practice. Dr. Frederick D. Loomis Associate Professor of Education Penn State University (April 2013). We’re not as ethical as we think. Consider . . . .

I am the owner, or an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of the copyrighted work described.
Download Presentation

PowerPoint Slideshow about 'Meeting the Ethical Challenges of Leadership Through Reflective Practice' - lalasa

An Image/Link below is provided (as is) to download presentation

Download Policy: Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use and may not be sold / licensed / shared on other websites without getting consent from its author.While downloading, if for some reason you are not able to download a presentation, the publisher may have deleted the file from their server.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - E N D - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Presentation Transcript
meeting the ethical challenges of leadership through reflective practice

Meeting the Ethical Challenges of Leadership Through Reflective Practice

Dr. Frederick D. Loomis

Associate Professor of Education

Penn State University

(April 2013)

we re not as ethical as we think
We’re not as ethical as we think

Consider . . .

  • Nearly 2/3 of high school teens surveyed have cheated during the past year
  • Nearly 1/3 admitted to shoplifting
  • 80 % lied to their parents

But . . .

  • 93% of these students said their were satisfied with their ethical character

Source: Bazerman and Tenbrunsel, (2011) Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What is Right and What to Do about It

and at harvard this year
And at Harvard this year …

Half of the 250 undergraduates taking the course “Introduction to Congress” are being investigated for cheating on the final examination.

Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept. 11, 2012

the million dollar question
The million dollar question …

If leadership is about doing the right thing, why do some leaders develop “ethical blind spots” which prevent them from “doing the right thing” in the most critical defining moments of their careers?

our l earning objectives
Our Learning Objectives

By the end of this session, we will:

  • Provide perspectives on leadership and behavioral ethics citing literature in this field;
  • Apply these principles to the Sandusky child abuse scandal, where the President and Coach Paterno were fired for “a failure of leadership;”
  • See what we might learn from this case study and other business examples;
  • Reflect on what these concepts might mean in the work that we do.
what is leadership
What is leadership?

Leadership is the ability and power of an individual to influence, inspire, motivate, and enable others to contribute towards the success of both the organization and the greater good of society.

The challenge arises when leaders are confronted with “defining moments” –e.g., decisions which must be made on the basis of what matters most, especially with regard to the impact on the organization and the “greater good.”

thoughts on leadership values and ethics
Thoughts on Leadership , Values and Ethics
  • Leaders are everywhere – not only those with authority (although these leaders are held to a higher standard)
  • Leaders have a high level of authenticity and self awareness (I am who I am)
  • Personal values are clearly defined and can be espoused (success with honor)
  • Leaders practice values by leading with their heart as well as their head (building trust)
  • Leaders are concerned about leaving a legacy
  • Leaders engage in continuous, critical self reflection and try to develop others to become reflective practitioners
context is key
Context is Key
  • Leadership depends on understanding the context and the decision situation
  • Leaders know their “world” and culture - the immediate organizational environment as well as the broader societal pressures and issues
  • Leaders develop the ability to diagnose the challenge (observe, interpret, intervene)
  • Leaders challenge themselves to see situations through different lenses (structure, people, politics and symbols)
leadership and reflective practice
Leadership and Reflective Practice
  • Being honest with yourself; gaining perspective
  • Am I/are we doing the “right” thing? Have we considered… Asking the courageous question.
  • Increases self awareness, clarifies values and helps prevent “ethical blind spots”
  • Reflection in action (Schon)
    • The capacity to think deeply before taking action (recognizing a possible “defining moment”);
    • To reflect on how things are going, as decisions are unfolding;
    • To debrief on decisions, learning from successes, mistakes and failures (not only for yourself but for the greater good)
leadership and behavioral ethics
Leadership and Behavioral Ethics

Behavioral ethicsseeks to understand how people actually behave when confronted with ethical dilemmas. Individual behavior is judged according to generally accepted moral norms of behavior.

For example, people may consider themselves to be ethical, but they don’t do the right thing when it counts most.

(Trevenio, Weaver and Reynolds, 2006)

how are most decisions made
How are most decisions made?



  • The problem is often not well-defined
  • Any analysis is usually data-free
  • The moral/ethical dimensions of the issue are rarely considered
  • The right people are often not “at the table”
  • There is little time for personal reflection and reconsideration
behavioral ethics conflict between should and want
Behavioral Ethics: Conflict between Should and Want

I should behave ethically …

therefore I will

I should have behaved ethically …

therefore I did








Ethical fading

Visceral responses

Source: Blind Spots


Blind Spot:

I don’t see the ethical implications of this decision … so I do what I want to do

ethical leadership and reflective practice
Ethical Leadership and Reflective Practice

I should behave ethically …

therefore I will

I should have behaved ethically …

therefore I did







Reflective Practice:


Learned and Transformation



“success with honor”

Leadership Challenge: I take responsibility for my action and inaction in this situation


Decisions: How to do the right thing?

Issues and Questions

Societal Impact

Global Context



Critical Incidents





Spiritual or



Leadership and Reflective Practice

what are ethical blind spots
What are ethical “blind spots”?
  • An ethical blind spot is a failure to recognize an ethical dilemma and behaving contrary to our best ethical intentions
  • There is often a gap between who we are and who we think we should be. This results in different ways our minds approach ethical dilemmas and the different modes of decision-making.
  • Ethical blind spots cause us to have selective recall of events and rationalize decisions.
ethical blind spots and willful neglect
Ethical Blind Spots and Willful Neglect
  • Leaders with position power, special knowledge or great influence are often held to a higher standard of ethical behavior
  • Ethical blind spots occur when leaders act in their self interest and not in the interest of others
  • Willful neglecttakes place when leaders ignore a situation or claim ignorance instead of assuming responsibility for addressing the problem
  • My bias: Leaders must be prepared to ask the courageous question or take action that may damage their own reputation -- or the reputation of the organization.
theory to practice case studies
Theory to Practice: Case Studies
  • Business – Enron, Madoff
  • Government – Pat Tillman, NASA

  • Education – Penn State
Focus on the ethical leadership of President Graham Spanier(who had position power) and Coach Joe Paterno(who had great influence)
october 29 2011
October 29, 2011

Joe Paterno, congratulated by President Graham Spanier and Athletic Director Tim Curley for becoming the winningest coach in NCAA history.

november 9 2011
November 9, 2011

Paterno and Spanier are fired for a failure of leadership after the grand jury indictment of Jerry Sandusky on 52 counts of child sexual abuse.

c hild abuse incidents on campus
Child abuse incidents on Campus
  • 1998
    • Inappropriate activity by Sandusky and 11 year old boy in the locker room/shower
    • Investigated by campus police; no charges filed by local District Attorney
    • Spanier and Paterno received notice of the investigation but not details of the charges
  • 2001
    • Eyewitness account of sexual activity by Sandusky and young boy in shower
    • Account given to Paterno, Schultz and Curley, but not Spanier, who understands activity as “horseplay.”
freeh report july 12 2012
Freeh Report: July 12, 2012

“Taking into account the available witness statements and evidence…it is more reasonable to conclude that, in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the University — Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley — repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky's child abuse from authorities, the University's Board of Trustees, the Penn State community, and the public at large… Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State…The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.”

issues raised by the freeh report
Issues Raised by the Freeh Report
  • Why was there not more concern expressed in words or actions regarding the safety and well-being of the children involved?
  • Was this an attempt to avoid bad publicity?
  • A culture of reverence to football?
  • Acting to protect the Penn State “family”?
  • A failure of leadership?
  • Willful neglect?
  • An “ethical blind spot?”
model for ethical decision making
Model for Ethical Decision making

Key Questions:

1. What is the problem?

2. What are the facts?

3. Who will be affected by this decision?

4. What relationships are involved (personal and organizational)?

5. What are the options?

model for ethical decision making1
Model for Ethical Decision making

6. What are the consequences for all stakeholders?

7. What duties and responsibilities do you have as a decision maker?

8. What are your most deeply held values?

9. What do your most trusted advisors think about this situation (consultation)?

10. What is the impact on others, your organization and yourself (e.g., can you live with this decision and take responsibility for the consequences of your action)?

concept of bounded rationality
Concept of Bounded Rationality

Bounded rationality is the idea that in decision-making, rationality of individuals is limited by the information they have, the cognitive limitations of their minds, and the finite amount of time they have to make a decision (Simon, 1991).

regarding the penn state case
Regarding the Penn State Case

“One of the things that leaders of all kinds are challenged to do is connect the dots and to be quicker to see issues than others might ordinarily be…On the one hand, administrators work to defend and protect the institution. They also have to work equally aggressively to protect the rights of individuals…We need to be sure that institutions…not only protect themselves but protect human beings, and place human welfare above everything else. I think that was the tragic failure that occurred in this instance.”

Dr. Stanley Ikenberry, former President University of Illinois, November 11, 2011

a final thought or two
A final thought or two…

Having an ethical lapse of judgment does not make you a “bad person” or even a “bad leader.”

However… the legacy of your leadership is called into question when, on reflection, you cannot take responsibility for the impact of what you did – and what you didn’t do, especially in a defining moment of leadership.

Redemption is possible if responsibility is assumed and lessons learned can be shared with others. This is true for organizations, as well as individuals.


Amey, Marilyn J. (2006). Leadership in higher education. Change. November/December. 55-58.

Badaracco, Joseph, L. (1997). Defining Moments. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Baserman, Max. H. and Tenbrunsel, Ann E. (2011). Blind Spots. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Begley, Paul T. and Stefkovich, Jacqueline. (2007). Integrating values and ethics into postsecondary teaching for leadership development. Journal of Educational Administration. 45(4), 398-412.

Bennis, Warren G. (2008). On Becoming a Leader. New York: Perseus Books.

Bolman, Lee G. and Gallos, Joan V. (2011). Reframing Academic Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Bowen, William G. (2011). Lessons Learned: Reflections of a University President. Princeton: Princeton University Press.


George, Bill. (2007). True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership. San Francisco: Wiley.

Hendrickson, Robert M., Lane, Jason E., Harris, James T. and Dorman, Richard H. (2013). Academic Leadership and Governance of Higher Education. Stirling, Va.: Stylus.

Johnson, Craig E. (2009). Meeting the Ethical Challenges of Leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Kouzes James and Posner Barry. (2008). The Leadership Challenge. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Mezirow, Jack and Taylor, Edward W. (2009). Transformative Learning in Practice. San Francisco: Wiley.

Northouse, Peter G. (2012). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Los Angeles: Sage.

Schon, Donald A. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. New York: Basic Books.

Simon, Herbert (1991). Bounded Rationality and Organizational Learning. Organization Science2 (1): 125–134.