When you hear the word leadership what comes to mind. At first thought, people generally thing of someone famous. For instance, one may think of great leaders of social movements or even great political leaders. However, after taking an ethics class, I have learned that leaders come in all shapes and sizes and leaders/leadership can be perceived differently to different people in different circumstances. Hence, the purpose of this paper is to give some insight on the values and perspectives pertaining to this matter found in my interview with an ethical leader.
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As I look around my community, I am more aware of the leadership within it. I see individuals who are indeed leaders that may never become famous; however, their leadership is essential to the life of the community. The question is “would they be good, ethical leaders with positive intentions?” In order for me to make this determination, I had to ask myself what defines a leader, but most importantly, what defines an ethical leader? In my previous management classes I learned that leadership was described as the ability to influence individuals or groups toward the achievement of goals. Nevertheless, leadership, as a process, shapes the goals of a group or organization, motivates behavior toward the achievement of those goals, and helps define group or organizational culture. On the other hand, in reality, it is largely a process of influence. Leadership is an active or changing process in the sense that, while influence is always present, the persons exercising that influence may change (Hartman & DesJardins, 2011).
Still, I needed to know exactly what an ethical leader was or what may define an ethical leader. According to my readings and research I found that an ethical leader is one who knows their core values and possesses the courage to live them in all parts of their life in service of the common good(Grace, 2010). Such an individual is a leader that is identified by the quality of their actions and decisions. After gaining a better understanding of what an ethical leader stands for, I decided to look in a particular direction and profession for the best person to speak with about the topic. That direction was toward men and women of the cloth. I believed that I could not go wrong with the person I had in mind taking into account that he was a pastor as pastors play many diverse roles as leaders of church congregations. For example, they are spiritual directors as well as counselors and community leaders. Furthermore, they live their lives in the public eye. The ethical considerations of pastors must be manifold and play a role in their involvement in every domain of influence, whether corporate or individual (Mavrich). With that being said, I was able to choose an ideal ethical leader from my life and community for this assignment. He is my brother, Pastor Juan C. Walker of Encouraging Word Ministries located in Jacksonville, Florida. When I called him in regards to setting up an interview, he was more than willing; and I was just as curious to hear what he had to say.
The first thing I learned upon speaking with Pastor Juan pertained to his background. Pastor Juan firmly believes that every leader must first learn to be a good follower. His leadership background began during his childhood as he was brought up in the church and had two very strong parents that did the best they could to teach him morals and values. His father demonstrated leadership by being there no matter what as a provider, and most importantly as a man. In addition to his biological father, Pastor Juan has a spiritual father (whom he served under for 10 years) along with other mentors that have demonstrated leadership and helped mold him into the man and leader he is today.
I did not even realize that his leadership extended to so many people. In addition to his family, Pastor Juan directly leads roughly 60 people in his church. But the numbers are numerous when it comes to indirect leadership. Pastor Juan felt that it was kind of hard to give an actual answer as to how many people he led because “as a pastor,” he said, “you lead whoever is following and there are a many that follow.” He went further to explain that as his reason for, figuratively speaking, “leading by example” on a daily basis because someone is always watching whether it be at church, at home or at work; which led me to our next topic of discussion.
Ethics and the workplace
Next we spoke about his mindset when interacting with others in the workplace. Pastor Juan made it perfectly clear that he has to have ethics present in his mind while interacting with others in the workplace because people have different backgrounds and may view life in many ways. After such a short and sweet answer, I moved on to the topic of subordinates, peers, and superiors. He says that ethics is something that one should not turn on and off and so he practices it in all aspects of his life; even at the job amongst superiors, co-workers, and customers alike. When I asked the question “Do you practice business ethics when training subordinates?” Pastor Juan paused before he spoke. Finally, he responded. His response was simply that he tries to have ethics present no matter what he does. When training subordinates, Pastor Juan says he does so in the same manner as he does with anything and that is by example. However, he explained to me that he does acknowledge the fact that no matter an individual’s background, the job must be done decent and in order. He believes that a person can only be trained how to do a jobâ€¦not how to think or act. On the other hand, he does feel that when someone sees that an individual has a standard, they would strive to accomplish it also. I followed up with the question of “do you promote ethical behavior to subordinates, peers, and superiors?” He believes that subordinates to be trained in leadership. This means equipping them to lead and reminding them that they must first learn to follow as a leader cannot truly lead unless he first learns to follow. Pastor Juan told me that he always tries to promote ethical behavior regardless of who the person is because it allows that person the opportunity to be aware of whom they are dealing with. This response had me a little curious. So I went on to ask “Do you select teams based on their personal ethical code?” I learned from Pastor Juan that he did not use his personal ethical code during the selection of committees, boards, or groups because it was not very significant when selecting any type of group or team in the workplace. He felt that the selection of the members should be made based on an individual’s knowledge and qualifications pertaining to the criteria of the project. In regards customer relations, Pastor Juan added that ethical behavior greatly affects customer relations in that he believes “people will remember how you made them feel before they remember what you said.” This is why he promotes love by showing it and being hospitable. He said he does so by demonstrating in his actions because they speak louder than words.
After learning how important ethics are to Pastor Juan, I inquired about the amount of time he spends dealing with ethical issues. Pastor Juan replied that he spends a lot of time dealing with ethical issues as a minister. He went on to explain to me how as a minister he has many roles that all involve ethical issues in one way or another. He informed me that he and his wife are sometimes responsible for the spiritual and emotional care of members of their congregation through counseling. Therefore, they have developed specific ethical guidelines in regards to counseling. In essence, Pastor Juan says that dealing with ethical issues is his job. “There is no taking a break from ethics in my position, he explained. “For me, it is a lifestyle.”
Pastor Juan also spoke on his social responsibility. He expressed that his guidance projects a sufficient amount of attention when it comes to social responsibility. He mentioned that although it could sometimes be a very trying and challenging task, he tries to be available to serve the people which means being accessible and available when needed.
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Other ways he discussed involved other churches and politics. In regards to other churches, there are several ethical issues, however Pastor Juan only focused on one. He made clear to me that pastors must determine where to draw the line amongst being ethical and serving a community that is not so committed to old-fashioned denominational structures as opposed to taking and recruiting members from another church. Pastor Juan went on to explain that despite the separation of church and state, pastors find they must struggle with the ethical beliefs and concerns that surround political issues, such as abortion and homosexuality. He understands that such situations should be handled with care as they deal with both religion and politics. Pastor Juan says he never puts himself in the position to judge, as he knows it is not his place and leaves certain things between the individual and God. All he can do is “let the Bible speak” by preaching and teaching accordingly.
Following that topic, I focused on how ethics impacted his decision-making on a daily basis and throughout the year. He gave me a look and smiled as if to say that the question asked was an easy one. He told me that ethics play a major role in his decision-making as with everything thing else he does. This includes decision-making in both his personal and professional life. He included that in his position, he is held to very high standards and that he also had to lead the life he encourages everyone else to lead which goes back to living in the public eye because we never know who’s watching.
Moreover, expanding a little bit more on the previous questions asked, I went on to ask, “Is having a sound ethical code of ethics important in competitive environments?” Pastor Juan feels that having a sound ethical code of ethics is very important in our environment. He went further to say that he feels this way because he believes that even when being competitive there should be present a line of respect that others should follow. I would say it’s like having good sportsmanship and integrity.
As I approached the end of my interview, I wanted to know if there were any ethical ideas that Pastor Juan had to offer as a guide to prospective or current leaders in developing solid and sound decisions with the goal of overall success within the organization. Pastor Juan felt that the best advice he could give was that we all come from different backgrounds and we must respect how others view life. He explained that “if we take the time out to get to know one another, we would find out that we are far more similar than we may be different.” So with that being said my final question for Pastor Juan was “If you were to summarize in one sentence on what ethics is, what would it be?”
Pastor Juan was quoted saying, “I would say that ethics is a moral standard and individual lives by.” He added that as he previously stated, “it should not be turned on or off. Everyone should have a standard and stick to that standard no matter what the cost.”
For the Pastor Juan, I believe it is safe to say that ethics is ultimately abiding by to the biblical creed, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Taking everything into account, I could not have picked a better example of ethical leadership than Pastor Juan. He is the epitome of righteous, just, and fair. He possesses all of these qualities and the many other characteristics of an ethical leader. This has become more evident after doing this interview and hearing his responses to the questions asked. He gave me a lasting impression of the type of person that he is and his role in the community. I cannot speak for anyone else but I can speak for myself; and I personally feel that anyone who comes in contact with this man of the cloth would be touched in some manner that would make them want to exhibit ethical characteristics as well. In any event, doing what is morally right and fair for the greater good of society is what ethics is all about and modeling such behavior on a daily basis is certainly true leadership.