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Ethical leadership in the face of ethical decisions should be characterized by wisdom and objectivity, not by subjective personal belief, worse still when it is protected by control mechanisms and the recklessness which often accompanies emotional insecurity, or a strong personal ‘faith’ or power delusion.
Beware the leader for whom the personal victory of the decision appears to be more important than the decision’s outcome, whatever the scale and situation – and recognize these tendencies in yourself if they arise.
The Principles for Government start with the assertion that public office is a public trust. The moral obligation to view government and the use of public power as stewardship is found in and supported by our religious and ethical traditions.
In the modern era of bureaucratic legalisms, this important moral grounding for justice has been more and more overlooked. Thus, a vacuum in our appreciation of what is expected from politicians and public officials has contributed to our current malaise. An increasing number of Dominicans today think that our political system is broken. Levels of cynicism, alienation, carping, frustration, “none-of-the-above-ism, independence are at historic highs in our fragile democracy. Short-sighted selfishness is accepted as beyond our abilities to contest just as quickly as it is rejected as a moral norm that we should choose for our community.
We need to review and amend the practical guidelines that hold politics and government accountable, and as a public trust. Our institutions and those who manage them are loosing that key objectivity that governs the principles by which politicians and public officials can and should assess their decisions. These principles can enable anyone to conduct themselves in a worthy fashion that ennobles their personal ambitions for fame and position.
What happened to the developed self-assessment instruments for politicians and civil servants that help them think through how they have in the past implemented, or not implemented so very well, the recommended ethical Principles for Government. These instruments are at the core of reasoning and measurement in how the public perceives our public servants performance; a benchmark for how the public rates the levels of individual ethics and moral assertiveness, hence trustworthiness in leadership.
Ethical considerations in governance are not wholly determined by majority view, just as they are not wholly defined by law or religion. Ethics are not a matter of a referendum or vote as some would have us believe.
Being ethical is being fair. Being fair means understanding implications from other people’s perspectives – not your own. The more widely and well you appreciate other people’s issues and implications, then the easier you will find it to be ethical.
Leaders should be aware of the reality that popular opinion alone is an unreliable measurement of what is ethical for several reasons:
- A poorly informed majority of people – or anyone poorly informed – is not able to make an informed decision about the ethics of a particular decision. The extent to which people are helped to understand longer-term consequences of a situation is also a limiting factor in the value of majority opinion.
- Democratic decision-making is vulnerable to whim and ‘herding’ instincts – especially if the national press and other mainstream media have anything to do with it.
- Leadership – as a function within civilizations – features in the organization of human systems and societies because people generally accept that many sorts of complex and large scale decision-making are best made by full-time experts working in the areas concerned, rather than such decisions being left to the vagaries of popular inexpert view. This is not to say that people have no right to consultation or a vote on crucial issues (in fact generally people need more involvement in decisions which affect them) – it is more to illustrate that majority view, especially when colored with apathy or misinformation or prejudice for whatever reason, is not the only basis for deciding what’s ethical or not.
Popular opinion is a significant factor in the consideration of what is ethical, but it is not the only factor, and the significance of popular opinion in determining ethical decisions will vary according to the situation.
We have to respect and protect (at all cost), the integrity of these mechanisms we have constitutionally implemented that measure ethical behavior in public servants. We must hold the guardians we have entrusted accountable for their actions in how they manage our affairs within governance, because the system, in its nature, is imperfect.