Ethical Self Reflection

Topics: Ethics, Morality, Moral absolutism Pages: 6 (2110 words) Published: January 13, 2013
Running Head: Ethical Self Reflection

Ethical Self Reflection
Masters in Organizational Leadership
In many cases, a person must choose between two or more “rights” that may or may not align with both one’s moral and ethical standards. The care-based, rule-based, ends-based thinking to arrive at a decision rather than rationalizing after the fact are necessary for analyzing ethical dilemmas (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2012, pp. 164-165). The self-reflection needed to identify one’s fundamental nature, and to understand the morals, ethics and values one uses to make decisions are critical to becoming an authentic leader who is a moral manager that serves the people that follow him or her (Hughes,, pp. 152-153).

Ethical Self Reflection
What is right? Morals define personal character related to the ideas of both right and wrong. Ethics, while inherently linked to morals and one’s moral obligations, is a set of moral principles used in a social system in which those morals are applied. In other words, ethics point to standards or codes of behavior expected by the group to which the individual belongs. These standards could be national ethics, social ethics, company ethics, professional ethics, or even family ethics. So while a person’s moral code is usually unchanging, the ethics he or she practices can be dependent on exogenous factors not controlled by the individual or the group to which the individual belongs. Care-based thinking describes what is commonly referred to as the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you want others to do to you”, of conduct and is most closely aligned with Aristotle’s writings concerning happiness. Aristotle writes in Nichomachean Ethics that, “If happiness is activity in accordance with virtue, it is reasonable that it should be in accordance with the highest virtue; and this will be that of the best thing in us” (Aristotle, 1992, p. 7). Thus the idea of ethics does not begin with the morals of either right or wrong, but starts with the premise that we all desire what is good or what seems so to us (Brennan, 1992, p. 64). Happiness, then, is to live in an objectively good way according to several virtues that conform to the best and most complete aspects of human activity including wisdom, knowledge, courage, self-control, magnanimity, and honorable ambition (Brennan, pp. 65-67). These virtues describe the character of a good person whose acts are ethically free, not compelled; voluntary and not forced. Unlike Aristotle’s character based ethics, Immanuel Kant proposes a rule-based thinking that actions of true moral worth are done when a person does the right thing because it is right and not for what benefit the person can get out of the act (Hughes,, p. 165). This type of thinking largely negates the external factors that may influence a person’s inclination to wiegh the decision to act based on the greatest hapiness provided to thegreatest number of people. When one takes the results or consequences of an act into consideration moreso than the act’s rightness or wrongness, then the act can be said to be based on ends-based thinking (Hughes,, p. 165). This thinking is largely based on Utilitariansim proposed by JohnStuart Mill in 1863 who defines it as: The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the happiness. By happiness is intended plea sure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure (Mill, 1863, pp. 9-10). Mill, however, did not propose that the ends of an action justified the means, for justice, to Mills, is paramount to the creation of good organizations and societies (Mill, pp. 42-43). The principle of ends-based thinking or utilitarianism requires that each person count for as much as the next, and that no single man or woman should be made to suffer...

References: Aristotle. (1992, January 3). Nichomachean Ethics. The Internet Classics Archive, X. (D. C. Stevenson, Ed., & W. D. Ross, Trans.) Cambridge, MA, United States. Retrieved from
Brennan, J. G. (1992). Foundations of Moral Obligation; The Stockdale Course. Newport, RI: Naval War College Press.
Covey, S. (2006). The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything. New York, NY: Free Press.
Heinlein, R. A. (1953). Assignment in Eternity. NY, New York: Baen Publishing Enterprises.
Hughes, R. L., Ginnett, R. C., & Curphy, G. J. (2012). Leadership: Enhancing the Lessons of Experience. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.
Mill, J. S. (1863). Utilitarianism. London, England: Parker, Son and Bourne. Retrieved from
Wakin, M. M. (1976). The Ethics of Leadership. American Behavioral Scientist (Pre-1986), 19(5), 567-588. Retrieved from
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