Leadership Toolbox: the Ethics Guide

By | December 31, 2020

[December 31, 2020]  I’m ending this year with an article on another essential item in the Leadership Toolbox.  Tools are neutral; they can be used for good or bad, and, of course, leaders have many tools at their disposal.  But it is the leader’s ethics to use those tools that matter.  In today’s article, I will discuss an ethics guide.  Such an ethics guide would help each leader determine whether they embody and live their profession’s values.

Our actions as leaders reflect directly upon our professional organizations as a whole.  Although we perform countless ethical acts daily, ethical lapses are what make the news headlines.  Ethical lapses undermine the trust, confidence, and faith held by our teams, their organizations, and the American people.

I began the Leadership Toolbox early in my blog’s beginnings.  It was shortly before my retirement, and I was active as a Brigadier General of U.S. Army Engineers.  My time was wrapped-up in solving the many problems that rise to that level, most often with no real solutions at hand.  Otherwise, I would not have been involved.  Some suggested that we throw the “rule book” out the window to solve those problems, which lacked easy solutions.  I non-concurred because to do so would have violated basic ethical standards.

Leadership means that each leader is entrusted to provide others with purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.  This “trust” requires leaders to live the values in the performance of their duty and their personal lives because this is the foundation for behavior and ethical decision-making.  We are fortunate that self-reflection upon ethics can help.  And, there are ethical guides that can assist us in that task.

Any ethics guide needs to start with the reality that today’s leaders are busy.  An ethics “guide” should take little time to complete, although leaders can spend as little or as much time as they have available.  Such a guide would promote common themes.  The result should be to provide needed insight and enhanced understanding of where that particular leader stands.

An ethics guide will help leaders critically examine their personal values, character, and vulnerabilities to ethical lapses.  The goal would be to maintain and improve the character of leaders and the ethical leadership they provide to others.  Ideally, this guide would be in the form of short exercises designed to achieve a personal understanding and growth.

Leaders set the ethical tone wherever they are present.  This tone is accomplished by communicating ethical standards, establishing fair and ethical decision-making processes, enforcing ethical standards, and showing alignment between words and deeds.  Such an ethical guide will help leaders judges themselves whether they are on the right path.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

28 thoughts on “Leadership Toolbox: the Ethics Guide

  1. Honey Flower Betsy

    Another excellent addition to the series on leadership toolboxes. What is next for the toolbox? I suggest ‘evaluations.’

  2. Jerome Smith

    Gen. Satterfield, another good job with this article. I do like the entire series on items to go in our leadership toolbox. Keep ’em coming our way. Happy New Year!! 😊

    1. Georgie M.

      Yes, let’s see how much improvement we can get in the new year of 2021.

      1. Dern McCabe

        This site will improve as it always does, somehow. I know that Gen. Satterfield is on his toes to make things better and his articles more entertaining and educational. I suspect he has a few secrets up his sleeve to keep us in suspense and on the ball waiting for just another article … without holding our breath too long. I do appreciate this website on leadership. There are too few that have such a clean interface and lack of stupid pop-ups. ✌

  3. Janna Faulkner

    Once again, Gen. Sattefield does not disappoint. I’m happy that he ended the year on an ethical point. Without adhering to basic ethical standards, we are all in for a problem. I foresee 2021 to be a tough year. The US has not yet settled their presidential election or who will control the Senate. These are important issues that needed resolution. Sadly, they are not yet set. I see bad things in our new year despite the slowing of the pandemic.

    1. Dennis Mathes

      I think you might be right, Janna. Let’s hope this get back on track. The US was doing so well, then the Chinese allowed a terrible virus to spread around the world without a warning. China’s communist govt is a real problem for the world.

      1. Valkerie

        I don’t know about you guys, but I’ll never buy a product made in China ever again. I’m doing my own boycott so as to not support them. Screw the Communist Party and all those in the USA that support them.

  4. Dead Pool Guy

    In just about every area of society, there’s nothing more important than ethics. Henry Paulson

  5. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    Another great article by Gen. Satterfield and a wonderful way to end this year. We should all hold not just ourselves to ethical standards but also hold our elected officials to those same standards.

    1. Purse 5

      You do that by voting and making noise. Sadly, our news media is in bed with those who would adopt unethical ways of behavior.

    2. Dennis Mathes

      Yes, Otto, I agree with you. I’m seeing this more and more where people are LOWERING moral, academic, and social standards.

      1. R. S. Disney

        It is a sad commentary that this is, sadly, the case throughout the US. We need more people with the moral courage to stand up and say NO, we will not tolerate such debasement of our values and standards of behavior. Gen. S., please keep up the great works here. I’m a regular fan, although I never post (with this one exception).

  6. Eric Coda

    An Ethics Tool can be used to compare where you are ethically to where you should be ethically. This is the main point of this blog post by Gen. Satterfield.

      1. Joe Omerrod

        Yes, and I know that I didn’t. When studying ethics, it will always be incumbent upon the leader to be on guard to insure he or she is not straying from the ethical pathway while getting the mission accomplished. Otherwise, it is easy for an organization to go off the rails and once that happens, all hell breaks lose and bad things begin to happen. Just look at the US Democrat Party that has thrown ethics out the window in a search for political power. They are going down the tubes by adopting radical anti-Western and anti-American polities and practices. It will not end well.

      2. Yusaf from Texas

        Good article, Gen. Satterfield. Thanks Eric and all for pointing out the importance of such a tool.

    1. Tom Bushmaster

      Much appreciate the references. 😊 This is why this forum is so important and why I appreciate the fact that Gen. Satterfield set it up just for this reason. Oh, HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone! I’m sure it will be a much better year than the year of the Chinese Virus year of 2020.

  7. Army Captain

    Great comment on the “ethics guide.” We’ve been using it now for some time in the US Army. Good luck to all those who made it thru the old year 2020 and let’s hope for a better new year.

    1. Gil Johnson

      Good one Army Capt, first comment on last article of the year. I look forward to 2021. ….. Happy New Year for everyone here.

      1. KenFBrown

        Yes, Happy New Year to all my friends here on Gen. Satterfield’s leadership comment section. Well done. I look forward to another year here with my good friends and for continued in-depth discussions on topics important for leaders. Several of my colleagues now are also hear from work and they are better for it.

    2. Joe the Aussie

      Cheers! We’ll be celebrating the New Year before you in the States. See you there!

      1. Max Foster

        Hi Joe the Aussie, best wishes. Thanks for being part of our comments forum. Gen. Satterfield has established a fantastic forum from which we can exchange ideas and support one another. Great stuff for me. Here’s hoping that you and your country, Austrailia, get through this COVID pandemic with few deaths.


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