Next generation of ethical leadership is needed for a better society

Next generation of ethical leadership is needed for a better society

At its best, a university education helps students to develop an array of talents, and a range of practical and professional skills that help them to succeed in their subsequent careers, in further study, and in life generally. At Concordia University of Edmonton we aim to prepare students to be independent thinkers, ethical leaders, and citizens for the common good. Rarely in history have we been more in need of ethical leaders than we are today.

Successful leaders must possess many qualities, but foremost amongst these is a focus on ethics and integrity. Personal ethics directly impact the sort of leadership provided. A good university education provides students with multiple opportunities to reflect on their own values and to develop and internalize a set of ethical principles that should act as touchpoints in their future lives and work. There are a few ethical principles that every leader must internalize in order to be successful. These include honesty, sincerity, kindness, civility, respect, compassion, and forgiveness.

Ethical leadership requires not losing sight of one’s core principles when the going gets tough. Sadly, we do not live in a perfect world. We are living in an era where anything goes, and an increasing number of people do not feel constrained by what once would have been considered respectful and acceptable behaviour. Our future leaders will need to be prepared for that. They will need to stay out of the muck, to absorb negativity, or to brush it off if possible. They should not allow the behaviour of others to define or change them. Rather, they should continue to be generous, kind, compassionate, honest, and respectful. Good leaders can do all of that while remaining firm, while making tough decisions, and while doing what is right.

The global community currently finds itself in a bad place. We would not admit to it for ourselves, but many of us are suffering from what has been termed “empathy fatigue.” After over two years of pandemic, societies have become fractured and broken, and this is evident in our personal interactions with one another. On a global scale, and in the midst of the pandemic, we have seen terrible wars and violence, and on a national scale our society is evidently more polarized than ever before. We have sometimes come to despise those who we have not seen face-to-face for some time, assuming the worst about them, and turning our backs on meaningful dialogue with them. Extremism and nastiness are easy to come by.

This needs to change, but without positive and ethical leadership, there is no guarantee that it will. We need to move forward to a place in which we can thrive and flourish as individuals and communities. More of the same negative behaviour won’t produce a different result. The next generation of leaders need to work to change this dynamic, to take the high road, and to embrace kindness in their interactions with others. A shift back towards compassion, civility, and respect in our everyday lives will help to move us towards the sort of society we need to have.

A university education isn’t just a qualification on a piece of paper, but rather a range of knowledge, skills, and values that are acquired. My hope is that our future leaders have, over the course of their study, attended to ethical principles that will help them to successfully navigate the future, providing for a better society for all of us.

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