Invitation to Ethical Leadership: Character, Civility and Community What’s Going On? Global Context and the Question of Ethical Leadership

May 26, 2023

We are all aware of the circling processes of social change that are sweeping across the globe. Something is happening in our world that we are not quite able to name. Whether it is manifested in Ukraine, the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Palestine, Israel, Russia, India, Pakistan, North Korea, South Korea, India, China, El Salvador, Venezuela, or the United States of America—we know that there is something on the horizon that is larger than our own particular histories and memories . . . indeed, the ground has shifted! The ways we have thought about power, sovereignty, geopolitical territorialism, business, the environment, values, culture, and leadership are changing as well.

As this new season of change accelerates, leaders around the globe are faced with myriad challenges and issues at the “intersections where worlds collide.” In this century, we will need to find different and creative ways to address the imminent questions of gun violence, abortion, poverty, health, education, gender, sexuality, religion, race, ethnicity, and culture that threaten national and world security—and most importantly, human and non-human flourishing.

Leaders will need critical tools and resources to address the serious ethical challenges embedded in these questions. The multiple wars, climate change, political scandals, racial injustice, gender discrimination, ethnic and tribal conflicts, raging battles over immigration policies, corporate jostling, banking scams, stringent class divisions, and brazen acts of incivility only add to the mounting anxiety that grips our frightened and confused world. This long litany of ills is symptomatic of a deeper, more fundamental fissure in our very human, spiritual, and moral foundations.

The origins of these problems are immensely complex, but in some ways are not so new . . . much depends on our human capacity to think, feel, adapt, and act in ways that promote peace, justice, and a sense of community. Like it or not, we are all caught in the web of the spider—no one gets out of this tangled web of life alone.

In my own nation, we are reeling from the effects of recent shootings; flagrant police brutality that resulted in the death of George Floyd and so many others; struggling with the threat of a financial crisis precipitated by unscrupulous ethical practices of political leaders, global corporate actors and in leaders in local communities. We are embroiled in political contests that have degenerated into character assassination based on race, religion, gender, sexuality, and unresolved cultural wars. We have a confused and frightened citizenry that is asking the questions raised by Martin Luther King, Jr. over fifty years ago: “Where do we go from here? Chaos or Community?”

Ethical Leadership: Character, Civility, and Community does not pretend to have the answer to these questions nor to all the other many questions that we will examine in the days ahead, but as we devote our critical intellects, energies, and wills to discussing the problem of leadership, and more fundamentally ethical leadership, I would like for you to help us seek new solutions and strategies that address the leader’s perennial question, “Where do we go from here?”