What is ETHICAL PRESENCE? For me, it is the ability to be in the moment, to be completely present, to be thoughtful, and to be still,,,all of which allows one to be prudent in their decision making and calms others who are in the situation so they can be in a better position for making decisions. To better understand this, let's look at a couple of concepts:
- ETHICAL BEHAVIOR is (according to Aristotle) doing the right thing in the right way at the right time. One can know right and wrong...the important thing is being able to act in a way that shows the just the right amount of justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude within any given situation.
- LEADERSHIP is about providing guidance and influence with a group of people to help them obtain a shared vision for the common good.
- ETHICAL LEADERSHIP is doing things and making decisions that influence others to behave in such a way so that the common good can be reached and people are well-served.
So then, what is ETHICAL PRESENCE? For those in positions of leadership, there are many times when it feels as if decisions must be made quickly and the stress is on to make the "right" decision. People are watching to see what decision will be made and how the leader will react to the stress that is present. I believe that how one behaves in these times speaks to their ethical leadership and impacts the ethical decision of those around them - thus the idea of ETHICAL PRESENCE. So what might this look like? Here are a few examples:
- in a meeting when the team is pushing for a quick decision, have the ability to pause and ask them if more time may be taken to consider the idea or request
- when a colleague is in your face and complaining about you or others, rather than react to their inappropriate behavior, take a deep breath, speak slowly and quietly, and ask them for examples of what they mean
- for those of us who like to process out-loud (call us extroverts), we can change our behavior and process internally for a short time - you may need to ask people to wait while you process, and then just take the time to think before responding
- the ability to say "I don't know" may be one of the best practices of ethical presence available to the leader. This sends a signal that you are not God, and that you do not expect everyone to have the right answer (or an answer at all) all of the time
- when someone in the group is pushing back at you, rather than arguing your own point, look at another member of the group and ask them what they think - by gathering more information and opinions, you have a better chance at acting more ethically and making a better decision
I have come to realize that in a leadership role (especially when that role becomes more public) people are watching you all the time - and the signals you send by your actions and behavior set the tone for the organization. How you act in moments of stress and decision making will signal to people what right and wrong behavior will be for the organization - and how others will be treated in those times. Your presence in those moments will determine the ETHIC (ethos) of your organization into the future...and that can make all the difference in the world.