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  ETHICAL LEADERSHIP: NAVIGATING THE SLIPPERY STAIRCASE
 
By: Benjamin Johnson, Texas FFA Ethical Leadership Fellow
December 15, 2016

 
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“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.”  - Roy E. Disney (1930)

I recently heard a friend compare life to a slippery staircase. While we all know navigating a slippery staircase can be challenging, we should expect the journey through school and into our adult life will also present challenges. 

What would you do if you slipped on the stairs?  Intuitively, everyone grabs the handrail. After all, the purpose of the handrail is to provide stability and help guide us up or down the stairs safely. 

The stability of the handrail is determined by the quality of its materials and how well it is anchored to the wall. As for the “handrail of life,” the choices we make are only as good as the ethics and values we choose to guide our lives. 

Today, we hear stories about athletes taking performance-enhancing drugs to play better, students cheating on tests to get higher GPAs, and people lying to get ahead. It seems almost socially acceptable to set aside personal ethics and values to achieve success. But is that how you will choose to live your life? Is that the type of company for which you want to work? Is that how you will raise your children? How would an “ethics-optional” future look long term for our state and nation?
 
According to the Center for Ethical Leadership, “Ethical leadership is knowing your core values and having the courage to live them in all parts of your life in service to the common good.” Establishing and knowing your personal ethics and values is extremely important. Your decisions will be easier and clearer, and you can influence others around you in powerful and positive ways. 

While you alone ultimately control what kind of person you will be, keep in mind that “ethical leaders” can and do influence others by ensuring that “ethical practices” are carried out throughout their organizations. By demonstrating “ethical leadership” you can promote a high level of integrity that can stimulate a sense of trustworthiness, and that in turn will encourage others to follow your vision. Always remember that character and integrity are the foundation for all other ethical beliefs, values, and decisions. 

As a leader in your school, FFA chapter and other youth organizations, you should begin building your personal foundation as an ethical leader. I challenge you to learn the principles of ethical leadership, work to understand your ethics and values, and find the courage to live and lead by that moral compass as you go forward. 

In life, we are all trying to make our way up a slippery staircase, but our steps can be confident and steady when good ethics and high moral values are our handrail. 
 
 
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