A Leader’s Ethos

By Will Cunningham

“A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon the world.”
~ Albert Camus

Based on the World Population Clock, an internet monitoring medium, we as a global society have exceeded over 7.96 billion people in our population growth, as of July 12, 2022.   Along with the growing population, one researcher has suggested that our planet consist of approximately 21 “major” world religions that are practiced on earth.  There is purportedly 1 billion people that profess no religion at all.  This means almost 1 in every 8 people claim to be unaffiliated with religion, making it the third largest religious group coming behind Christians and Muslims. With those statistics in mind, we could safely presume each person on the planet has outside influences that have directly affected their moral DNA and in doing so, causing us to make ethical decisions based on what we see, hear, and often feel. Yet, not on truth.

In this paper, I will concentrate on how my personal ethical decision making has been developed, what personal experiences have helped shaped my current development, and will aim to express what I think is a more correct influence we should continue to consider growing and use to foster our development of ethical decision-making as leaders.  

Description of my personal Ethical development

I would suggest to you that my personal ethical development is not based on my upbringing, yet I am influenced by that. Nor is it from years of experience living in a diverse world, while traveling and living in 13+ different cultures.  I am not sure how other people have developed their ethical basis of thinking; for me, I did not spend years carving out my reasoning of right and wrong to form an ethical character.  My development was more or less a revelation and a transformation at a given time in my life.  From that point on, my thinking processes to do what is right only grew from that point of revelation.

Personal experiences

As mentioned, my personal ethical development was a revelation or transformation which took place back in 1986, in the middle of the Indian Ocean (IO) while serving as a Navy sailor on a United States Aircraft Carrier.  I had finished reading an article written by the late Christian music singer, Keith Green.  In his article, (What’s Wrong with the Gospel Pt. 1 & Pt 2), he wrote about every excuse that one who does not believe in the person of Jesus makes to not follow Him.  It was, for all intense and purposes, an ethical dilemma for me.  I was that person who heard the truth and did not do anything about it for years, and only put it off by making excuses.   After reading the article Keith Green wrote, and feeling the conviction of it, what I know now as the love of the Holy Spirit on my life, I surrendered my life to Jesus.  

At that point I began to understand and reason in my heart that there was a better way of living, a better way of thinking, not only for myself, but also toward others.  In reality, it was an awakening or a revelation that transformed my thinking over-night.  Some would say that this was a Born-Again experience, and I would tend to agree.  All I know is that I did not really want to continue down the same path, being the same person that I was.

Development of Moral Practices

The week that this transformation took place in my heart and mind, I switched from entertaining myself by drinking with the guys and reading useless books, to begin studying the Bible and learning over the course of weeks, months, and even now years, that God began to take my mind and shape it with His thoughts.  In other words, I no longer wanted to think the way that I was thinking but wanted to think the way that God wanted me to think. I found that His thoughts were more of order and not disorder. Thoughts of a greater good and not one of selfish intentions. More strategic and not just tactical. Moreover, the more I studied His word, the more I found myself drawn to wanting to know more.  I found that the best way for me to do this was to study and know His son, Jesus the Christ.  It seemed to me that He (Jesus) had the words of life.  He knew what to say and when to say it.  

Jesus stated that “I come to do the will of my Father…”  In other words, He reasoned and thought as God would think.  He was able to resolve ethical dilemmas.  It really comes down to the “Golden Rule” that is, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  As I began to study the words of Christ and other portions of the Bible, I have learned that much of all ethical issue can be summed up in understanding what God’s word has to say and practicing it.  I personally learned more about who I was and realized that there was no good thing in me apart from His Spirit consuming my life.  With all this in mind, I believe that my conduct has changed over the years, in my personal life, in my marriage and in my many other relationships. Moreover, I would even state that God’s Word has influenced me in such a way that I desire to maintain an up-right conduct in my business dealings, my ministry dealings, and my personal dealings with others.  I am a firm believer that Christian virtues or Godly character can have its greatest influence in the work place.

Personal Approach to Ethical Decision-making

We now live in a society where we work just as much, or more, than we sleep and/or have free time. We have learned that corruption has taken more of a footprint into our business practices and even in our government leadership.  At any given time, a person can read or hear about the latest embezzlement, the cheating on SEC filings, the Professor or Coach being inappropriate with students and so on…  The point here is that God’s word could and does and will serve as an ethical baseline to steer us into right-hearted thinking.  The late great Chuck Colson once hosted an all-star panel of famed leaders and academics to ask the question, “How did we get into this Mess?” Chuck desired to have Christians understand that they need to have a Christian world-view for the culture we live in, because we have the answers.

This type of revelation within our own political system could have, would have, and will have long lasting effects as they are in the public eye, setting the standard for not only our own country but those around us whom we call our allies.  By way of example, the following excerpt is from a law class posted on www.factchecked.org which outlines one organization in 1999 who hosted a negative review of their work environment.

“Can you imagine working for a company that has a little more than 500 employees and has the following statistics”:

  • 29 have been accused of spousal abuse
  • 7 have been arrested for fraud
  • 19 have been accused of writing bad checks
  • 117 have directly or indirectly bankrupted at least 2 businesses
  • 3 have done time for assault
  • 71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit
  • 14 have been arrested on drug-related charges
  • 8 have been arrested for shoplifting
  • 21 are currently defendants in lawsuits
  • 84 have been arrested for drunk driving in the last year 

Can you guess which organization this is?

In the book of Romans, chapter one verse 18, the Apostle Paul writes through divine inspiration about the results of a person when they have “suppressed the truth of unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.” (Romans 1:18). After Paul wrote that statement in chapter 1, the following verses of the rest of the chapter outlines what happens to the mind of a man, …ie, the reasoning or thinking of a man becomes futile.  Verse 21 states that they (we) “…became futile in their thoughts…”   This word “futile” in the Greek language is actually translated “Mataio’o” which means to make empty.  In three other verses of the same chapter, we learn that God gives them/us over to a debased mind (Vs 24; 26; & 28).  

Based on the revelation of truth, as cited in Biblical scripture here, coupled with experiencing eye-witness accounts of what happens to a person when they chose to ignore or suppress the very reasoning of right and wrong that God has place within us, even the knowledge of Himself, I have personally concluded that my thinking is wrong and God’s precepts and thoughts for me are right, which can be incorporated into every aspect of life, even business, ministry and personal ethics.   

The Book of James goes on to tell us some valuable advice, “…he who knows to do good and doesn’t do it is sin.” (James 4:17).  This verse alone should be convicting enough to navigate through ethical business dilemmas.  

Plan to develop as an ethical & moral Leader

In conclusion, experience and argument to ethical decision-making is found in the knowledge of God and His word for us.  Solomon wrote in the book of Proverbs, that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7). Ethical decision-making leads to wise reasoning, and Solomon gives us the first key to wisdom… “the fear of the Lord…”

Inspired by Romans 1:18-28 & Proverbs 1:7

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