Over the centuries, there has been a conflict between ethics and power. Research reveals that operative ethics is accompanied by little or no control exercised. However, the execution of more power is attributed to little ethics. Although power and ethics are essential for human survival, they contradict each other. This condition is accredited to the fact that power corrupts ethics. On many occasions, power affects an individual’s self-focus leading to unethical behaviors. Although different circumstances exist where power and ethics cohabits, excessive use and inclinations to power corrupt good morals among leaders (Coles, 2019). The following essay will discuss the relationship between ethics and power following specific readings and leadership examples.
Thomas Hobbes is among the most influential writer in history. He is among the few individuals who were concerned with the rights of ordinary people being equal to the leaders’ rights. According to him, most individuals secured their safety by submitting to their rulers. Thus, it was unethical for the rulers to exercise total power over the people. He describes humans as equal with equivalent rights and freedom according to nature in terms of body and mind. Thus, Hobbes advises people to use their power ethically as all individuals are the same before nature. People should use their personal power to create equality among the people. Furthermore, being content with one’s lives and sharing is what Hobbes advocates among leaders. Hence, leaders should not use their power to enrich themselves and want more at the expense of their people. On the contrary, they should use their position to create equality among people (Washington & Kuo, 2020).
Leaders should behave as a sign of hope and equality in society. They should not act greedily as it will lead to destruction. Hobbes claims that “And therefore if any two men desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies; and in the way to their end (which is principally their own conservation, and sometimes their delectation only) endeavor to destroy or subdue one another.” (Kellerman, 2010). Leaders should not behave conservatively; instead, they should give people the freedom and autonomy to exercise their power, and they should not view them as a danger to their leadership. Besides, dominating the people as a leader will only create chaos. Good leaders should behave rationally and maintain equity between themselves and the people.
A good leader should demonstrate no competition, resulting in inversion to maintain power. Consequently, leaders should not be diffident as this will weaken safety. Lastly, Hobbes argues that a leader should not constantly seek glory, resulting in the continuous war in seeking reputation (Ellul, 2019). Thus, the leader should not use power to enslave the people but rather free and equalise them. This condition creates a peaceful environment that gives leaders ample time to serve the people. It also reduces constant quarrels and attacks as the people are satisfied with the ruling approach. In the end, the leaders will be loved by people creating a conducive environment for growth and development.
According to Leo Tolstoy, wars are caused by wrong inflictions, nonobservance, hostile ambitions, and the firmness of the leaders. Furthermore, they are also caused by the mistakes of the diplomats. The named causes lead to crimes such as murder, forgery, theft, and burglaries. The events of war were contrary to human reasoning and human nature. Although several leaders had the power to act ethically and stoop the war, they abused their power by acting unethically, leading to mass murder. As a result, Leo advises individuals to use their powers wisely and ethical (Kellerman, 2010). Leaders should not be over-ambitious. Ambitions should be coupled with rational thinking and ethical results. This will prevent future problems. Leaders should use their powers for the benefit of the whole people and not for their gain. A majority of leaders during the 1800s used their powers unethical to benefit themselves, which resulted in war. Additionally, he advices individuals that it is essential to prefer peace over war as a leader. Using the incident of Napoleon and Alexander, Leo argues that leaders should promote love over hatred.
As a leader, Leo advises individuals to regard the interest of the majority while making decisions. Therefore, leaders should behave selflessly and put the people’s interests first. Leo claims that Napoleon acted unethically by ordering his troops to advance in the article. Thus, if he had behaved selflessly and not ordered the troops, no war could have occurred, and individuals could not have died. Hence, leaders should protect the lives of their people. Exemplary leaders should not be offended by minor sentiments. Leaders should consciously follow all the rules laid down (Coles, 2019). As a leader, one should not be attached to material things but aims of humanity to better his subjects. Leaders have more power and are connected to people; thus, they should behave ethically as they influence many.
Conferring to Leo, leaders should be event making men, meaning that their actions, intelligence, character, and will influence moral and ethical changes. Thus, a leader should have a solid development plan for their people. Although the other leaders claim about making changes, Leo indicates that leaders should make decisions and changes that benefit the people. They should not use their powers at the expense of their subjects (Sterling, 2015).
Rosa Parks is among the renowned African American leaders who demonstrated morality could co-exist with power. During a period full of discrimination and segregation of African American, Rosa proved that character and power is essential for human survival. According to Rosa Park, leadership is not all about size but the influence to inspire a moral change. Being a five feet petite woman did not stop her from inspiring others (Gini & Green, 2013). As a leader, it is not all about the size and resources one has, but about doing what is right by the people. Despite her racial background, she inspired a moral movement among the African American community that led to the end of public transport segregation. According to her, individuals are advised to use their personal power morally and ethical. In the bus ride back home, the Whites abused their powers and mistreated them. Using her incident, she indicates that leaders should behave bravery, irrespective of the circumstances. Furthermore, they should maintain high standards of ethics despite the outcomes. Although she knew that her actions of not allowing the whites to sit could land her into prison, she considered the ethicality of the situation and deemed it unfit.
According to Rosa, oppression among people is caused by their silence. As a result, leaders should use their personal power courageously to stand against oppressive authorities. Furthermore, individuals should use the given opportunity to bring out change. She saw a chance to stand against those who continuously mistreat her in her case. Similarly, leaders should use their personal power to identify unethical behaviors and stand against them. As a result, she indicates that everybody should be treated equally irrespective of their diversity in terms of race, religion, culture, or economic status (Sterling, 2015). As a leader, one should use the powers ethically to protect all the people. Leaders should use legislation that respects and treat everyone’s rights.
Plutarch was among the historians who judged most of his subjects based on their characters. Consequently, his behaviors were in relation to what he admired in successful leaders. Using himself as an example, Plutarch advises leaders to use their personal power gently and generously in helping those in need. Furthermore, his acts portrayed that leader should be kind to all the people (Kellerman, 2010). Using Plutarch analysis, one can develop an accurate picture of an excellent leader. According to his research, he was less concerned with glorious moments and focused on minor incidents that determined authentic leadership. Using Dion and Brutus comparison, Plutarch discusses some of the essential aspects of an exemplary leader.
According to Plutarch, leaders should use their personal power to help others. In the analysis, Dion uses his skills, boldness, and activities to fight for his people. Additionally, he advises individuals to use personal power to contribute to the well-being of others (Ellul, 2019). The analysis of Plutarch claims that Dion offered himself, his friends, soldiers, ships and arms for the betterment of people. It is fundamental for individuals to use their personal power to make proper and informed decisions, according to Plutarch. He portrays both Dion and Brutus as skilful people and uses their powers to make informed decisions that result in changes.
Leaders should behave in a kind and caring manner to their people. They should dedicate their lives to the complete service of the people. For instance, despite Brutus quarrel with Caesar, he “went into the risk singly for the liberty of his country”. As a result, they should use wisdom to protect and guard their people. Just like how Dion and Brutus were influential leaders in handling their enemies, so should all the leaders (Kellerman, 2010). Leaders should behave in a hopeful manner. All their sentiments and actions should be a representation of hope. Such inspiration is essential in building a solid empire where the leaders are considered a source of inspiration.
Conclusively, although the above leaders used different approaches in defining their exemplary leader, one fundamental factor remains that a good leader goes over the extent for the betterment of his people. In the case of Rosa, although she knew the risk of not obeying the whites, she went a step ahead to ignore the condition that spiked a demonstrate that led to the emergence of a moral revolution movement. On the other hand, Hobbes believes that rulers who exercise equality at the expense of their glory are true and valued rulers. While Plutarch defines a good ruler as someone who acts for the well-being of the people, Leo believes that the inadequacy of a leader leads to the suffering of the people.
Coles, R. (2019). Self/power/other: Political theory and dialogical ethics. Cornell University Press.
Ellul, J. (2019). The ethics of nonpower. In Ethics in an age of pervasive technology (pp. 204-212). Routledge.
Gini, A., & Green, R. M. (2013). 10 Virtues of Outstanding Leaders: Leadership and Character. Wiley Professional, Reference & Trade (Wiley K&L).
Kellerman, B. (2010). LEADERSHIP: Essential Selections on Power, Authority, and Influence. McGraw-Hill Professional.
Sterling, R. W. (2015). Ethics in a World of Power. Princeton University Press.
Washington, A. L., & Kuo, R. (2020, January). Whose side are ethics codes on? Power, responsibility and the social good. In Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency (pp. 230-240).