Showing posts with label values. Show all posts
Showing posts with label values. Show all posts

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Politics of Language-Personality and Expression

Language impacts just about everything our lives that range from our perspective on life all the way to how we react to new information. The book Symbol, Status and Personality by S.I. Hyakawan provides insight into the nature of language and how it influences our personality and our effectiveness in getting the things we want out of life. 

No one exists in isolation. We are cultural creatures that are part of a long line of ancestors, cultures, symbols, values, and people. In childhood we engrain people’s values and beliefs into our own. A few adults learn that these values and opinions are not always correct and can master them.  

Words also have emotions and images attached to them. In politics we use words to stir people to action on certain events. Creating the image, using certain types of words, and giving people an outlet for their concerns is a primary political activity. 

Within any conversation there are lots of needs, goals, objectives, and perceptions being shared.  Language is goal directed. It determines how we relate to others and create influence others. Politicians and entertainers have learned a higher skill of language used to gain influence and prestige.

As we develop as a person language becomes more subjective as our own grounded personality takes precedence. We are able to use that personality to step away from language and culture to see the similarities and differences between people’s communication patterns.  

It is important to understand that language is subjective and based upon the symbols a person uses and how they construct the view of their world. This view is deeply anchored to their early development as a person and is difficult to stand over and in judgement of one’s own language. As one masters this skill, they are better able of “controlling their tongue” and critically think about political rhetoric around them.  

Hayakawa, S.I. (1953). Symbol, Status and Personality. U.S: Wittenboar, Shultz Inc.,  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Developing Moral Character in Business Education

Businesses have a crisis in leadership that has been brewing over a few decades. A paper by Crossman, et. al. (2013) delves into the need to develop character and values in business education in order to provide future leaders guidelines for appropriate behavior. From ethical crisis ranging from Lehman Brothers to Enron the business community has important functions in society that also include setting a standard of behavior. 

According to the authors there has been movement on the ethical side of educating business students since major scandals have damaged the country. Yet the movement has not delved deep enough into how students learn about ethics and develop character.  To help them identify what their values are it helps in identifying their moral compass through difficult situations. 

According to (Peterson & Seligman, 2004) an analysis of cultures, religion, moral philosophers and others have revealed some universal values:

Wisdom: The cognitive ability to be creative, love of learning, judgment, curiosity, and perspective.

Courage: Emotional strengths to accomplish goals in the face of resistance that include bravery, perseverance, honesty and zest.

Humanity: The interpersonal skills that include love, kindness and social intelligence.

Justice: Community strengths that strengthen society through teamwork, fairness, and leadership.

Temperance: The skills to avoid excess through forgiveness, humility, prudence, self-regulation.

Transcendence: The strengths that connect to a larger universe that includes appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, spirituality.

Certain teaching methods have formed successful values through moral awareness. These include role-playing, collaborative learning, self-reflection, and service learning (Comer & Vega, 2008).  It is through the fostering of a greater understanding of society, working with others, and understanding the self that moral fiber is flexed and grown.

Character is something that is in our core, based within deep seated values. As difficult situations become apparent there is a blending of the situation with our personal values. It is also believed that situations often override character in most cases unless there are clear values that are being violated. That is assuming the person made the distinction. In situations where strong values have developed, character may supersede the situation itself.

There will always be those beyond the reach of ethical decision making. Business students who feel that earning the most money regardless of costs on others or those in excessive need of social approval that always follow the pack are likely to have an ethical malfunction in difficult situations. Despite this, there are others, with proper character training can overcome multiple pressures. To teach the standard sets the expectations for students to reach and may become relevant in their careers.

The authors argue that teaching ethics and moral character in a class is beneficial. It helps students understand moral dilemmas and learn how to reflect on the issues. A greater solidification of the student’s values can help them draw upon those values when the time is needed.

The report brings forward some important concepts. A class on ethics and moral reasoning is beneficial for moral development but is limited. Infusion throughout courses would appear to be the best approach as it becomes laced with other concepts within memory. When moral dilemmas arise and people seek answers they often look for examples and being able to find these important examples through multiple pathways furthers the potential draw and ethical conclusion. The values taught should be universal to cultures, religions and peoples to make them most applicable whereby students can build off the basics in any way they see fit to create personalization of character.

Crossman, M. et. al. (2013). Developing leadership character in business programs. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 12 (2). 

Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. 2004. The VIA Classification of Character Strengths. Retrieved from

Comer, D. R., & Vega, G. 2008. Using the PET assessment instrument to help students identify factors that could impede moral behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 77: 129–145.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Ethics as a Sign of Intelligence

What does intelligence have to do with ethics and moral reasoning? Ethics can be seen as a value system that governs the actions of both an individual and a group. Through the use of such ethical systems a level of commonality and trust is formed that encourages stronger business associations and efficient economic interactivity. However, why some are more ethically driven than others depends in part on their cognitive and social intelligence abilities. Such abilities start very young in a person’s life and are influenced by the environment. Ethical development is a concept of nature and nurture as superior to situations where nature versus nurture takes precedence. 

Moral reasoning is closely associated with the development of intelligence and emotional sensibilities. It is believed that …”individuals with extraordinary developed intelligence and creativity are the most valuable gift that humankind has…” Kholodnaya, 2007). The more capable a person is to reflect on their behavior and its consequences the more likely they will be able to choose alternative courses of actions. 

These intelligences are seen early in life based upon a person’s sensitivity, motivation, and character (Tirri, 2011). In order for such moral reasoning to work in an optimal manner the environment must reward and encourage such behaviors. Thus, environment and reasoning are two different sides of the same coin. It is not enough to reason and understand the solutions to moral problems if the environment is hostile to the concept of greater responsibility. 

It is often this environment that either strengthens or diminishes such behavior. This is why it is important for education, colleges, legislation and leadership figures to encourage ethical behavior from the very beginning. There are differences in the ability to understand and act upon such issues. When the environment is hostile to basic ethical values the social structure and expectations discourage appropriate behaviors making them less common in the population. 

Social problems are not easy to define and can be quite difficult for some to understand. Developed people have more ability to use social intelligence, find definitions to problems, planning social strategies, and anticipating social consequences (Lopez, 2007). This is often based in their cognitive and emotional advancements from childhood that encourages the ability to analyze the subtle nature of many of these events and factors.

An ethical model as proposed by Steinberg (2009) helps to formulate how ethics works both within an organization and society at large. It is through these ethics that people contribute to the general functioning and efficiency of society by ensuring that rules apply the same across different spectrums of social structure. 

(1) recognize that there is an event to which to react;
(2) define the event as having an ethical dimension;
(3) decide that the ethical dimension is of sufficient significance to merit an
ethics-guided response;
 (4) take responsibility for generating an ethical solution to the problem;
(5) figure out what abstract ethical rule(s) might apply to the problem;
(6) decide how these abstract ethical rules actually apply to the problem to suggest
a concrete solution;
(7) enact the ethical solution, meanwhile possibly counteracting contextual forces
that might lead one not to act in an ethical manner;
(8) acting upon the situation.

Before one can act they must perceive that there is an event occurring. This can be difficult if one’s perceptions are focused narrowly and tightly on one’s current happenings and needs. The more open-minded a person is the more likely they are able to notice, contemplate, and take actions on such events. A narrow-minded filter is going to leave one so heavily focused on their own needs that a wider responsibility doesn't come into one’s conscious.

This blocking of moral thinking is a result of an arrogance in oneself that does not allow a person to empathize or understand the impact of their behavior on others. Ethical disengagement is a result of removing oneself from ethical responsibilities that are the result of a number of fallacies. These fallacies come from unrealistic optimism, egocentrism, false omniscience (never learning from one’s mistakes), false omnipotence, false invulnerability (Sternberg, 2008). 

Cultures that encourage winning at all costs may also encourage their collective loss. It is important to put this competitive need into the framework of personal and collective advancement. Ethics helps one see how choices impact people beyond themselves and create expectations within the environment. When the damage and stakes become large enough ethical choices should kick in as the most logical (i.e. moral reasoning). When moral reasoning is ignored events such as Enron, the saving and loan scandals that led to the Great Depression, and the athletic doping incident become too commonplace.

Therefore, an ethical event must also be of significance to encourage a person to respond to it appropriately. A small or insignificant event is unlikely to create much of an ethical or moral dilemma. It must be worth someone taking on the effort to find a solution to the problem by analyzing possibilities. In other words, it must be big enough to grab your attention. The more complex the problem, the more avenues of analysis are needed before conclusions can be drawn. It takes a level of motivation to pull all of this off.

To have a solution doesn't necessary do any good without some action. These abstract solutions are often narrowed to concrete solutions which are then viewed in terms of the counteracting contextual forces to determine the risks involved. Once the risks, solution, and nature of the problem are solidified an act can be forthcoming that puts the solution into motion. The success of that solution depends on the ability to move through the communication patterns and cognitive processes of stakeholders. 

Intelligence, sensibilities, and the environment all work together to encourage ethical actions. Even though each person has the ability to morally reason it is those with the highest intellectual abilities that can reflect on the possible outcomes and impact of their behaviors.  Those who cannot reason beyond themselves, have little motivation beyond their own needs, and are incapable of considering the consequences of their behavior are likely to be either indifferent to ethical violations within the workplace or the perpetrators and promoters of such behaviors.

Kholodnaya, M. (2007). The psychology of intelligence. Moscow: IPRAN Press.

Lopez, V. (2007). La inteligencia social: aportes desde su studio en ninos y adolescents con atlas capacidades congnitivas. Psykhe, 16 (2). 

Sternberg, R.J. (2008). The WICS approach to leadership: Stories of leadership and the structures and processes that support them. The Leadership Quarterly, 19(3), 360–371.

Sternberg, R. (2009).Ethics and giftedness. High Ability Studies, 20 (2). 

Tirri, K. (2009). Combining excellence and ethics: implications for moral education for the gifted. Roeper Review, 33 (1).

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Personal Definition of Leadership

The transformational leader who is passionate about distance learning has an opportunity to be a part of a societal change process.  America and the global community are going through a paradigm shift in regards to public perception of distance learning.  Alone, one person cannot initiate and coordinate a national or global societal change, but individually, a transformational leader can establish a vision, create a passion, and develop a leadership plan.  As I reflect on my own personal leadership plan in the field of distance education, a three-step approach was taken.  Self-reflection, honest feedback, and continual learning were the components that I used in designing my personal leadership plan.

Bennis, leadership author and guru, defined leadership as “the capacity to create a compelling vision and translate it into action and sustain it” (2003, p. 1).  Leadership can be learned.  If one has the desire to be a leader, one can be.  "Like John Kotter, Prof Bennis believes leadership is not necessarily an inborn skill and can be taught ... through personal coaching rather than group training" (Bennis, 2003, p. 1).  Throughout history leaders come to mind that were not born leaders, but learned it through their education, tenacity, and personal effort.  "Abraham Lincoln, Harry S. Truman, Sam Walton of Wal-Mart, and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant" were not born into leadership, but had undying purpose and vision to achieve their goals (Mohr, 2000, p. 76).

With everything, there is a beginning; the vision, passion, and plan must begin somewhere. Blanchard (1999) asserted, “If you don’t take time out to think, strategize, and prioritize, you will work a whole lot harder, without enjoying the benefits of a job smartly done” (p. 25). Considering Blanchard’s words, anyone who desires to be a leader should outline a plan to outline a plan with specific goals.  All one needs is the desire to be a leader.  In fact, no less an authority than Peter Drucker (2001) has placed personal energy at the very forefront of leadership qualities: "Your first and foremost job as a leader is to raise your own energy level and then to help raise and orchestrate the energies of those around you” (Cooper, 2001, para. 1).

Personal Leadership Philosophy

Leaders know themselves; they know what they can do well” (Bennis & Goldsmith, 2003, p. 81).  The transformational leader who has completed self-reflection and assessed one’s strengths and weaknesses should next ask people for constructive feedback.  Do not shy away from the good and bad feedback that you might receive.  Avoiding the pain of receiving negative feedback does nothing for your growth.  Be willing to look at your weakness with the potential to create behavioral changes.  Nothing feels better than taking a misstep and turning this into a success. 

Organizations are often hiring leadership coaches.  Typically an organizational leadership coach may work with newly promoted managers to help them be successful.  If one is not available within your organization, seek a professional leadership coach.  "With the help of leadership coaches, leaders gain perspective on the familiar while encountering alternative ways to view self and one's role as a leader" (MacPherson, 2009, p. 46).

Honest Feedback

In terms of being an effective leader, one must seek out honest feedback.  Seek a mentor.  Kelling, Barling, and Helleur (2000) conducted extensive research on the effect of training and constructive feedback on leaders.  "Results suggest that both training and feedback are effective means of changing leadership behaviors" (Kelling, Barling, & Helleur, 2000, p. 145).  After reviewing several leadership coaching websites, the need for feedback to the leader was stressed.  "Eight ways to get honest feedback", "Five proven tips to get honest feedback", and "Honest success" are examples of just a few of these websites.  Bozeman and Feeney (2007) defined mentoring as...

...a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protègè). (p. 719)

Continual Learning

Think outside the box, challenge all assumptions, and continually seek new information.  Reading new literature will not be enough, consider innovative changes that may be outside the norm of the organization.  Daniel Pink has looked into the future and considered what it will take to make change happen.  In his book, A Whole New Mind, Pink (2006) addressed six thought processes to generate innovative thinking.  Pink(2006) incorporated both the left and right brain by mastering the six human abilities of design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning.  Using these natural abilities can get you continually learning, planning, and changing.

Fundamental to my personal leadership philosophy are self-reflection, asking people whom one works with for constructive feedback, and continually seeking new information (Bennis & Goldsmith, 2003, pp. 81-82).  Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission” (Blanchard, 1999, p. 12).  Struggling with low self-esteem or constant negativity can hinder effective leadership.  Reevaluating the white water that exists in our world, challenge the false assumptions will enable you to overcome any self-doubt.  Norman Vincent Peale believed that one can look at each day in two different ways.  One’s day is either going to be good or bad, so why not look to the good there is in life and seek the positive (Blanchard, 1999).  As a leader, the most important earthly relationship you can cultivate is your relationship with yourself” (Blanchard, 1999, p. 152).


Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City during the tragedy of September 11, 2001, proposed there were three critical stages of leadership.  First, you must develop beliefs. Next, you have to communicate them. Finally, you must take action” (Giuliani, p. 80).  A plan will enable you to begin the journey to become a leader.  Having a guide to mentor you along the way is crucial to your success.  Leadership is not something you do to people. It’s something you do with people” (Blanchard, 1999, p. 140).

Author: Andree C. Swanson, EdD

Bennis, W. (2003, Aug 14). A leader on leadership: GURU GUIDE WARREN BENNIS: The prolific writer argues that trust and openness are key to success, says Morgen Witzel: Financial Times
 Retrieved from

Bennis, W., & Goldsmith, J. (2003). Learning to lead: A workbook on becoming a leader. Cambridge, MA: Basic Books.

Blanchard, K. (1999). The heart of a leader. Tulsa, OK: Honor Books.

Bozeman, B., & Feeney, M. K. (2007). Toward a useful theory of mentoring: A conceptual analysis and critique. Administrative and Society, 39(6),719 - 739.

Cooper, R. K (2001). Excelling under pressure: Increasing your energy for leadership and innovation in a world of stress, change and unprecedented opportunities. Strategy & Leadership, 29(4), 15-20. 
Retrieved from

Giuliani, R. (2002). Leadership. New York, NY: Hyperion.

Kelling, K., Barling, J., & Helleur, J. (2000). Enhancing transformational leadership: The role of training and feedback. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 21(3), 145-149. Retrieved from

MacPherson, M. (2009). Self-reflection: A primer for leadership coaches. T + D, 63(12), 46-49,6. Retrieved from

Mohr, B. (2000). Leadership - Genetic or learned? PM,76-78. Retrieved from

Pink, D. (2006). A whole new mind. New York, NY: Riverhead Publishing.