Can ethics or leadership be done alone?

Can ethics or leadership be done alone? I have thought a lot about this notion in the western world of the individual leader. As a CEO I struggled with the expectation that I needed to be ‘accomplished’ or effective at all aspects of the business. Of course, I had some people tell me that this was not so, yet the social consciousness places so much significance on the individual leader.

Leading an organisation takes a lot of skills. There are the domains of finance, operations, administration, strategy and governance. Then there are the meta-skill areas of emotional intelligence, discernment, decision making and consultation (amongst many more). The idea of one person being accomplished at all of these domains and possessing all of these skills is ludicrous, yet that is often what is expected.

Ethical leadership and ethical decision-making is another core skill of leadership, and equally it should not be assumed that one leader is accomplished at this. In my experience as a CEO, whenever we faced an ethical dilemma within our organisation or program the outcome would have been significantly jeopardized if I did not collaborate with others. I most often defaulted to collaboration rather consultation, because I believe it requires a whole lot more than simply seeking the opinions of others. On one occasion I recall consulting and making a decision, and reflected later that the decision would have been enhanced if we made the decision together.

Consultation and collaboration is challenging though. Read more