Ethical Leadership - The experience of JCU's 3rd IBD cohort

Ethics Current Events


Earlier this year Co CEO of HP, Mark Hurd, unexpectedly resigned after a sexual harassment investigation found he had a relationship with an HP contractor who received improper payments.   Later it was revealed that the probe found improper use of company expenses and that there were violations of the company’s policies.   Rather than firing Hurd, HP allowed him to resign and also receive more than $35 million when he had lied to the company.  What are the ethical messages being sent to the public, employees and shareholders of HP?  

The Shadow: Leaders have the choice to be seen in the light or shadow and many times they succumb to the shadow and this is how the public typically sees them.  The reasons for doing so are broad, ranging from being incompetent to evil.  Regardless of the reasons, the misuse of power sends a power message.   

Leadership Behavior:  A group’s success or failure is highly dependent on the behavior or its individual members.  Individual’s perusing their own agenda will ignore the goals of the group at the expense of the group.  When this failure occurs at the top of an organization it has an impact both in and outside the organization.  After Hurd’s resignation, HP’s stock dropped 7% as did employee confidence. 

Leaders acting ethically believe that they have a responsibility to act morally in their positions and set high ethical standards for followers.  These actions and standards allow ethical leaders to understand how others think, feel and anticipate the consequences of their choices.

Cyborg Beetles

The military has been looking into solutions to develop miniature robots that can fly inside caves and other rooms to provide real-time intelligence about what might be inside.  Up until now, the technology to make this happen has not been possible due to battery life.  Researchers at Berkley, M.I.T. and Cornell have come up with solutions to attach the equipment to insects, which are already incredibly energy-efficient.  Upon their research they can wireless control a giant beetle’s ability to start and stop flying, turn left or right and fly in rough circles.  The next step is to attach additional equipment to the beetle to gain greater control and accuracy of the beetle and eventually provide real-time information through microphones and video.  While this may provide new ways of gaining intelligence and other technological advances, what ethical issues arise from such actions and testing?

Ethical Deficiencies: While the end-goal of creating synthetic, tiny robots may have a positive effect, the means being used to achieve this are not being guided ethically.  Rather than focusing on testing and improving current technology, researchers are taking a shortcut to reach their result.  Although the testing is on insets, an ethical dilemma must be brought up in order to prevent testing on other forms of life up to, and including, humans.   

Evil as Sanctioned Destruction: The ethical dilemmas this testing presents reach further into the future than just remotely controlling insects.   While the military is looking at tiny robots as a solution to some of their intelligence needs, they should be setting ethical standards and guidelines on how this can be achieved.  Legislation is already in place to protect animals, but it was created over 40 years ago.  It may be time to re-visit certain laws and regulations to catch up with current technology and testing methods.