The Ethical Mind

Business leadership has the created the image of unethical behavior. It has become evident that corporate scandals, massive layoffs, and inflated executive bonuses have tarnished the perception of corporate America. In order to change perception businesses need to mend relationships with their customers, employees, and other stakeholders. According to Howard Gardner, a Harvard University psychologist, individuals need to use a combination of their five minds. Those minds include the disciplined mind, the synthesizing mind, the creating mind, the respectful mind, and the ethical mind.

The five minds need to be cultivated if we are to thrive as individuals, members of a community, and as human beings (Gardner 2007). The discipline mind is what we gain through applying ourselves in a disciplined way in school. Over time we and with sufficient training we gain expertise in more than one field. We become technical experts in such fields as project management, accounting, music, and dentistry. To do anything well we need discipline (McLemore 2003).

The synthesizing mind helps us survey a wide range of sources, decide what is important and worth paying attention to, and weave this information together in a coherent fashion for oneself and others (Gardner 2007). In a world where people are flooded with information, the key is what to learn and what information to disregard. By knowing the contents of codes that apply directly to you will help you understand the deeper issues before others ((McLemore 2003). The creating mind casts about for new ideas and practices, innovates, takes chances, discovers.

While each of these minds has long been valuable, all of them are essential in an era when we are deluged by information and when anything that can be automated will be (Gardner 2007). The respectful mind is the kind of open mind that tries to understand and form relationships with other human beings. A person with a respectful mind enjoys being exposed to different types of people. While, not forgiving of all, they give the benefit of the doubt (Gardner 2007). This is especially important in today’s society with the diverse workforce.

Without having a respectful mind you are subjective to ethical dilemmas (McLemore 2003). The ethical mind broadens respect for others into something more abstract. It is about realizing your role and responsibilities, in a profession and as a citizen. With an ethical mind you need to be self aware. The ethics of a corporation can be threatening the environment of a business. When a company values money and success over all other priorities then individuals have the little incentive to be honest. Thus, creating the nice guys finish last mentality (McLemore 2003).

In an era when workers are overwhelmed by too much information and feel pressured to win at all costs it’s easy to lose one’s way. When employees are in an ethical dilemma they look to leaders for cues as to what’s appropriate and what’s not. If the leaders are not standing up to ethical pressures then their employees won’t either. In order to create an ethical environment you must believe that retaining an ethical compass is essential to the health of your organization. Then you must state your ethical beliefs and stick to them.

You should also test yourself rigorously to make sure you’re adhering to your values, take time to reflect on your beliefs, find multiple mentors who aren’t afraid to speak truth to your power, and confront others’ egregious behavior as soon as it arises. In the end, Gardner believes, the world hangs in the balance between right and wrong, good and bad, success and disaster. “You need to decide which side you’re on:” he concludes, “and do the right thing” (Gardner 2007).

References Gardner, H. (2007). The ethical mind. Harvard Business Review, 1, 1-7. McLemore, C. (2003). Street–smart ethics. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.