What’s YOUR ethical leadership ANIMAL?

The animals associated with each approach are listed below. The “What’s YOUR ethical leadership ANIMAL?” quiz (link HERE) was designed to help you identify what you see as good or right in leadership, and life in general. We each use a combination of perspectives, however most of us lean towards a certain viewpoint. Since no approach is perfect we recommend combining approaches. This is called PLURALISM and can be very beneficial.


Olly the Otter (Character Approach). See below for more details…

Otter- Green Border 1

Hadley the Hawk (Code Approach). See below for more details…

Hawk- Red Border

Whitley the Wolf (Consequences Approach). See below for more details…

Wolf- Blue Border

Bailey the Bear (Care Approach). See below for more details…

Bear- Yellow Border

Elly the Elephant (Consult Approach). See below for more details…

Elephant- Grey Border

EGOISM approach. See below for more details…

Mirror- Dark Blue Border

See below for more information about each animal/approach…

 


Otter- Green Border 1

Olly the Otter’s CHARACTER approach. Approach Color: GREEN

Otters are known for being intelligent, sociable, adaptable and curious. You are curious about the various personal characteristics that make someone a good person. You are adaptable as you seek to exemplify theses traits. You are more interested in living in line with personal values than in set rules or the results of actions.

Main Consideration:

When deciding what’s right you tend to focus on the universal CHARACTER traits (e.g. kindness, honesty, fairness) that make someone a good otter/person.

Question:

Like Olly, you may ask yourself: “What kind of otter/person should I be?” You care deeply about which personal characteristics you exhibit in order to be the type of person you think you should be.

Strengths:

By asking: “What type of otter/person should we each be?” Olly helps us focus on developing our potential to become the best version of ourselves. Olly is adaptable and takes into account personal relationships and situational differences when deciding what traits to exhibit since not all situations are the same. Olly helps us consider our personal motivation for being the people we should be (e.g. kind, honest).

Challenges:

Olly doesn’t clarify which character traits are the most important or what to do when two of Olly’s important traits conflict. For example, Olly values both honesty and kindness. Olly sometimes feels stuck in situations where it’s hard to be directly honest without hurting someone’s feelings. Olly wonders: “.. should I be directly honest or say something that’s not completely true to protect their feelings?” Olly looks to friends’ approaches for help in these situations…

Theoretical Background:

Virtue Ethics (based on the wisdom of philosophers such as Aristotle, Elizabeth Anscombe and others).

Conclusion:

Olly the Otter represents a very important and respected approach (CHARACTER). However, no approach is perfect. To balance out the challenges above, Otter’s CHARACTER should be combined with other approaches like Hawk’s CODE and Wolf’s CONSEQUENCES. Combining approaches is called PLURALISM and can be very beneficial.

 


Hawk- Red Border

Hadley the Hawk’s CODE approach. Approach Color: RED

Hawks are known for their focus and for avoiding distractions. You focus on the consistent principles that should guide our actions.

Main Consideration:

When deciding what’s right you tend to stick to consistent principles or CODEs that you think should apply regardless of the situation or outcomes.

Question:

Like Hadley, you may ask yourself: “What if every hawk/person did this?” You believe in the importance of protecting other’s rights, especially individuals or small groups who might be left out by others.

Strengths:

Hadley helps us consider the intent of our actions (e.g. “what are we trying to do?”), not just what happens as a result. By asking: “How can we protect others’ rights?” Hadley helps us focus on not using others for what we, or our particular groups, want.

Challenges:

Hadley doesn’t clarify what to do when two important codes/principles conflict. For example, Hadley sometimes feels stuck in situations where some think it’s best to break a promise to meet one friend because another friend has a crisis that needs quick attention. Hadley wonders: “… which code/principle should guide this time?”. Hadley doesn’t like breaking promises (HAWK CODE) or ignoring a friend in crisis (also HAWK CODE) so Hadley looks to friends’ approaches for help in these situations…

Theoretical Background:

Deontological Ethics (based on the wisdom of philosopher Immanuel Kant and others).

Conclusion:

Hadley the Hawk represents a very important and respected approach (CODE). However, no approach is perfect. To balance out the challenges above, Hawk’s CODE should be combined with other approaches like Otter’s CHARACTER and Wolf’s CONSEQUENCES. Combining approaches is called PLURALISM and can be very beneficial.

 


Wolf- Blue Border

Whitley the Wolf’s CONSEQUENCES approach. Approach Color: BLUE

Wolves are known for their dedication to what’s best for the larger group (or pack) as well as their adaptability to changing circumstances. You calculate how to adjust your actions in order to create the best results for the greatest number. You go even further than the average wolf in order to consider the impact on society as a whole (not just yourself or your pack/group).

Main Consideration:

When deciding what’s right you tend to focus on getting good results or CONSEQUENCES that benefit as many as possible.

Question:

Like Whitley, you may ask yourself: “What will bring the best results and least harm for all affected?” You believe in the importance of calculating the impact BEYOND yourself and your pack (or “in-group”).

Strengths:

Whitley helps us consider the results of our actions (e.g. “who will this affect and how?”), regardless of what someone was trying to do (their intent). By asking: “What will the consequences be?” Whitley is all about impartial results.

Challenges:

Whitley can makes mistakes and doesn’t always accurately predict future results. Also, Whitley has been known to ignore individuals or smaller groups in order to help a larger group, since that brings “the greatest good for the greatest number”. Whitley doesn’t like guessing wrong or leaving out individuals or smaller groups so Whitley looks to friends’ approaches for help in these situations…

Theoretical Background:

Consequentialist Ethics (based on the wisdom of philosophers such as John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham).

Conclusion:

Whitley the Wolf represents a very important and respected approach (CONSEQUENCES). However, no approach is perfect. To balance out the challenges above, Wolf’s CONSEQUENCES should be combined with other approaches like Otter’s CHARACTER, Hawk’s CODE, and Bear’s CARE. Combining approaches is called PLURALISM and can be very beneficial.

 


Bear- Yellow Border

Bailey the Bear’s CARE approach. Approach Color: YELLOW

Bears are known for being nurturing and protective. You care deeply about treating others well.

Main Consideration:

When deciding what’s right you tend to focus on treating others as you would like to be treated, you CARE enough to put yourself in other’s shoes (or paws).

Question:

Like Bailey you may ask yourself: “How can I treat others as I’d like to be treated?” You believe in the importance of trying to see things through someone else’s viewpoint.

Strengths:

Bailey helps us focus on empathizing with and caring for others. Bailey also helps us to practice self-restraint because Bailey’s CARE approach helps us to turn the other cheek if someone hurts us.

Challenges:

Bailey can make mistakes and doesn’t always accurately predict how others would like to be treated. Also, Bailey cares so much about those who act irresponsibly that Bailey doesn’t always hold them accountable for their bad behavior (Bailey often wouldn’t want to be held accountable if the roles were reversed). Bailey doesn’t like guessing wrong or ignoring justice so Bailey looks to friends’ approaches for help in these situations…

Theoretical Background:

Golden Rule or Care-based Ethics (based on the wisdom of Carol Gilligan, Confucius and others).

Conclusion:

Bailey the Bear represents a very important and respected approach (CARE). However, no approach is perfect. To balance out the challenges above, Bear’s CARE should be combined with other approaches like Wolf’s CONSEQUENCES. Combining approaches is called PLURALISM and can be very beneficial.

 


Elephant- Grey Border

Elly the Elephant’s CONSULT approach. Approach Color: GREY

Elephants are known for being intelligent and having a great memory. They also look out for one another. You value consulting with others to come to the best possible solution.

Main Consideration:

When deciding what’s right you tend to focus on CONSULTing with others to get diverse perspectives in order to avoid harmful biases.

Question:

Like Elly you may ask yourself: “Who will help me consider diverse perspectives?” You believe in recognizing and challenging your own biases.

Strengths:

Elly reminds us to consult with others who are trustworthy. By understanding that we are all biased in some way and focusing on different viewpoints, Elly helps us see things from different angles.

Challenges:

Elly doesn’t clarify who we should consult or how many others we should consult. One time Elly consulted with someone who had their own biases and this led Elly down the wrong path. Another time Elly consulted with a few different friends who each suggested a different path.That made things a bit more confusing for Elly.

Theoretical Background:

Behavioral Ethics, Behavioral Economics and the Psychology of Decision Making (based on the wisdom of Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman and others).

Conclusion:

Elly the Elephant represents a very important and respected approach (CONSULT). However, no approach is perfect. To balance out the challenges above, the Elephant CONSULTant approach should be used in combination with other approaches like Bear’s CARE. Combining approaches is called PLURALISM and can be very beneficial.

 


Mirror- Dark Blue Border

EGOISM approach, represented by a mirror.

Main Consideration:

When deciding what’s right you tend to focus on an EGOISM approach that is most concerned with how things affect you.

Question:

You may ask yourself, represented by the mirror: “How will this benefit me?” You believe in the importance of doing what you want.

Strengths:

Egoism can remind us that we do have some responsibility to look out for ourselves and we may know what will benefit us better than others will. We may need to stand up for ourselves or even protect our own lives sometimes.

Challenges:

Egoism seems to support doing some terrible things (e.g. cheating, stealing) as long as they benefit the self. Also, why is one of us any more important than others of us? Don’t we all have the capacity to experience happiness as well as suffering? Egoism doesn’t provide solutions for conflicts between people so we must look to other approaches for help…

Theoretical Background:

A criticized philosophy called Ethical Egoism.

Conclusion:

EGOISM is NOT a highly respect approach. It can be seen as a type of CONSEQUENCES approach that only focuses on results for the self. It has some important lessons (see above), but to be ethical we must look beyond ourselves and consider other approaches like Otter’s CHARACTER, Hawk’s CODE, Wolf’s CONSEQUENCES, and Bear’s CARE.

 


Overall Conclusion: The first 5 animals represent very respected approaches from moral philosophy. We recommend combining the approaches of these 5 animals to balance out their strengths and weaknesses. For some tips on how to do this, please see this page.

For George Mason University community members who would like to learn more, the Leadership Education and Development Office (LEAD) offers workshops and other programs on ethics and leadership topics. The workshop that directly addresses the ethics and leadership topics discussed above is called: “What Would You Do? Making Tough Ethical Choices”. Please see our general page at lead.gmu.edu or our workshop request page HERE