Posts Tagged ‘ethics’

An example of ubiquity and mass appeal in Facebook's French flag app after the November 13, 2015 terrorist attacksAfter the terrorist attack in Paris on November 13, 2015, Facebook immediately came out with an app that let its users superimpose the French flag over their profile pictures to ostensibly show solidarity with France and Paris. (more…)

Leaders Must Have Ethics and Morals - Strength Alone is Not EnoughIt seems to me that the term “leader” has now begun to ring hollow because it’s applied to anybody and everybody in the world who emerges in the top tier of the heap of any social, religious, academic, governmental, or organizational structure, regardless of how they got there.

The reality is that how they got to the top of the heap matters. A lot. Just because people end up in the top tier of any of these venues does not automatically mean they are leaders. Anymore, it often means just the opposite.


Because how people get to the top of the heap shows the kind of ethical-moral foundation they have. Or don’t have.

While we seem to routinely disconnect how people behave from their intellect, knowledge, and skills, we do ourselves a huge disservice when we don’t consider the whole person, especially when they’re begging us to unconditionally (which, by the way, is unquintessential leadership) follow them.

The presence or absence of an ethical-moral foundation in a person is directly proportional to whether they build trust and are trustworthy or they destroy trust and are not trustworthy.

The reality is that there is very little trust and trustworthiness in the world today. Time and again, most of us prove, often in what we believe are “little things,” that we cannot be trusted and we are not trustworthy. 

Little things,” it turns out, are symptomatic of big things and those big things show whether we have an ethical-moral foundation or not. How is this translated practically? In a word, character. Character embodies these elements: who we are, what we are, our motives, our attitudes, our thoughts, our words, and our actions.

If one or more of those elements doesn’t sync up with the rest, or what we claim to be, then we have a problem with our ethical-moral foundation and we are deficient in character.

There are certain external behaviors that reveal more than others whether we have an ethical-moral foundation. They are:

  1. A pattern of questionable and surreptitious actions that have built-in plausible deniability;
  2. A history of deflecting responsibility and/or changing the subject (avoiding the subject altogether) when confronted with substantiated actions and words;
  3. A prevailing sense of anger and outrage each time these kinds of actions and words occur and we are called on it;
  4. A history of twisting, spinning, angling, deception, and dishonesty that threads through our entire lives;
  5. An overarching pride and arrogance that literally oozes from our pores continually;
  6. An inability to ever admit we are wrong, we’ve done something wrong, and we need to make amends and change those wrongs in a demonstrable way.

I am very rarely completely on the same page as New York Times columnist David Brooks (I find him to be myopic, elitist, and without an objective view of the big picture most of the time, and that leads him to conclusions that are generally lopsided and not entirely accurate), but in his April 28, 2015 op-ed piece, “Goodness and Power,” Brooks nails the integrated relationship between quintessential leadership and an ethical-moral foundation.

Hillary Clinton Dishonest and UntrustworthyBrooks began the piece with the results of a Quinnipiac Poll that showed that 60% of independent voters rated Hillary Clinton as a strong leader. But 61% of those same voters said that Hillary Clinton is not honest and is not trustworthy (here’s the disconnect I referred to before between behavior and intellect, knowledge, and skills).

Then Brooks moves out to the long view that the real ability to lead is directly tied to honesty and trustworthiness by asking the right question: “Can you be a bad person but a strong leader?”

As those of us who are striving to be quintessential leaders know already, the answer is “no.” To paraphrase Brooks, putting “…someone with bad private morals [in a leadership position] is like setting off on a battleship with awesome guns and a rotting hull. There’s a good chance you’re going to sink before the voyage is over.”


As Brooks notes, people who have no ethical-moral foundation are Machiavellian in their behavior and the end always justifies the means, and in the end what we get is not leadership, but tyranny and despotism.

The lust for power and control is the driving force behind these unquintessential leaders. The dishonesty is that they obscure their real motives with platitudes that sound like they are selfless, sacrificing, giving, and doing this for the good of the people that they actually want power over and want to control.

And here’s the proof. They’ll talk a good talk until they get what they want, but there are always shadows of impropriety, of shadiness, of manipulation, and of deception hanging around them. Nobody trusts them, even if they manage to get a leadership position.

Once they do get a leadership position, these unquintessential leaders reveal their total lack of an ethical-moral foundation in everything they are, they say, and they do.

What does that look like in practice? As we strive to become quintessential leaders, we must be able to not only know what quintessential leadership looks like, but also what it doesn’t look like and we need to make sure we’re always monitoring ourselves to make sure we’re on the right path and haven’t veered off onto the wrong one.

When people without an ethical-moral foundation get into leadership positions, these are the tell-tale signs:

  • Tightened control over everything and everyone (it will be loose during their campaign to be in charge and promises of egalitarianism will abound)
  • A closed inner circle that is an existing network and that is severely limited with very specific criteria so that only those who are already in it can meet them
  • All-or-nothing demands for loyalty and allegiance
  • Big Brother Lack of Ethical-Moral FoundationConstrictive and restrictive rules and regulations
  • Continual threats of retribution and adverse actions if rules and regulations are believed to be broken
  • Constant assertion of authority and superiority to everyone else
  • Constant devaluing of others in attempts to promote and enhance their own value
  • Mistrust and suspicion of everyone else

Look around in your life and see if this looks familiar. It does in my life, because, unfortunately, this is the general tenor of the kind of people in leadership positions in every area of our lives.

It’s become acceptable to not have an ethical-moral foundation and be in a leadership position. Not only is it acceptable, but it is, indeed, preferred.

But as we strive to become quintessential leaders, we can’t just follow the crowd. We can’t use the excuse that everybody else is doing it. We can’t allow ourselves, even if it means we end up being the only person on the planet doing the right thing because we have and we hold on to the right foundation, to ever lose sight of what makes us quintessential leaders.

We are rare for a reason. But there are people, those whom we serve on every team in our lives, who count on the rarity of us having, continuing to fortify, and adhering to an unshakeable ethical-moral foundation.

How are we doing?






quintessential leadership practically applied book

Quintessential Leadership Practically Applied is now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats.

Quintessential leadership is not a theoretical concept. Instead, it is a practical and working application of character, principles, and experience with all the teams we lead in our lives.

These are not just the professional teams we lead, but the ones we lead in every other part of our lives as well. In short, quintessential leadership is who we are, what we are, and how we are. We are inseparable from it and it is inseparable from us.

This book is intended to, by giving concrete and everyday examples of practically applying quintessential leadership, be a starting point for you to discover other areas in your own lives and learn how to apply quintessential leadership to them.

Get your copy today!

football nfl penn state baltimore ravens unquintessential leadersDisclaimer:

I recognize that the same unquintessential leadership is rampant in almost all American collegiate and professional sports. Many of the same issues I discuss here exist in all the other sports, both at the college level and at the professional level.

However, football has taken center stage in the last several days, so the discussion here will be limited to that sport.

October 1, 2014 update to post:

PBS’s Frontline did a report entitled “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis,” which aired on September 30, 2014, with data that showed that 76 of 79 NFL players who have died had the degenerative neurological disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

That alone should make us as quintessential leaders consider whether supporting a sport that has become so violently aggressive, with conscious intent to harm, is consistent with our values, our ethics, our character, and who and what we are striving to be.

For me, it is totally incompatible with who I am, what I believe, and what, as a quintessential leader, strive to practice 24/7 in my life. Each of you must choose whether supporting this sport is compatible with who you are, what you believe, and what you say you are striving to practice as a quintessential leader.  

On Friday, September 5, 2014, after I read this article about the lawsuit by former NFL (National Football League) players against the NFL for compensation to offset the high cost of dementia care (directly related to multiple concussions and other head injuries suffered playing the game) in The Atlantic, I posted it and my analysis on Facebook:

New update on the legal action by players who’ve suffered traumatic brain injuries while playing for the NFL, and afterwards, have developed cognitive impairment and dementias.

Personally, I hold both parties accountable (although the NFL has, by big-money contracts and the play-no-matter-what-or-you-are-out mentality of the league, contributed to players risking their health and futures).

I don’t like football in its current incarnation (I really stopped watching it, for the most part, as a kid after Tom Landry and Roger Staubach left the game).

As with the increasingly-graphically-violent TV shows and movies that have been emerging over the last couple of decades, I simply cannot stomach the gleeful and massive infliction of pain on my fellow peeps who are playing, nor can I abide the unquenchable (I tend to think of a growling wolf who is feeding on its prey, with teeth bared and blood dripping out of its mouth as an analogy) desire the public has to watch it.

It’s a brutal sport even in K-12 and the coaches, across the board, don’t seem to care much about their players’ safety, health, or well-being. They seem to care only about winning.

Players, from an early age, are tested on their “toughness.” Practices with insane drills in heat in July and August (where dehydration and heat strokes are not uncommon, as are deaths), as well as hit-them-as-hard-you-can scrimmages are the norm.

Football bears a striking resemblance, IMVHO, to Roman gladiators fighting to the death when Rome ruled the known world.

The players have concussions before they ever get to the NFL, from junior high through college, so their NFL experiences just add to existing trauma.

But players also know what they’re signing up for along the way, so they bear responsibility for their choices, just as the NFL bears responsibility for care of those who’ve lined their extensive coffers with billions of dollars.

But you know who else bears responsibility? The public. If there was not a demand for this kind of violence – again, I draw parallels to the gladiators of Rome and the huge crowds of Roman citizens who reveled in watching the gruesome violence, with exhilaration and excitement proportionally upticked to the amount of blood, guts, and gore in the arena – and a genuine, it seems, delight in seeing other humans being harmed, and, in fact, a lot of screaming and shouting for just that outcome, this would be a non-issue.

There are no innocents here. Those who play, those who make a lot of money off of the players, and those who clamor for and watch the players are all culpable.

And, since I’m on my soapbox, that goes for all the violence in sports (boxing comes to mind). If there were not a market for it, money to be made, and a bloodthirsty public to be satisfied, it would not exist.

I’m an athlete so I’m not anti-sports, but when the point is not to play a game and play it cleanly and well, but to hurt, injure, or kill (yep, it’s happened) someone else, that’s not a sport.

And that’s unacceptable to me.

The majority of the responses were disappointing. It was clear that almost nobody read the article. The overall consensus was “We don’t care. The players knew what they were getting into, so they bear sole responsibility for whatever happened as a result. Plus, they make a ton of money, so they should anticipate these medical expenses down the road and save all their money for that. The NFL takes care of them while they’re under contract, so what more do they want? We love our football.”

While my analysis pointed to shared responsibility among the players, the NFL, and the fans, the responses ignored or denied any culpability except that on the part of the players.

One person responding compared professional football players to firefighters, saying that people who choose these professions know the risks involved, choose them anyway, and deserve nothing if something goes wrong.

That prompted me to ask if the emergency services personnel who responded to the 9/11/01 attacks at the Twin Towers (I lived in New York City at the time, about two miles away from the World Trade Center, and I watched the towers fall in person, so I wasn’t asking this as someone who wasn’t there and watched it on TV) and are now experiencing very serious – and, in some cases, life-threatening – illnesses directly related to their actions on that day in September, since they knew the risks involved when they choose their professions, should not have their medical costs now covered by New York City.

Nobody responded, because, of course the 9/11 emergency services personnel should have their medical costs covered for as long as they live, and so should these players who did fulfill their contractual obligation to the NFL (which did not take care of them while they were under contract because the NFL allowed the unchecked ever-increasing brutality and violence of the game and rushed players back onto the field after injuries, dumping them as soon as their bodies and minds were too irreparably broken to make the league the billions of dollars it pulls in each year).

Since then, two more significant stories involving the sport of football – one collegiate and one professional – are dominating the news.

joe paterno penn state unquintessential leaderjerry sandusky penn state unquintessential leaderThe NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) announced yesterday (Monday, September 8, 2014) that it was lifting the sanctions imposed against Penn State University in 2012 when the unquintessential leadership at every level in the university was revealed as well as its complete absence of integrity, morality, and principles in allowing Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky to, in the first case, wink at, and in the second case, be guilty of sexually abusing children over the course of decades.

As I discussed in “Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely” and in “The Tell-Tale Trait of Unquintessential Leadership: Allowing, Tolerating, and Committing Abuse,” the responsibility for a lack of quintessential leadership lies with everyone in a leadership responsibility at Penn State and other universities and colleges who turn a blind eye to the flagrant abandonment of morals, ethics, and integrity.

penn state joe paterno jerry sandusky administration ncaa unquintessential leadersIn 2012, the NCAA imposed sanctions on Penn State that I didn’t believe, at the time, went far enough (I would have permanently dismantled the whole athletic program and immediately fired everyone in positions of leadership at the university), exposing the unquintessential leadership that also existed on the board of the NCAA.

With yesterday’s amendment to the 2012 sanctions, reducing the time and severity of the original restrictions, the NCAA’s lack of quintessential leadership came to the surface again.

nfl unquintessential leadershipThe other example of unquintessential leadership that came back into the spotlight again yesterday happened in the NFL. This unquintessential leadership has existed all along (and it’s not just the unquintessential leadership of Roger Goodell, who has been notoriously inept at providing quintessential leadership as the commissioner of the NFL).

In late July of this year, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for two games after Rice was indicted on charges following a physical and violent assault in February of this year that rendered his fiancee Janay Palmer unconscious in an elevator in Atlantic City (Rice agreed to a plea bargain in ray rice baltimore ravens unquintessential leadershipMay on the indictment that consisted of community service and counseling).

Upon the announcement of such a weak punishment by Goodell and the NFL, in a sport that is increasingly seeing more violence (and murder, as in the case of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez) among its players off the field, a backlash calling for stiffer punishments – mainly from the press – ensued.

Goodell continued to defend the punishment for Rice for a few weeks. Then, in a supposedly-get-tough-position that did nothing but further highlight his unquintessential leadership, Goodell, on August 28, 2014, increased the punishment for violent behavior off-field to a six-game suspension.

roger goodell NFL commissioner unquintessential leader(It’s important to remember that we’re talking about felonious assault charges, which in the legal system, are punishable by up to a maximum of 25 years in prison.)

Then yesterday, supposedly after seeing the actual video of Rice assaulting Palmer for the first time, the Baltimore Ravens fired Ray Rice and Roger Goodell suspended him from playing in the NFL indefinitely.

The unquintessential leadership is all over this story. Until he had no other choice, Roger Goodell was more than willing – and in both this case and the case of Penn State, the one thing that matters above all else is money (I Timothy 6:10 comes immediately to mind) – to minimize, if not outright ignore, egregious wrong-doing, give a tap on the wrist to the offender, and make sure the coffers stayed full.

But, as quintessential leaders, we must all step back to the bigger picture and ask whether the parties I’ve given an outright fail to in terms of quintessential leadership are the only unquintessential leaders involved.

The answer is “No.” Every single person who makes the choice to support – by watching the games, in person or on TV, by buying team shirts, mugs, flags, etc., by buying the products advertised during the games – these teams (and, both in the NFL and the NCAA, these are just the ones who’ve been caught) is practicing unquintessential leadership.

When we – you and I, fellow quintessential leaders – anywhere in our lives compromise the core principles of quintessential leadership, we are practicing unquintessential leadership.

The overarching questions then emerge. What else are we willing to compromise on in our lives? And what example are we setting for all the teams in our lives?

Because when we practice unquintessential leadership anywhere in our lives, we are giving ourselves permission to compromise on everything and we’re telling all the teams in our lives that it is okay for them to practice unquintessential leadership as well.

Therefore, it should not surprise us when our teams do just that, because by our examples we’ve already said that kind of conduct and behavior is okay.

And we practice hypocrisy if we follow the “do as I say, not as I do” line of reasoning. All the words in the world will never be stronger than what actions we model by our choices and by our examples.

How are we doing?

As is usual when I’m writing about a person who’s involved in politics, I will continue to say first that I eschew and hate politics of any kind – governmental, organizational, personal – because politics, by its very nature and at its very core, is both corrupt and corrupting. Politics is self-serving, dishonest, manipulative, and driven by greed and a desire for power. This is universally true. There are no exceptions.

Politics and quintessential leadership are, therefore, incompatible.

This post is not about politics. Any feedback that tries to bring that subject into the discussion will be ignored with the upfront advice that the trolls and hijackers go somewhere else to spew and vent your venom.

This post is instead about a person in a leadership position who is at the crossroads of determining whether he will be a quintessential leader or not. It’s a place that all of us in leadership positions come to at some point, although, fortunately, most of us don’t have to go through the process on a national stage under the intense fishbowl scrutiny of 370,000,000 other people. (more…)

qualities-of-quintessential-leadersQualities of Quintessential Leaders is now available on Amazon and on The Quintessential Leader website (go to The Quintessential Leader home page, and click on the “Get 10% off eBooks purchases of $10 or more for a limited time only!” link and you’ll receive a 10% discount on all downloadable eBook orders of $10 or more)

My book description says it all:

“If you are reading this, you are in a leadership position for someone. 

Substitute the words “example,” “mentor,” or “role model,” “teacher,” “coach,” “parent,” “grandparent,” “aunt,” “uncle,” “friend,” and “neighbor,” in addition to the traditional functions associated with leadership positions for the word “leader,” and you’ll see we all fill leadership positions for the people around us.

How are we doing? Qualities of Quintessential Leaders will help us all to answer that question and to find out how to improve and change so that we pass quintessential leadership qualities on to all those whose lives intersect with ours.

What we do and how we do it will make a far greater impact than any words we can ever say. This book will help ensure that the footprint each of us leaves behind is one that is imitable.”

How you can purchase Qualities of Quintessential Leaders:

Paperback: Qualities of Quintessential Leaders (

Kindle: Qualities of Quintessential Leaders (

icon_best_value Qualities of Quintessential Leaders in The Quintessential Leader‘s online store as a downloadable PDF eBook (