Notes from Peter Kostenbaum on Ethics

From Leadership: The Inner Side of Greatness

Ethics in leadership means mentoring.

Mentors are like loving parents who feel fully responsible for developing the independence of their children.

Each human being needs a vocation, a calling.

To be ethical is to understand that a life not devoted to superordinate goals is of little value.

It is to have feelings, as well as obligations, to establish a moral world order.

"Neither man nor nation can exist without a sublime idea."--Dostoevsky.

We have an ancient need to belong to something larger and more worthy than ourselves--something like a noble river that flows from a distant past and will endure far into the future.

It is amazing how many successful executives yearn for meaning. Life is an insatiable passion for aliveness, and that is not to be satisfied with the conservative search for security, even though security is an authentic value.

Ultimately, ethics in leadership means a sense of destiny--the desire for a legacy, interest in an immortality project. This is where greatness comes in, for one of its definitions is to stand up to death and evil.

Do not underestimate the power of love, perhaps the greatest human energy. Love means that you really care about people, whether you are a mother or a general. Love means making contact with another person; that is closeness, intimacy.

We all hunger for emotional safety--we appreciate the value of a support group. Seek out friends and allies. Ask freely for help and support.

When contact is with a soul we call it an encounter. An encounter involves heart and soul.

At this deepest level ethics is integrity, morality and principle. It means a commitment to the preservation of human dignity.

Integrity means a commitment to openness, truthfulness, transparency, which leads to trust.

To be human is to need intimacy, bondedness, connectedness. None of that can be achieved without openness.

Being ethical encourages the two touchstones of mental health, presence and contact --being fully present to yourself and others and being fully in contact with your feelings and those of other persons.

To have integrity and principles means to have made a choice to be civilized. Civilized behaviour exists only because free men and women have defined the nature of authentic human relationship by choosing ethical behaviour. If we neglect this, civilized behaviour disappears.

Integrity means nobility. Individual nobility is at the human core of leadership.

Ethics in leadership means your values give your character.

Only that which touches your integrity does any harm to you.

Ethics in leadership is the commitment to make others successful.

The authentic team is one where the individual counts and is respected, but is at the same time responsible for the success of the total venture.

In philosophy asking the right questions is often what matters. Answers can stop questions, and it is the latter that stimulate the mind to grow.