Panel Focuses on Educating Ethical Leaders

A panel of professionals and scholars in education, speaking at Yale SOM’s Business + Society conference, discussed how educators can help produce ethical leaders.

Thomas A. Kolditz, director of the Leadership Development Program at Yale SOM, moderated the conversation, part of a three-day event marking the opening of Yale SOM's new campus, Edward P. Evans Hall.

“As a leader you have to articulate the things you prioritize. You have to send that message to the organization,” said Joel Klein, who leads the education division at News Corp. “If you stand for everything in the end, then you stand for nothing.” He added that leaders have to model the articulated values in their own behavior. If leaders talk about values without demonstrating them, “it's going to be irrelevant."

Jennifer C. Niles '98, founder and head of E.L. Haynes Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., said that teaching leadership to inner city students is a challenge because a large proportion of students don’t recognize they have a future. “I want them to assume that they can build institutions, change institutions, and take down institutions in order to make the world a more just place,” she said.

I think what turns people into ethical human that they learn to recognize the impact of their own behaviors on others.

Klein, the former chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, agreed. “For a lot of kids I met in the public schools in New York, they already  had lots of leadership skills. They just weren't sure the system was fair and open and would give them the shot. So they found very different outlets for their leadership skills.”

Peter Salovey, president of Yale University and Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology, said that the attributes of leadership are teachable.

“I think what turns people into ethical human beings—this comes out of the work with emotional intelligence—is that they learn to recognize the impact of their own behaviors on others. They learn to empathize and appreciate the emotions of another person. They learn to take the perspective of another person,” Salovey said.

Some of the activities that would help students develop a broader perspective have been the victim of budget cuts and an emphasis on standardized tests.

“What I hate to see in our schools is music, drama, teamwork sports—all those places where you can define success more broadly in terms of teamwork and leadership—getting pushed to the edges and I think we are suffering for it,“ said Ned Lamont ’80, founder and chairman of Lamont Digital Systems, Inc.

Niles said that she dreamed of all of her students getting the opportunity for international travel. “It is this idea of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and understanding the world from a different perspective. That's profound.”

Watch the discussion.