Ascertain and Articulate the Ethical Viewpoints and Decisions of Others
OL 7102, Assignment 8
DuBose, Justin Z.
Dr. Robert Schultz
1 September 2019
Models for Ethical Decision-Making
Ethical decision-making is one of the most important skills for organizational leaders to possess, and one of the most important processes with which they can be familiar (Johnson, 2013). Johnson (2013) notes three ethical decision-making models for leaders: Kidder’s Ethical Checkpoints, the SAD Formula, and Nash’s 12 Questions. While these models are different, they contain important similarities that are important as they demonstrate the common factors of ethical decision-making. We will consider each of these models before examining the common factors they share.
Kidder’s Ethical Checkpoints consist of nine “checkpoints” for leaders to think through as they encounter and think through an ethical dilemma. He defines those checkpoints as: recognizing the problem, determining the actor, gathering relevant facts, testing for right-versus-wrong issues, testing for right-versus-right values, applying the ethical standards and perspectives, looking for a third way, making the decision, and revisiting and reflecting on the decision. These will be discussed in greater detail after considering the other two ethical decision-making models.
The SAD Formula is another methodology to consider and weigh ethical decisions by a leader. The aim of the SAD Formula is to align critical thinking with moral reasoning during the ethical decision-making process. The SAD Formula is broken down into three stages: situation definition, analysis of the situation, and the decision. The first stage, situation definition, is simply thinking through and defining the situation. This process leads to the distilling down of the situation into a concise question which defines the ethical dilemma and leads into the most detailed stage, the analysis of the situation. Analyzing the situation consists of several sub-stages. These sub-stages include the evaluation of values and principles, considering external factors, moral duties or loyalties present, considering moral theories. Once this analysis is complete, a decision is made based upon the analysis of each of these factors. The decision answers the question formulated during the situation definition phase and is answered by the analysis of the second phase.
Nash’s 12 Questions lists twelve questions for leaders to consider during the ethical decision-making process. The questions are:
These three models all aim at the same target of getting leaders to think carefully through the ethical decisions they have to make, the scope and impact of their decision, and the people involved in the process. Each of these models is designed to achieve the outcome of the best possible ethical decision for the leader, the organization as a whole, and the people within the organization. However, each of these models also seem to be highly abstract and weak on the important aspect of implementation. Each model is designed to get the leader to think but none seem to emphasize the doing aspect of ethical decision-making. This, of course, is the most important element of ethical decision-making and seems to be largely neglected by each model. Perhaps the assumption is that once the leader thinks successfully through the problems then the implementation will be built into the solution. However, the bridge from theoretical to practical is long and difficult.
Each of these models is also quite long and cumbersome. The SAD Formula is the most concise of the three models, but when the sub-stages are included, this three-step formula becomes as involved as nine checkpoints or twelve questions. Again, this is good at helping someone think through a serious problem, but what if there is not enough time to walk through each question or checkpoint? Some serious ethical decisions (such as those made in combat or emergency situations) require a quick decision by the leader, and to go through these models would present an ethical dilemma in itself due to the potential damage caused by failing to make a quick decision.
As an Army chaplain, much has been written about the issue of ethical decision-making, given the role of the chaplain within the larger context of the armed forces. The military is a profession of arms and, thus, those employed are servicemen and women who take up arms in service of their country. However, not all employed in this profession of arms are combatants. The role of the Chaplain is paradoxical in that, though they are employed by the military, they serve exclusively as non-combatants. Section 3-1f of AR 165-1 states that, “Chaplains will not bear arms in combat or in unit combat skills training. Chaplains function as protected personnel under the Geneva Convention and are noncombatants as a matter of Army policy (see FM 27–10)” (Headquarters, 2015). This policy is reinforced in section 1-25 of FM 1-05 when it says, “At no time shall chaplains compromise their noncombatant status provided to them by the Law of War” (Headquarters, 2012). At no point in their service to both God and country do they take up arms either with their fellow service members or against any enemy. Thus, chaplains are often at an interesting point of ethical decision-making serving as non-combatant in the midst of combat and alongside many combatants.
Michael Walzer, in his article “The Triumph of Just War Theory (and the Dangers of Success) addresses this issue of ethical-decision-making for the chaplain (Walzer, 2002). Just War Theory, he notes, has been examined and employed in every war since the founding of our nation, and continues to be so presently. Walzer notes the practical reason supporting this fact when he writes that the Just War Theory “made war possible in a world where war was, sometimes, necessary” (Walzer, 2002, pg. 930). The ugly reality and necessity of war will always clash with the ideals and virtues of peace and forgiveness, and thus the uniquely ethical and theological voice of the chaplain will always be relevant and necessary to Commander and Soldier.
Walzer further notes that in the profession of arms, the chaplain’s voice becomes most impactful in the area of ethical decision-making. Their role as an advisor to the Commander on such issues profoundly shapes the ethical standard set by the Commander, which directly impacts decision-making. In modern military doctrine, he points to the fact that the chaplain is tied to the organizational leader as the champion of an objective ethical standard which is to be maintained by those within the organization. Specifically, the chaplain is even directed to be the ethical standard-bearer for the organization and is responsible for building and maintaining an ethical climate.
Walzer concludes by noting that the realities of war will be forever present in a profession of arms and, since those realities exist, the demand for theological thinking and ethical decision-making will persist. As nations continue to war, they will continue to employ and train Soldiers to be their warriors. As these warriors valiantly perform their duties, it is imperative that the chaplain provide not only a clear theological voice for the individual, but an equally clear ethical voice and presence which impacts the Commander and the decision that he or she must make. Thus, the role of chaplain in clarifying ethical decision-making within the organization is and will continue to be imperative.
The ethical decision-making of the chaplain – specifically in their role as non-combatants in the profession of arms presents several consequences related to ethics. One consequence of the non-combatant role of the chaplain is that it places them in a unique role to advise on ethical and spiritual issues which affect psychological, emotional, and mental capabilities, and which can often be more important than physical issues. Every Soldier seeks to maximize their unique contribution to the mission, and the chaplain’s most valuable contribution is often as pastor and spiritual advisor. The importance of this distinct contribution is often overlooked. In dealing with “moral injury”, one author points out that “there may also be wounds affecting the ‘soul’ that are far more difﬁcult to heal—if at all” (Seddon, 2011). These “soul wounds” are in desperate and immediate need of care, and the presence and ministry of the Chaplain as a non-combatant preserves and maximizes this contribution. The ethical decision-making challenges related to such scenarios is often encountered when these problems are presented to leadership whose primary concern is almost always physical rather than emotional, spiritual, or psychological. The chaplain must seriously think through the decision-making process in presenting such a need to a Commander as not only are they often the only person considering such needs, but also the only one presenting such needs to individuals in positions of leadership, authority, or responsibility.
Similarly, another ethical consequence of chaplain as non-combatant provides a platform to contribute to the mission of the unit as a religious advisor. As a non-combatant, the chaplain can function as not only a religious advisor to the Commander, but it also legitimizes his role as religious liaison in the outside community. When required, the chaplain can interact with the local religious leaders and personnel on a level of trust which the non-combatant status upholds. This particular function far outdates the United States Army. “Biblical records show that the Israelites took their religious advisors into battle with them; the same was true for the Romans” (Otis, 2009). This contribution is so integral to the non-combatant role of the chaplain that it is codified in various Army Regulations. For example, Paragraph 9-10c and 9-11 in AR 165-1 specifically outlines one of the roles of the chaplain as the advisor to the Commander in such matters (Headquarters, 2015). This key role and unique contribution of the chaplain is effective because of their noncombatant status and, to remove such a status, would greatly diminish their value.
One poignant example which perfectly encapsulates these sentiments comes from a television episode where a chaplain saves the lives of two men by jumping onto a grenade that had been tossed into their bunker. While one man interprets those actions as foolish, the other replies, “He’s not a fool, he’s a Chaplain!” Such emotions and sentiments have been stirred as a direct result of this chaplain’s heroism and compassion, which are only magnified in light of his status as a non-combatant going to war with his Soldiers. While the status of chaplains as non-combatants upholds this glorious reputation and permits them to have an indelible impact on our Soldiers, it also often places them in the midst of ethical crises, confusion, and chaos which make the ethical decision-making process one which they must be both intimately familiar and comfortable.
Steps in Ethical Decision-Making
Both in the case of military chaplains specifically and organizational leaders generally, ethical decision-making is imperative and certain steps must be carefully considered and taken. Johnson (2013) noted several models for ethical decision-making, but the SAD Formula is the most concise and easy to implement without losing effectiveness. The entire formula consists of three steps: defining the situation, assessing the situation, and coming to a decision. These three steps can be expanded as needed in a variety of situations, but these basic steps must be taken in order to reach a good, thoughtful ethical decision.
The first step of defining the situation is obviously imperative as a clear decision cannot be reached without first defining the problem needing to be solved. Organizational leaders must take time – whether intuitively or more mechanically – to think through and define the problem. In many cases, what often appears to be the problem initially may be simply be a symptom of the underlying problem needing to be addressed. This diagnosis, however, will not be reached without the thoughtful and deliberate consideration of defining the problem. Once the problem is clearly and accurately defined, the hard work of analyzing the problem begins. This is likely the most important step as analyzing will lead to clarity in helping the leader reach the best possible solution to remove the problem.
Singh (2011) importantly noted that organizational leaders must not only talk about ethics, but they must model them and make them work for both the organization and its members. This process of analysis is crucial to help leaders best discover how to make ethics and ethical decisions work for those within their organization. Analysis may consist of several sub-stages (such as considering external factors and the morals/principles at play), or the process may be less strictly defined and structured (Johnson, 2013). Regardless of the means of analysis undertaken by the leader, this important step of analyzing the situation is crucial. Successful analysis may not only solve the immediate ethical situation, but it may also establish precedent for future ethical situations or uncover patterns which may need to be addressed by the leader. Regardless of the severity of the incident or the scope of the situation, ethical leaders must analyze their situation to achieve ethical outcomes.
Finally, a decision must be reached and implemented by the leader. Once the situation is clearly defined and properly and thoroughly analyzed, the decision may be evident or it may require deeper consideration by the leader. As mentioned earlier, however, the ethical decision-making process must not simply be a mental exercise for the leader. Rather, the focus must be on implementation of the decision by the leader. Therefore, in reaching a decision, leaders must always consider the implementation of their decision across the organization. Leaders must make sure that their decision is clear and that the means by which the decision is to be implemented at the individual level is also clear. If these simple steps are taken, leaders are more likely to achieve the desired ethical outcomes – both in their thinking process as well as in their implementation.
Johnson (2013) noted a particular case study which is both current as well as interesting to evaluate from a number of ethical perspectives. Johnson (2013) noted the case of United States Army Private Bradley Manning and his leaking of national security information to WikiLeaks. Manning’s stated goal, as Johnson (2013) noted, was to spark a debate about national security, particularly in regard to foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan. How do leaders from various ethical perspectives view and consider the actions of Private Bradley Manning?
Caldwell (2011) identifies ten ethical frameworks in which leaders typically operate: distributive justice, contributing liberty, self-interest, personal virtues, religious injunctions, governmental requirements, utilitarian benefits, universal rules, individual rights, and economic efficiency. Leaders in each of these frameworks have a different lens through which they might view the actions of Private Bradley Manning and reach a decision about how to deal with him in the aftermath of his actions. Leaders operating through a framework of distributive justice value preserving the rights of individuals and may side with Manning on account of his individual rights. Leaders operating through a framework of contributing liberty value what is best for society as a whole and could either side with Manning on account of transparency for the good of society or with the government on account of society being harmed by his actions. Leaders operating through a framework of self-interest value what is best for them and, if in positions of power in the government, would side against Manning due to the adverse impact of his actions against their interests. Leaders operating through a framework of personal virtues value what is best for a “good” society and could side ethically either with or against Manning depending upon what is seen as good. Leaders operating through a framework of religious injunctions value kindness and compassion and may either be compassionate toward Manning or toward American culture and society. Leaders operating through a framework of government requirements value laws and legal requirements and would clearly side with the government due to Manning’s breaking of laws. Leaders operating through a framework of utilitarian benefits value the greater good for society and would likely side with the government due to the harm caused by his actions to society. Leaders operating through a framework of universal values value the individual and the equal treatment of all people and could view Manning as either a hero or a villain depending on their perspective. Leaders operating through a framework of individual rights value the rights of the individual and would likely be sympathetic toward Manning and his rights as an American citizen. Lastly, leaders operating through a framework of economic efficiency value wealth creation for society and would likely be indifferent toward his actions from an ethical perspective.
Ethical decision-making by organizational leaders clearly carries massive implications. Leaders must carefully weigh their decisions, particularly in regard to the ethical standards and climate they set by their decisions. The weight of their decisions is so impactful and so far-reaching, that some researchers have even called for a global moral code to be established to be followed by all leaders (Jurkiewicz, 2012). Given the potential consequences of these ethical decisions, leaders must deliberately and thoughtfully think through their own ethical decision-making process and framework. However, while such processes are helpful to thinking through ethical decisions, careful thought must also be given to the implementation of ethical decisions. Members of the organization must not only know the standards for ethics, but also the practical ways in which they are to abide by the ethical code and decisions of their leaders.
Caldwell, C. (2011). Duties Owed to Organizational Citizens – Ethical Insights for Today’s Leader. Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 102, 343–356. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
Headquarters, Department of the Army. AR 165-1: Army Chaplain Corps Activities. Washington, D.C, 2015.
Headquarters, Department of the Army. FM 1-05: Religious Support. Washington, D.C, 2012.
Johnson, C. E. (2013). Meeting the ethical challenges of leadership: Casting light or shadow (5th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE
Jurkiewicz, C.L. (2012). Developing a Multicultural Organizational Code of Ethics Rooted in the Moral Obligations of Citizenry. Public Organizational Review, Vol 12, 243–249. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
Otis, P. (2009). An Overview of the U.S. Military Chaplaincy: A Ministry of Presence and Practice. Review of Faith & International Affairs 7(4). Retrieved September 1, 2019.
Seddon, R.L., Jones, E., & Greenberg, N. (2011). The Role of Chaplains in Maintaining the Psychological Health of Military Personnel: An Historical and Contemporary Perspective. Military Medicine, Vol. 176. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
Singh, K. (2011). Developing Ethics at the Workplace through Transformational Leadership: A Study of Business Organizations in India. Journal of Knowledge Globalization, 4(2), 31- 57. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
Walzer, M. (2002). The Triumph of Just War Theory (and the Dangers of Success). Social Research, 69(4), 925-944. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
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