THOUGHTS ON ETHICS, ETHOS AND MILITARY LEADERSHIP.
Notwithstanding the continuum indicating that social, political and business change accelerates, the reality is regrettably that the breaching of military ethics is still extant. For example there have been commanders, who, when presented with a uniquely complex breach of regulations affecting multiple agencies, were reluctant to adjudicate the issue with the mandatory integrity expected. Whereas commanders should proceed by firmly standing on ethical grounds, their evident personal concern was the potential risk to career progression if they made a wrong move. Their deceptive practice was to simply find a convenient way to get rid of that threat, pass it on or delay and bypass the problem. That is unethical for they literally allowed themselves "permission" to unprofessionally undermine regulations. They have lost sight of a commander's special ethical obligation and descended into the moral morass of considering their personal needs to the detriment of their duty. It is instructive to remind them that the huge majority of members who sign up, still do so for the ideals that they anticipate will be epitomized by military service. They trust that the morale of a fighting force, from corporal through to the CDS, will be positive, encompassing ethics and guided by the values of our military ethos.
Competent military leaders understand that the character of war, such as the political realities, tactics, weapons, technology, etc., constantly changes. They also know that war's fundamental nature remains and its ever-changing character demands that leaders must constantly adapt while maintaining their ethical values. All members recognize the concept of an ethic of selfless service as opposed to an ethic of self-interest. Selfless service versus self interest is what differentiates us from civilian organizations. Nothing in the civilian sphere of influence compares with a soldier's obligation of unlimited liability. Military risk still requires members to respect a specific and unique sense of ethics, obligation and responsibility.
About 2500 years ago the great philosopher-warrior, Sun Tzu, authored The Art of War, appropriate even in our current era. His ethical view was that the art of war was governed by five constant factors including "moral law". In the 12th century the warrior knight's concept of chivalry developed into a system of ethical ideals as a standard of professional ethics. More recently General Dwight Eisenhower claimed "The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably ethics. Without it, no real success is possible." Thus over centuries, ethics and honesty held all leaders to the same standard and command at the lower level is as relevant as command at the higher level. In the current era, our command levels start with section commander, then platoon commander, company commander and so on up the chain of command. A commander's character defines who they are as an Individual whereas ethics will determine how they act.
Commanders must demonstrate both physical and ethical courage. If the observance of ethical judgment becomes highly difficult, the temptation to abandon the concept of ethical judgment may raise its ugly head. At times soldiers may have to follow their ethical obligation, notwithstanding their personal interests, but rather instead of them. They must accept that the obligation of duty, even sacrifice, is at the core of the arms profession. That entails the notion of a commanders free will versus the ethical relevance affecting their decision-making capacity. The military Is paternalistic and at times can even take away a soldier's need to think about moral principles. A line cannot be easily drawn between a reasoned adjustment to a personal conflict of interest versus Inadequate regulations.
Accordingly the military has a comprehensive guide on how members are expected to meet their moral and ethical standards and obligations. In essence it proposes that integrity means unconditional, dedicated allegiance to an ethical approach to fulfilling obligations while being accountable for and In control of one's deeds. To be a person of integrity requires honesty, avoiding duplicity and abiding by high moral standards. Integrity requires your deeds conform to institutional codes of conduct and values. It categorically demands transparency In deeds, speaking and acting with frank honesty, the pursuit of truth despite personal circumstances and a commitment to even-handed justice. Integrity must be singularly evident in leaders and subordinates".
Choice and judgment are at the centre of ethical acts. The CAF Code of Values and Ethics is a binding directive for all members. They are literally ordered to adhere to the highest ethical standards and demonstrate an ethical stance beyond reproach. It would be helpful if we understand that military ethics will become lax If consequential breaches are not enforced. There is always the expedient of running short refreshers on the subject. It is the values of our military that must continue to define membership and regulate their motives and deeds.
"You can't fool the troops."
Colonel M. Vaughan Langille OMM CD (ret'd) has been a Commanding Officer of his regiment, a District Commander, a Director of Reserves at NDHQ (Navy, Army, Air Force, Communications Reserve and the Canadian Rangers). His last appointment at NDHQ was National Liaison Officer for the Canadian Forces Liaison Council. He has been the Honorary Colonel of his regiment. In his civilian role, he contues to be a vice president of an international financial firm.
Caption: ABOVE RIGHT: Allied Supreme Commander, General Dwight Eisenhower understood the importance of ethics in military leadership. "Without it, no real success is possible" he once stated.
Caption: ABOVE: Volunteers who join the Canadian military expect the senior leadership to be ethical and moral.
Caption: RIGHT: It was more than 2500 years ago that Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu wrote about 'Moral Law' in his legendary book The Art of War.
Please Note: Illustration(s) are not available due to copyright restrictions.
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|Publication:||Esprit de Corps|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2020|
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