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Power, Responsibility & Wisdom: Exploring the issues at the core of Ethical Decision-Making and ... - page 4 / 13





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The greater the level of a Responsibility-driven decision-making culture, the more effective and sustainable will be the consequences of that process; and the less regulation will be required to manage the inter-relationship between the various stakeholders. In contrast, more and more regulations will be needed in an attempt to regulate Power-driven cultures, where those regulations are designed, in theory, as an attempt to make the decision-making processes more accountable, and so encourage more responsible behaviour. If we all behaved more responsibly in our relationship with each other, there would be much less pressure for more and more regulation and legislation.

Rights and Responsibilities

In addition, it can be argued that it was a pity that there has been such an emphasis on ‘Rights’ during the twentieth century (The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Declaration of Human Rights, etc.), rather than emphasising a combination of Rights with Responsibilities. In almost all current ethical debates (as well as legal and other regulatory structures), the ultimate objective is to try to achieve the appropriate balance of Rights and Responsibilities. If individuals behaved more Responsibly and ethically towards each other, it would be much more likely that the net result would be a higher standard of ethical decision making overall. This is a classic case where the outcome and process are closely inter-linked.

In the context of the above comments, it is worth mentioning that probably 90% of violent behaviour arises because there is an imbalance, or discontinuity, between Power (self-focused), and our sense of Responsibility (others-focused), which leads to a breakdown in the ability to communicate effectively between those involved. This breakdown becomes even more acute, and problematic, if it is combined with an inability to undertake a constructive dialogue in the first place.

Leadership is nothing more than the ‘well informed, Responsible, use of Power’. The more the leadership related decisions are Responsibility-driven (ie, the more they are genuinely concerned with the wider interest), not only will they be better informed decisions, but the results are much more likely to be genuinely reflect the long term interests of all concerned, which also happens to be a sound foundation for improving their ethical quality.


In essence, the above leadership definition is exactly what could also be called ‘Wise Leadership’. In this context the concepts of leader, leading and leadership are used interchangeably, although it could be argued that leaders are individuals (including their intentions, beliefs, assumptions, etc.), while leading is their action actions in relation to others, and leadership is the whole system of individual and social relationships that result in efforts to create change/progress. However, the above definition, can be used to cover the integrated inter-relationship of those three dimensions.

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