Leadesrhip and Ethics in Action
Preface: Why was this book written?
We obtain knowledge about events past from history. Anthropology and archeology inform us about our ancestors and we consider their thoughts and cultures through lenses of sociology, psychology, philosophy and theology. We learn science and are taught how to apply technologies.
Throughout life’s journey, experiences and fellow travelers offer knowledge that helps piece together and weave the tapestry of our wisdom. Yet, important ingredients might be missed, creating large gaps in the foundations of our knowledge. Leadership and ethics are two such ingredients that broaden and strengthen the structure of education.
Academic accreditation organizations are increasingly recognizing the need for broader education at core levels to support and supplement specialized skill-oriented courses. This trend is exemplified in the new criteria established by oversight organizations such as the Accreditation Body for Engineering and Technology.
After almost three decades in the business world, I started teaching at the university some fifteen years ago. I teach Leadership, Ethics, Financial Management and Entrepreneurship. This requires understanding and knowledge of management and the underlying motivation for action. I came to understand all actions as either purposeful or purposeless; and as either ethical or unethical.
The streams of creative teaching and learning in academia are influenced by two sets of forces that create significant currents. First, commercial interests of a handful of conglomerates dominate the business for textbooks. The web of curriculum committees, accreditation bodies and institutional regulations represents the second set of forces. Although both serve useful purposes, they also create waves that engulf and dissuade all but the most persistent innovators.
Notwithstanding such influences, teachers over the ages have dispensed with books that do not fit the needs of students, choosing instead reference reading supported by class handouts and examples from life. I did likewise. This required study and introspection, followed by writing about the nature of thoughts and actions and their causes and effects. Studies included ways in which individuals and organizations conceive, perform, evaluate and revise actions and what motivates them.
Extensive notes were developed, covering a wide range of subjects related to purposeful action. Over the years, copies found their way out of the classroom and traveled far and wide by word of mouth and through the Internet.
After several years of deflecting requests by students, colleagues and friends to transform the notes into a book, I finally acquiesced. That was seven years ago. After four years of diligent and persistent reading, writing and spirited class discussions, some eight hundred pages of manuscript were prepared. These writings included memories from childhood and experiences recollected from life.
Having compiled the manuscript, it was time to pause and reflect upon the writing from the distance of an objective reader. There was danger that the purpose for the study could become obscured by the force and conviction that was driving me to write. The only common thread in the voluminous writing was life. It seemed that no one in particular, other than everyone in general, would be interested in reading what was written.
To make a long story short, after much soul searching and encouragement from students the author took the editor�s pen in hand. The manuscript was reorganized to form the Trilogy of the Brook. Web essays from the manuscript were posted on the Internet at www.utc.edu/~thebrook more than two years ago.
Soon it became evident that these essays helped students and others who wished to learn about the purpose and meaning of life. Readers continued to press for a book that would help them understand the purpose of their lives and show them a way to pursue life purposefully. They convinced me that others would benefit by the book just as they had from the lectures, notes, essays and stories. As the notes and essays traveled though word of mouth between former students and friends and through the Internet, the mission of teaching leadership and ethics expanded beyond the classroom.
This created the burden of further intensive reading and introspection to meet the needs of an expanding audience. More reading led to more questions. The trail of questions drew me deeper into the forests of philosophical and spiritual contemplation. Objectivity nudged at the corners of my mind, reminding me of the purpose for launching the quest–to search for knowledge that could be imparted in a simple way–so that it could be easily understood, retained and applied.
Being accustomed to reading textbooks, students persisted in their request for a book that would explain and teach what they were receiving in notes, lectures and stories. I agreed. However, the battle between subjective feelings and objective reasoning continued through a year of sabbatical leave from teaching. The purpose for the leave was to organize and develop the structure for a textbook. It soon became clear that a Trilogy would be required to cover the envisioned scope of the work.
The first book of the Trilogy would be spiritual and philosophical in nature. This book would address life as the flow of actions and individuals as spirits on a human journey. After the simple metaphor of life as a journey in the river, this book was to be titled “The Brook.”
The second book was to be focused upon the application of purposeful action in the business world. This book was to form the heart of the courses taught. It also was to be the book for the broad reading public. The working title of this book was “Purposeful Action.”
The final book in the Trilogy was conceived as a collection of experiences of travelers in the Brook, not unlike Homer’s narration of the travels of Ulysses, albeit in modern settings. The working title for this book was “Navigators of the Whitewaters.” Since students needed most to learn about “Purposeful Action,” I decided to write this book first. However, this was easier resolved than accomplished. Despite attempts to write this book about the application of Purposeful Action, subjective introspection pulled with undeniable force to spiritual questions about the purpose and meaning of life. The currents generated by the subjective forces moved the writing towards Book I of the Trilogy. Soon the evolving manuscript begged the working title of “Spirit on a Human Journey.”
Students insisted that the book be written in the narrative style of my teaching. This made it all the more difficult to resist the currents that were drawing the characters in the story to deeper questions about the meaning of life and the purpose of action. The pendulum swung back. Objective reasoning and the pressing needs of students, pulled at the writing, attempting to draw it back to practical questions about management, leadership, success and fulfillment. However, such questions were short-lived as the deeper currents prevailed. These currents carried the book once more to “The Brook.”
The publishers hammered the final nail in the coffin of Purposeful Action,although only a brief period of incubation. They suggested that the manuscript be sharpened and focused on the purpose and meaning of life and the philosophy of the Brook. To do so, without making the book unreasonably lengthy, details about the application of purposeful action had to be sacrificed. This led to the launching of The Purpose and Meaning of Life: If I had known The textbook that had given birth to Purpose was yet to come.
The writing of the present book is a story of the rise of the phoenix. The ink had barely dried on the contract for publishing The Purpose and Meaning of Life: If I had known when the publishers called.
“Would this book be suitable for teaching leadership and ethics in college courses and seminars?” they asked.
The author answered, “No.”
We went through the history of transformation of the manuscript. It was agreed that “Purpose” closely resembled “Spirit” So, a textbook for teaching leadership and ethics would have to be more like “Purposeful Action,” with examples, lesson summaries and course outlines. Thus, a book like the original concept for “Purposeful Action” was needed to help teach leadership and ethics.
Discussions continued. Publishers and author concurred that that the textbook should explain the Framework for Purposeful Action and show in a straightforward and systematic way how it can be applied to management, leadership, entrepreneurship and business ethics. The publishers agreed that the philosophy of the Brook and the Framework for Purposeful Action would apply all aspects of life. Since the Framework for Purposeful Action applies equally to all action, in personal as well as professional life, the textbook could be used in personal development and motivational seminar and training programs as well.
Shortly thereafter, the publishers received and immediately accepted a proposal for Leadership and Ethics in Action: With the Framework for Purposeful Action.” The purpose for this book was formed!
After hearing this story from a clairvoyant observer beside their graves, Plato and Socrates would have spoken out. “We agree that youth will benefit from the wisdom that leads to purposeful action. Knowledge of the principles of leadership and of the foundation for ethical action guides us to rewarding lives–helping us contribute to society. With such knowledge we can act as leaders or as any other archetype we choose to emulate. More importantly, we can develop a deeper understanding of the way to apply ethics to every action in life.”
Leadership and Ethics in Action provides teachers a resource for guiding students in learning to understand life and to live purposefully. It provides the mortar to complete the structure of education–helping fill gaps in academic curricula and teachings and experiences outside the classroom.
“Leadership and Ethics in Action” may be used as a self-help book for personal growth. The many teachers outside the academic classroom may find it useful as a training manual, handbook or fieldbook for inspirational, motivational and personal development seminars and workshops.
Readers who acquire this book at an early stage in their journey may choose to retain it as a reference throughout their travels in the Brook.