ON LIBRARIES: Are You an Ethical Leader?

As librarians we are expected to follow the Library Bill of Rights and the ALA Code of Ethics. These are meant as a guide for fulfilling our duties., but they can be difficult, and not everyone upholds them consistently. Ethical is not necessarily easy.

Ethics are tied to a person’s core values.  Ask yourself, what do you stand for?  What is the line you won’t cross? Only you know the answers and no one ask that you reveal those answers, but it is important that you know and tell yourself the truth. If you honor your line, you are likely behaving ethically.  There is also the ethics of leadership. As a school librarian, having people see you as ethical in your dealings has a direct effect on your ability to lead. 

Yonason Goldson presents Six Questions to Ask to Find Out If You’re an Ethical Leader to help you determine just how ethically you are perceived, He makes it easier to remember them by offering the questions as the acronym ETHICS.

Empathy: what impact will my words and actions have on those around me?

Think before you speak.  It is more important than ever to consider what our listener will hear. This is an important issue when we discuss things such as implicit racism. We must ask: Will it be hurtful even if unintentional?

Work to be conscious of the interests and aspirations of others. We are often focused on our own challenges and can unintentionally overlook what our students, teachers, and administrators are dealing with. Being alert to unvoiced messages will make you better able to make honest connections.

Trustworthiness: do I trust others, and have I earned their trust?

Do you keep your word?  Do you keep confidences?  The answer to those are at the core of trustworthiness. You may have many reasons for not following through on something you said, but the message is that you didn’t keep your word. 

What about gossip? It’s easy to join in the fun by contributing, but as soon as you do, you run the risk of destroying the trust you were building, not only with the person whose confidence you violated but also that of others who, by your actions, know you are not safe to share something private with.

Humility: am I interested in what benefits my community or in what benefits my prestige and my ego?

It’s not about you.  It’s about the larger goal.  If you want to build relationships and be seen as an ethical leader, you need to put others in the spotlight. This doesn’t mean false humility. Saying, “It wasn’t anything much,” rings false and minimizes everyone’s accomplishment. Strong leaders take responsibility for what goes wrong and shares the praise with others when things succeed.

Inquisitiveness: do I want to know as much as I can, or do I want to look like I know it all?

When you are trying to look like you have it all together, you are likely faking it.  We are lifelong learners.  We need to be practicing that in our interchanges with others. Even students can teach you something you didn’t know.

All of us have strengths and weaknesses.  Know yours and look for those who can fill in the blanks for you. People love to feel they have contributed. By encouraging them to bring their strengths and talents, you create partners who trust you to lead well.

Courage: am I more afraid of looking wrong or of being wrong?

Either can cause you to not seek help.  This ties to Inquisitiveness.  Asking for help doesn’t make you weak.  It makes you strong.  And it creates relationships. Leaders need to take risks.  Risk-taking requires courage. You can mitigate the chance of errors by checking with others and asking for help.  And when you do succeed, remember your humility and praise others.

Self-discipline: what do I need to improve today so I can do my job better tomorrow?

It’s hard to look at what didn’t work, doing so allowed you to learn and not repeat it. Reflection helps you grow. Take stock of how you are living the other five questions. Which one(s) is/are difficult for you?  What do you need to do to improve it?

Your ethics matter in leadership, and others are watching you. Be the leader you would want to follow and soon others will see you as a leader they want to follow.