Accession Number : ADA511023

Title :   Ethical Issues of Military Leadership

Descriptive Note : Journal article


Personal Author(s) : Johnson, Kermit D.

PDF Url : ADA511023

Report Date : 1974

Pagination or Media Count : 6

Abstract : I would like to emphasize four pressing ethical issues for leaders in the military establishment to consider. The first is the danger posed by the acceptance of various forms of "ethical relativism," or the blurring of right from wrong. It appears obvious that the erosion of a sense of right and wrong in favor of a "no-fault" society poses a threat to sound ethical judgments. A second ethical issue every military leader should face is what I call the "loyalty syndrome." This is the practice wherein questions of right or wrong are subordinated to the overriding value of loyalty to the boss. Loyalty, an admirable and necessary quality within limits, can become all-consuming. It also becomes dangerous when a genuine, wholesome loyalty to the boss degenerates into covering up for him, hiding things from him, or not differing with him when he is wrong. Concern about what might turn out to be an "embarrassing situation" leads into a third ethical trap on which we've been particularly hung-up for years in the Army, namely, the anxious worry over image. We frequently run scared; instead of acting upon what is right, we often hear: "You know, if we do this, it'll be embarrassing to the Army's image." Whereas with the loyalty syndrome people are reluctant to tell the truth, with the image syndrome they aren't even interested in it. What becomes important is how things are perceived, rather than how things really are. Thus, a dream world of image is created which is often different from the world of reality. A fourth ethical trouble spot in our military experience involves the drive for success. This is the masochistic whip by which, sometimes, we punish ourselves and by which we sometimes are beaten sadistically by others. In the Army, we must insure that the ambition of the professional soldier can move him along the path of career advancement only as he makes frequent azimuth checks with his ethical compass.


Subject Categories : Humanities and History
      Personnel Management and Labor Relations
      Military Forces and Organizations

Distribution Statement : APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE