Leadership involves ethics

It is important to recognise that leading is a moral endeavour. Leaders make decisions all the time based on some set of personal and professional beliefs which help determine what is good and appropriate. Leaders often decide what is best to include in a trip, where to camp, who should walk at the back of the group, when to have a rest, what to do if someone is injured, or how to resolve a group conflict issue. All of these involve ethical decisions, although some may be more important than others. Every leader needs to develop an ethical framework for decision making. To ignore ethics in leadership is to trust serendipity in place of careful consideration.

The basis for ethical thinking in outdoor leadership is recognition of what determines a good act. To do so leaders need to evolve a set of beliefs which become touchstones against which ethical judgements can be made. The process to determine what is ultimately good or right demands identification of the source of leadership morality. A complete discussion of this issue is beyond this chapter, but a few issues can be highlighted.

This chapter outlines some of the ethical strategies that philosophers have tended to use in helping determine appropriate action, via consideration of a common ethical dilemma, that of lighting a warming fire.