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Rhodes alumnus promotes leadership ethics

Date Released: Wed, 27 November 2013 11:00 +0200

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation in-conjunction with Rhodes University officially launched the Allan Gray Centre For Leadership Ethics (AGCLE) in Cape Town recently.

Speaking at the launch, Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor, Dr Saleem Badat, said the establishment of the Centre has its roots in three factors. 

“First, the Rhodes University slogan is Where Leaders Learn. We say to our students that we look to them to lead, re-imagine and reshape our future, to conduct our affairs in an ethical manner, and ensure that people, human development and social justice are at the centre of all actions.

“We urge our students to exercise, with humility, leadership wherever they find themselves. We remind them that their knowledge and expertise must be put to work not only for their private benefit, but also for the benefit of society at large.

“A second factor is that a recipient of a Rhodes honorary doctorate challenged us a few years ago to take heed of the ‘emergence of a strange breed of leaders’, to be concerned about the extent to which we have an ‘accountable democracy,’ and suggested that ‘we have a duty to call to book the putative leaders who cannot lead.’

“A third and critical factor is that Allan Gray, a Rhodes University alumnus, great philanthropist, and the pioneering founder of the Allan Gray investment company, awarded Rhodes R 12.4 million to promote work in the area of leadership ethics,” said Dr Badat.

Prof Pedro Tabensky, Director of the Allan Gray Centre For Leadership Ethics said leadership is a very wide field and decisions had to be made regarding the direction of the AGCLE.

“I had to start with the basics: what do we mean by leadership and, relatedly, what concepts are implied by the idea of leadership?” he asked.

“One common enemy of most leadership initiatives is the pervasive authoritarian model of leadership. This is a fundamentally unethical modality of leadership primarily because it is dehumanizing.

“In short, the leadership movement, if we can call it that, is largely an ethical revolt against unethical leadership, exemplified by authoritarian models of leadership (and also by corrupt leadership),” added Prof Tabensky. 

Speaking about the direction in relation to a set of problems, he said, “teaching ethics to students outside of philosophy is not so much about teaching them to theorize about ethics, something expected of philosophy students”.

“It is rather about creating conditions for people to actually experience what could be described as a moral conversion, although in this case by "conversion" we should understand a relatively full  disclosure of what is already there, already present in all of us, except, perhaps, with the exception of sociopaths,” Prof Tabensky concluded.  

Unlike many leadership centres and institutes which are housed in business or management schools in South Africa and globally, the Allan Gray Centre For Leadership Ethics is located within the Department of Philosophy at Rhodes. It is a trans-disciplinary space and its guiding concerns are philosophical.

The purpose of the Centre is to imaginatively investigate and conceptualise what constitutes ethical and responsible leadership, to promote such leadership in diverse contexts, and to develop education and training programmes to foster such leadership.

It aims to be engaged in cutting edge research on effective ethical agency. Research at the Centre will be wide ranging from the very practical concern with how best to promote effective ethical agency to the deeply theoretical concerns with understanding the nature of ethical agency.

The Allan Gray Centre For Leadership Ethics will focus on how to promote the well-formed ethical mindsets of leaders, something desperately needed in the country and globally.

Photo: Prof Pedro Tabensky, Director of the Allan Gray Centre For Leadership Ethics

Dr Saleem Badat Allan Gray Centre for Leadership Ethics speech




Source:Communications and Marketing