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Skidmore College
Leadership Activities 

Leadership Development: Social Justice and Ethical Leadership

One of the most important venues through which students can engage with issues of ethics in public life is the vast array of student clubs. College is full of living laboratories in which leadership skills are gained and honed. They give students an opportunity to pursue their interests, to succeed, to fail and most importantly, to grow.

Five Ethical Leadership Principles

  • Respect autonomy: It is assumed that individuals have the right to decide how they live their lives, as long as their actions do not interfere with the welfare of others. One therefore has the right to act as a free agent and has the freedom of thought and choice.
  • Do no harm: The obligation to avoid inflicting either physical or psychological harm on others and to avoid actions that risk harming others may be a primary ethical principle especially in helping professions.
  • Benefit others: There is an obligation to improve and enhance the welfare of others, even where such enhancements may inconvenience or limit the freedom of the person offering assistance. Helping professions presume the welfare of the consumer is primary when other considerations are equal.
  • Be just: To be just in dealing with others assumes equal treatment of all, to afford each individual their due portion, to be fair. It presumes reciprocity, impartiality and equality.
  • Be faithful: One should keep promises, tell the truth, be loyal and maintain respect and civility in human discourse. Only insofar as we sustain faithfulness can we expect to be seen as being trustworthy.

Sources: "Ethical principles and decisions in student affairs," by Karen S. Kitchner (from Applied Ethics in Student Services).