November 28, 2011

Leadership Limerick: More than Just the Letter of the Law

Every Monday, I offer a leadership limerick, highlighting an idea or strategy about effective leadership in limerick form. Searching for leadership limerick will identify previous posts.

For some the letter of the law is the test
But is that’s the standard that’s best?

What we value is the foundation of any rule
We should start there on our efforts to school

Or else no one will abide by the rest


The Penn State incident has once again brought to the forefront the potential differences between presumably meeting one's legal obligations and making principled ethical choices.  As a society, we obsess over enforcing rules without sufficiently inculcating people in the values upon which they are based.  Without doing the latter, rules can seem arbitrary and lead individuals to question why they should follow them.

Here's an everyday example.  The speed limit is not a law designed to aggravate you when you are running late for an appointment.  It is a rule embodying the value of human life and safety.  Think about that the next time you feel inconvenienced by the squad car on the side of the road aiming a radar gun at your car.  I doubt you get into your car thinking "Well if I have to kill someone in order to get to my meeting on time, so be it."

So the next time you find yourself in the role of the enforcer, it may be beneficial to focus your conversation not on the rule to be followed, but the value to be embraced and embodied in the choices individuals make.

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