An often-neglected portion of education is leadership and ethics training. It's not usually enough to simply tell students to exercise good leadership skills and to be ethical; rather, students learn more effectively by discussing and applying these principles through independent and group activities. This sends the message home more effectively and allows them to develop their own style of leadership and ethics rather than just taking on yours from a top-down point of view.

Background

Open a leadership and ethics session with a discussion. This is a helpful activity to involve and engage the entire class. Start by asking students to define leadership and ethics and how the two terms are connected.

This is important because it highlights the subjective nature of these terms. By allowing the class to come to a consensus on what the terms mean, you can use their definition to move forward in the activity and get the students thinking about how subjective the terms are rather than just presenting the definitions yourself and moving on.

Leadership

Divide your students into groups. Have each group choose a leader and give them a task. The task should be clear and there should be clear criteria for success. The task should also be fairly simple, taking five to ten minutes so students can alternate as leader of the group.

The two teams will compete under their leaders to do the best job on the task at hand. By making it quick and giving everyone a chance to lead, you will allow the students to develop their own personal leadership style, which is the intangible key to leadership.

Ethics

Break your class into groups of three and give each group a stack of 3-by-5 index cards with an unethical situation written on it. For example, you may write, "You have found a bank error on your business's line of credit and you have been charged $10,000 less than you should have been."

One person in the group is the persuader, trying to convince another person (the decider) to make the unethical choice. The third person is the observer, who watches how the persuader persuades and the decider decides. After a few minutes, have the groups draw another card and switch roles.

This activity will teach the subjective nature of ethics, emphasizing through discussion that unethical behavior can be spun as ethical and vice versa.