Ethical leadership has never been a more important subject as the world confronts the dire challenge of a global pandemic. From countries to communities, we have seen some leaders rise to meet the occasion, taking bold steps to mitigate the impact of the deadly virus and uniting people in the common cause of saving as many lives as possible, while others have stumbled badly, putting more people at risk and sowing division through indecision, incompetence, or even outright corruption. When the stakes are life-and-death, the character of a leader is placed in sharp relief. There is a particular urgency to revisit the idea of servant-leaders, whose primary motivation is serving others and advancing or protecting the interests of those they serve, rather than advancing their own careers or other personal interests. There is also a need to engage with the ethics of care and caregiving, as well as the general question of what we owe one another, from loved ones to strangers. These are all pressing ethical issues, along with questions about justice, the fair distribution of scarce resources, the balancing of harms and competing needs, conflicts of duty, and preserving human rights and human dignity. Ethics and ethical leadership must be at the heart of our collective effort to survive the current crisis and construct a promising future, for ourselves and future generations.
Dr. Kazuo Inamori, whose spirit of altruism inspires our work at the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence, said, “Human beings have no higher calling than to serve the greater good of humankind and society.” We believe this to be true. During the pandemic, all of our surviving former Inamori Ethics Prize recipients have stepped up and used their influence, insight, and gifts to meet this moment and “improve the condition of humankind,” and so have many others.
We are in awe of the courageous healthcare workers who have risked their own safety to aid and heal others. We honor the dedicated researchers who have turned all their energy towards finding effective treatments and developing a vaccine, the teachers who have adapted virtually overnight to virtual teaching, striving daily to keep their scattered students’ education on track, and everyone who has met the current crisis by reaching out with kindness and generosity, using their talents to make the world a better place. From artists to athletes, from journalists to judges, from lawyers to librarians, from first responders to first-time voters, we see countless reminders of the unquenchable human spirit and the power of positive, collective effort towards a common goal. There will always be voices of hate, but the voices of hope are louder and getting stronger every day. Despite social distancing, as a human family, we have never been closer.
Stay safe and well, everyone