7. Ethical Leadership
You Don’t Need Leaders to Tell
People the Good News
Approximately 45 minutes (more, if the group is large)
You need leaders, according to Lee Iacocca, to tell people things they don’t want
to hear and then get them to do things they don’t want to do. This exercise requires
participants, working alone, to complete a comparison matrix. It then challenges
them to think of a difficult-to-swallow message derived from the matrix and to
strategize how that message can be made digestible.
To elicit thoughts regarding best ethical practices.
To develop awareness of the gap between the ideal and the real.
To outline a message that might close the ethical gap.
The exercise will work with any size group. Participants first work alone and then
make a short presentation to three others.
Flexible seating, if possible, so that participants can form small groups after
working alone on the first part of the exercise.
Handout 7.1, “Comparison Matrix”
1. Remind the group of management guru Tom Peters’s advice: “If you have
gone a whole week without being disobedient, you are not serving yourself or
your company well.” Discuss the possible meanings of “disobedient.”
2. Note that one possible meaning is to express dissatisfaction with the organiza-
tional status quo, in an effort to promote continuous improvement.
3. Distribute the handout and ask participants to fill it out. (Note: If you spot
some people struggling with the best practices for the first column, quietly
suggest they work with another person. Avoid possible embarrassment with a
comment such as, “That’s the part I had the most trouble with myself. I had to
call a colleague for help. Do you mind if I have you and _____ work together
4. Once the handout is complete, ask participants, still working alone, to outline
a brief “speech” they would make to their manager or other high-level
organizational leader. The speech would explain the need to remove a specific
barrier and would suggest ways the removal could be implemented. The
speech should last 5 minutes, at the very most.
5. Next, have participants form groups of four. Each person in the subgroup will
deliver his or her speech and will receive feedback from the others in the
6. Bring closure to the exercise by asking what it would take for these speeches
to actually be delivered.
This exercise could easily be adapted for:
Presentation programs (for which participants would actually deliver the
Leadership programs (for which participants would develop a proposal and
work to have it approved and then implemented)
Communications programs (for which participants would employ specific
persuasion tools, such as those described in the Points of Interest)
In what ways have you “defied” the status quo in recent months?
One definition of a “leader” is the person who takes others where they would
not have gone without him or her. To what places do people in your
organization need to “travel”?
How else could you use a gap analysis to effect improvement in your
“All that really matters is devotion to something bigger than ourselves.”
– Teilhard de Chardin