Free webinar series: Leadership and ethics in a time of crisis

Access a series of free online forums from the IDEA Centre, exploring the ethical implications of leadership during crisis.

Leadership, Trust and Responsibility in Times of Stress

In the first of our series of webinars on leadership and ethics in the time of coronavirus, Charlie Dawson (founder and CEO, the Foundation) and Dr Jamie Dow (lecturer in applied ethics) discussed how organisational leaders can promote and win trust, and show themselves to be trustworthy, in the current situation.

The conversation was lively and went to some quite deep places. For example, what is the relationship between trust, trustworthiness and evidence? Should you be trying to provide evidence for the claims you are making, or for your own trustworthiness?

Is it even possible to do this when there is so much uncertainty around? And, given the uncertainty, to what extent should leaders be willing to admit their own ignorance when people are looking for reassurance and understanding?

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Leadership in Crisis

Tracey Groves and Josh Hobbs talked with experience and insight about what leaders need to be and do in order to lead effectively in the context of the pandemic.

The discussion was both philosophical (to what extent should we expect character traits to be stable across different situations?) and practical (what steps can leaders take to demonstrate that they are considering the ethical issues in the decisions they are making?).

Overall, the sense was perhaps that, while the current situation is clearly hugely challenging for leaders, there are some general approaches that any leader can take which will help them not only to get it right but also to be seen to be getting it right.

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Moving fast and building things - how to lead a complex organisation remotely

A lot of the value from our leadership webinars has come from being able to reflect on personal experience in a philosophical way. This interplay between the personal and the philosophical was more to the fore than ever in this webinar, which featured Jodie Ginsberg, the newly instated CEO of Internews Europe, a non-profit organisation that supports media organisations and others worldwide to ensure that everyone has access to information.

Jodie spoke eloquently about the challenges of leading an organisation with some 700 employees but which nevertheless greatly values its ‘flat’, consensus-based approach to leadership. This would be challenging enough even if the entire organisation hadn’t suddenly been forced to transition to remote working two days after Jodie joined. Liz Ellis crystallised some of the philosophical issues raised by Jodie’s experience, including the challenges to the leader’s integrity, and both Liz and Jodie were able to offer some concrete insights into how to begin to address the challenges.

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Fears, desires and threats in changing situations

In this webinar, Dan Connors of Applied Influence Group was in conversation with Professor Chris Megone, Director of the IDEA Centre. Dan is used to navigating complex ethical territory in very high-pressure situations, due to his experience converting captured Taliban operatives in Afghanistan.

How can we apply the insights from this kind of experience to leadership in the Covid era? Partly by understanding at a theoretical level how people are motivated by the various desires, fears and threats which are created by their situation, their history and their character.

But this, of course, raises ethical issues: how do we balance the interests of the individual against those of the organisation? What do leaders have a right to expect from those they lead? And what methods of persuasion are effective, but also honest, transparent and non-manipulative? Dan and Chris shed light on these questions in a fascinating discussion.

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AI in banking: learning from the past in mapping the future

In this forum, the scope of our webinar series broadens out to incorporate the ethical issues prompted by the increasing use of artificial intelligence across the banking sector.

There are many such issues, but the area that is perhaps most prominent in Mikael Down and Christina Nick’s presentations, and in the lively discussion that follows, is that of accountability.

Assuming AI systems are not themselves morally accountable, which they surely aren’t, who is accountable for the decisions they make? How can we ensure that someone is accountable, where the impact of these decisions on banks’ customers and the wider public can be substantial? And what are the roles of professionalism and regulation in ensuring accountability?

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The ethics of culture change with Dame Judith Hackitt

Dame Judith Hackitt chaired the independent inquiry into fire safety and building regulations which was conducted in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017. She believes that what is needed is not simply a new set of regulations, but a much broader cultural change within the construction industry.

In this session, with input from Dr Tom Hancocks, she sets out some of what this change will need to involve, in her view. The construction case is fascinating and deeply important in itself, but the issues raised in the discussion have application more broadly. For example, what is the role of financial and other incentives in effecting deeper attitudinal change? What is the optimal balance between clear requirements articulated by those leading change, in this case including government, and the responsibility and accountability of organisations and individuals?

Anyone who has an interest in cultural change, even on a much smaller scale than that discussed by Dame Judith, will find much of interest here.

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This series of webinars is curated by Dr Jim Baxter.