Ethical Crisis Leadership
Case Study 12.1: The Terror of Ebola
An Ebola outbreak hit West Africa in 2014. The disease ravaged many communities and spread fear among the world. The factors surrounding how to control the Ebola epidemic were complicated.
Ebola is a devastating virus which is easily transmitted among humans by way of bodily fluids. The virus was originally discovered in 1976 as a virus that is transmitted from fruit bats to humans in Africa. When the outbreak happened in 2014, government officials were slow to respond to contain the epidemic.
At first the outbreak was minimized for fear of economic repercussions. Then, when the outbreak was clearly visible to the world, officials scrambled into place to limit the effects, but it was too late. The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control underestimated the extent of the epidemic.
1. Do medical personnel have the responsibility to care for patients no matter what the risk in doing so?
2. How do you determine when the need for public health should take precedence over local customs, such as hands-on care for the dead?
3. What is the responsibility of government leaders and citizens in wealthy nations to the health care needs of people in poorer regions?
4. What, if anything, should be done to narrow the gap in medical care between wealthy and poor countries?
5. What can be done to prevent a future Ebola epidemic? To better prepare and respond?
6. How can governments encourage drug companies to develop medications for “unprofitable” diseases like Ebola?
7. What leadership and followership ethics lessons do you take from this case?
Case Study 12.2: New Orleans as Resilience Lab
Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005, killing 1,800 people and displacing millions—the worst natural disaster to hit the United States (see case). The New Orleans levees failed, which caused at least $188 billion in damage to the region. After 10 years, the area has mostly recovered in a new form that some have called a “resilience lab.”
New Orleans, Louisiana, is located along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Water levees were built to protect the city until Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, leaving sizable damage and destruction to the area. Most revitalization efforts came from local residents and grassroots efforts. People saw the destruction and responded in a way to rebuild their city.
While many residents fled to neighboring cities like Houston and Dallas, some stayed to invest in recovery efforts, even if their own home had been destroyed. While young professionals had also flocked to the area for new job opportunities, local people stepped up in leadership roles to sustain their community’s growth. While the “resilience lab” efforts were very sustainable, it also presented some challenges like gentrification or displaced African American communities; and the 27% poverty rate is unchanged, while the graduation rates did rise under a new charter school system.
The government may have mishandled the crisis, but the local people were able to salvage some of the recovery based on their own hard work and recovery efforts.
1. Do you think the successes of the New Orleans recovery outweigh the failures?
2. How long do you think it will take for recovery to be complete?
3. What opportunities did Katrina offer the people of New Orleans?
4. When natural disasters strike cities, what can government leaders do to encourage grassroots leaders to stay and rebuild?
5. What, if anything, can be done to ensure that people of all incomes and races share equally in disaster recovery?
Case Study 12.3: Extreme Leadership at the Bottom of the World: Explorer Ernest Shackleton
Ernest Shackleton was an early 20th-century explorer. In August 1914, Shackleton set sail to explore the Antarctic in a cross-continent expedition with 27 men to soon find that the voyage would be laden with havoc.
The 1914 expedition to cross the continent Antarctica was led by explorer Ernest Shackleton. He led the ship Endurance and 27 men on the voyage. The initial purpose of the journey to cross the continent would soon shift gears as the expedition fell to peril after one natural circumstance to another. Shackleton would instead find himself prioritizing how to get all of his men home alive in the most grave of circumstances.
The 22-month-long expedition tested and tried each member, and utilized every last resource they had while none of the men perished. When it was evident that the Endurance would be buried in the southern ice and sea forever, Shackleton and crew then began to make their way back to a whaling camp by using three small dories over treacherous seas. He eventually left most of the men on an uninhabited island so he and a few crew members could cross another stretch of treacherous sea to find the whaling station on South Georgia Island over 800 miles away. Even when he and his small crew arrived from what was considered a voyage of death, they still had to hike over mountain terrain and glaciers. When they finally walked into the whaling station, their appearance was so ragged that they were hardly recognizable.
It was another 4 months until Shackleton could reach the rest of his crew left on the uninhabited island to survive, but all men returned to their home country alive. The expedition was nothing short of a miracle. While the intent of the journey was not achieved, Shackleton is considered a modern-day heroic leader based on the way he led his men through such an incredible journey where every man survived the unthinkable.
1. Generate a list of virtues demonstrated by Shackleton on the Endurance voyage. How does your list compare to the virtues of extreme leaders presented in the chapter?
2. Do dangerous situations like polar exploration and mountain climbing put a premium on some aspects of character that would be less important in other, more routine contexts?
3. How did Shackleton demonstrate resilience? How did he promote resilience in his men?
4. How did Shackleton act as a transformational leader? A servant leader? An authentic leader?
5. What leadership ethics lessons can we draw from the life of Ernest Shackleton?