ISSUE-078

To be an effective leader, a public official must maintain the highest ethical and moral standards.


Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim. In developing and supporting your position, be sure to address the most compelling reasons and/or examples that could be used to challenge your position.


Does a political leader have to maintain the highest ethical and moral standards to be effective? While for some the answer is negative, I would like to argue otherwise. That is, from my point of view, an effective public leader today must have the highest ethical and moral standards.


Admittedly, some would challenge my point by arguing that many leaders, who are considered effective, do not hold the highest moral or ethical standards. Their logic of their reasoning is that the goal of a public official is to domestically promote the quality of living of its constituents, and internationally formulate diplomatic policies that serve the interest of the nation. To succeed, they claim, does not require morality. For example, Donald, Trump, President of the United States, is an undeniably a controversial figure and certainly does not embody the highest moral standards because of his sometimes racist and sexist remarks. And yet in terms of the effectiveness he is regarded by many a great leader, since he has succeeded in doing what his predecessor failed to carry out. Moreover, in foreign diplomacy, if the leader puts too much emphasis on the moral issues, he or she may sacrifice the interest of his or her nation and its people. The modern Europe can be seen as a negative example, where the governments have accepted refugees from the warring Middle East to the degree that has provoked disapproval from their own citizens. To sum up, the success of Donald Trump and the “failure” of European immigration policies demonstrate that an effective leader does not need to be a moral saint.


Although the argument above does seem convincing at first glance, it is flawed in many regards and I will counter them in the following paragraphs. For domestic policies, one must realize that a leader alone cannot fulfill the goal of promoting the economy of the nation and the well-being of the people. Rather, the entire government and, in some countries, the legislative branch, must work together, which involves more than one leader. As a result, if the public leader does not hold a high moral standard, misconducts such as corruptions and nepotism may prevail in the government. Indeed, this has become some of the criticism of the Trump administration. Despite Trump’s charisma and his skills in negotiations, the cabinet of his administration, according to many political observers, is in turmoil. The reason, I would like to argue, is a lack of moral guidance within the government. True, some may disagree and argue that there are laws to prevent such a fraud. However, history has informed us that laws alone are not sufficient, and at the same time, laws could not prevent frauds from happening in the first place. What laws can do, on the other hand, is to punish those who break them. Therefore, a political leader needs high moral standards to effectively lead the country because in essence that is how he can inspire and serves as a model of public servants for his subordinates.


Second, I find the claim that over-emphasis on moral issues can put the interest of the nation and the people which the leader serves in jeopardy ill-conceived and not well-supported. While it might be the case that Europe has seen a rise in crime rates, studies have found that it did not originate from immigrants. Instead, immigrants are less likely to commit a crime than local residents. Furthermore, acting with high moral standards in the international stage will earn respect and admiration from other countries. The United States is another example of how diplomatic success (or lack thereof) can be due to the moral standards its leaders have. In the past, United States acted in support of humanitarianism and world peace, which had gained her support from other nations around the world. However, today the USA has become increasingly selfish (named “America First” policy by President Trump) and more often than not acted out of pure economic or military interest. In doing so, a growing number of nations in the international community decided not to follow the lead of the USA, which used to be the moral compass but now has lost its credentials.


To sum up, while some people can cite effective leaders without the highest moral standards, I argue that for the entire government to function effectively the leader must possess high moral and ethical standards. At the same time, it will also benefit the international image of the nation, which will in turn gain favor in the nation’s diplomacy works.

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