Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lincoln the movie: A Teen's Perception on Leadership

Yesterday, my 14 year old son and I managed to get out of the house and watch the movie Lincoln. Anyone who has not seen the movie should really make an effort to, even if historical genres are not your type. For one thing, the movie goes behind the scenes of  the legislature in action. What is depicted is the political bantering, pandering, and the heart wrenching work it takes to make profound change. Most importantly, it gives you insight to your child's leadership and ethical standards.

Two major scenes started a debate between my son and I. The first was when President Lincoln was asked to confirm whether or not a southern delegate had extended any effort to end the Civil War. President Lincoln denies ever receiving any overture. Long story short: the 13th amendment is passed based on this false claim.

The second scene was the manner in which consensus to pass the amendment was reached. There was apparently plenty of arm twisting to abolish slavery, more so before the final votes were taken and especially during the voting process itself.

Here's a quick synopsis of my 14-year-old's views on the matter of leadership and ethics:

  • When I questioned President Lincoln's decision to hide that he was, in fact, aware a conciliatory delegate did exist, my son responded that at times leaders have to resort to reasoning and not emotions to accomplish a greater good. (Keep my parenting competence out of this, please.) As he explains it, had Lincoln been completely truthful, the Civil War and slavery would have been needlessly prolonged. When I broached the topic of ethics, my son responded that Lincoln was behaving morally because he wanted to free slaves and end a bloody war.

  • I asked my son what his views were on the use of implied threats to push the amendment through. He was okay with it. Once again, he brought up the example of using emotions vs. reasoning to make critical decisions. When placed in a leadership position that requires strategic decisions that could make or break a nation (or a company), my son strongly believes that absolute truth is irrelevant.  
Here's my takeaway from this discussion: First, my son apparently equates morals with emotions. Whenever that topic arose, he revisited his point that leaders sometimes need to step away from their emotions to make sound decisions. Second, his argument highlights the importance of perception in determining what is moral. My son apparently views truth as a subjective matter, one that is personal in nature.

This led me to question the financial industry's campaign to combat fraud. Are the wrong strategies being utilized to mitigate fraud? Right now, it's ethics training and increased regulation that is being used.

What do you think?

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