A woman is begging a Nazi on the screen not to take her children as 20 students watch in the Davis Learning Center Auditorium. The film clip is from “Sophie’s Choice”. Professor Jack Panosian guided the discussion as a part of the Leadership Workshop Series.
The Ethics in Leadership workshop gathered 20 students on two nights, Feb. 26 and 27, to learn and offer viewpoints on the relevance of ethics. It was organized by Student Life Coordinator, Teri Poucher. She invited Panosian to lead the class because he was polled as the best to teach ethics on the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Prescott campus.
Panosian started with some general and basic definitions of morals, ethics, and leadership. A leader was defined as a guide who motivates people to follow an idea. A leader needed to follow the four paramount steps to success: have a clear idea, communicate so others cooperate, deliver understanding, and harmonize conflicting interests.
His two examples had the class agreeing Jesus and Hitler were both leaders. Panosian asked the class what separated them. “Ethics,” was his answer.
Ethics consists of a moral code, moral principles, and moral values. A moral code is made of a system of principles. The principles are made of beliefs in an honorable, just, and principled life. The moral values are standards based off of these principles.
“It’s not easy to be moral,” said Panosian. It is not always the popular choice and a person can lose friends by choosing to be moral. It is up to the individual, to choose how to behave, when ethics are called into question.
He listed the four steps to ethical decision-making. First, gather the facts. Second, make a prediction based on the relevant facts to make an ethical decision. Third, ascertain your feelings and use your intuition, or gut, as a factor. Finally, ask yourself if you can live with that particular choice and have others know what you did.
If someone still has difficulty, that person can always ask other people who have been in the same, or similar, circumstances. Listen to their decisions and then decide how to act. “There’s nothing like good old-fashioned common sense,” Panosian claimed and advised the students to seek out people who have it.
Panosian started talking more about leaders. Good leaders surround themselves with people who know areas of information the leader does not. It is very easy to make a poor decision when surrounded by people who always say “yes” or “that’s a great idea”. It takes strength of character, Panosian explained, to ask other people for help when it is needed.
“More often than not,” he said, “we aren’t blazing a trail. Someone else has had experience which helps make a decision”. It pays to take time, if allowed, to put more effort into a decision. It is usually how someone arrives at the best decision.
The class then moved to discuss abortion. The controversial topic garnered reactions from students arguing if something could be the immoral, but right decision. This final discussion concluded the workshop.
Panosian was a calm, cordial instructor who listened to the students and tried to guide minds to think in new perspectives. Everyone mostly kept to their original statements, but the blend of new ideas was exciting to behold at 7 p.m. on a Wednesday night.
Sylvia Tang, ERAU student, said she has only been to two workshops and some are more effective than others. It is “the approach of the speaker” and allowing students to come to conclusions on their own that helps determine how it is effective.
Panosian said, “I believe in working with the students in any way that I can that helps them move towards their goals.” He also said he gives what he can to his students. He remembers his awakening to ethics was due to his grandmother at 12 years old. Half of his grandmother’s family and all of his grandfather’s family was gassed by the Turks in the Armenian genocide. Yet, when his sister fell in love and became engaged to a full-blooded Turkish man, Panosian asked his grandmother how she felt about it.
The grandmother, with an eighth grade education, replied that the fiance did not do anything. It was other people who committed the genocide. “She rose above it,” Panosian recalled, “It was a great lesson for me.”
The Leadership Series is designed to make students think about leadership and its relevance. However, Poucher also said “I really feel self-discovery is important.” The last workshop is for one night only on Wednesday, March 27. Every student is invited to attend.