Nate Fick’s description of a great leader as one who exercises both moral and ethical authority has been a tremendously valuable lesson from the Rockefeller Leadership Fellows program, and one that I have successfully applied to my own leadership style. I used this principle to more effectively carry out my role as the Undergraduate Advisor (UGA) of Foley House, a living cooperative in which residents maintain the house and cook for one another five nights each week.
As Foley House UGA, I have three main priorities in the following order of importance: to keep my residents safe, to ensure that the Foley community remains cohesive and thriving, and to fulfill my administrative duties as outlined by the UGA position. While the former two prerogatives comprise my moral authority as the leader of Foley House, the latter comprises my ethical authority.
|Luke Katler '15 poses with his Foley House residents.|
So how did Fick’s lesson inform my approach to leadership? Unfortunately, that question is unanswerable without admitting my initial irresponsibility in completing the requirements of the Foley House UGA position. I will follow this admission, however, by revealing my acceptance of constructive criticism and willingness to apply it toward personal growth. Not to worry, initial disappointment will quickly be curbed by what I hope will be a round of applause on my behalf.
First, allow me to explain how Fick’s explanation of ethical authority inspired me to improve my leadership as the head of Foley House. The administrative requirements for the UGA position are as follows: fill out “programming logs” within 24 hours of completing a programming event, participate in regular “coffee talks” with residents throughout the term in order to understand each resident as an individual, fill out a bi-weekly report detailing the operating state of the house and any pressing resident successes or problems. Come the end of week four in the fall, I had completed none of these stated responsibilities. That’s not to say I hadn’t planned programming events and met individually with residents, but I had simply not documented these events through the proper administrative channels. I had ignored my ethical responsibility.
Once my supervisor reminded me of these duties and gently threatened a warning on my UGA record, I kicked myself into high gear and documented every programming log, coffee talk and bi-weekly report that I had since ignored. Here came my ownership of what I would later understand to be ethical authority. Even though these administrative duties satisfied what I consider to be the least important of my UGA duties as outlined above, I realized after Fick’s session that a good leader embraces these responsibilities and completes them to the best of his or her ability regardless of their perceived importance, as they are indispensable in rounding out a leadership role.
I quickly realized that I had focused my leadership efforts on my moral authority to keep my residents safe and to keep the Foley community cohesive and thriving. I was proud to have done so. My residents were comfortable, participatory, and compatible. However, even though I excelled at the on-the-ground and interpersonal aspects of my job, I wasn’t performing the best leadership possible.
How could my residents be kept completely safe and comfortable if my supervisor could not effectively understand the inner workings of Foley House on account of my inability to practice both moral and ethical leadership? My supervisor’s lack of knowledge regarding Foley’s events, on account of my not documenting them, proved that these ethical responsibilities were more important than initially perceived. Until I satisfied them, my supervisor could not concertedly support my efforts toward keeping my residents safe and fostering community.
Since I began to document my successes as Foley House UGA, my supervisor has been able to better serve my needs and those of my residents. Thanks to the lessons I learned through RLF, my residents are able to better thrive at Foley House as I continually blend the moral authority of caring for their well-being with the ethical authority of documenting my efforts to do so.
-Written by Rockefeller Leadership Fellow Luke Katler '15. Katler is originally from south Florida, but he now considers Hanover home. Katler is a double major in History and Italian Studies with Theatre as the modifying department. He is the Artistic Director for the Dartmouth Rude Mechanicals, a member of multiple committees that promote safe behavior on campus, and participates regularly in Dartmouth’s Mainstage productions.