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Leadership: Making Difficult Decisions

Jeffrey Stephen Wiegand is an American biochemist and former vice president of research and development at Brown & Williamson. Wiegand became known as a whistleblower when he appeared on the CBS 60 Minutes program and claimed that Brown & Williamson had intentionally manipulated its tobacco blend to enhance the nicotine effect in cigarette smoke. According to Wiegand, he was subsequently harassed and received anonymous death threats. The informant began working at Brown & Williamson in January 1989 and was fired on March 24, 1993 (Boot, 2019). He was fired because he knew that high-ranking corporate executives were knowingly approving additives in their cigarettes that were known to be carcinogenic. Being in this situation, Dr. Wiegand showed leadership and moral intelligence. This was expressed primarily in the fact that he possessed the essential leadership qualities of determination, steadfastness, and confidence in his rightness.

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The doctor did everything in his power to expose the cigarette factories for wrongdoing. His moral intelligence was evident in his responsibility on the war trail with an industrial giant. Wiegand understood the risk of critical consequences for himself and his family, but he still chose to help people and open their eyes to the truth. As an endorsement of his credibility, the doctor applied an honest and open policy of action. Authority is always on the side of the one who acts with integrity and for the good of the people. If I noticed unethical practices in my workplace, I would immediately report them to management. The fact is, if I did not act, an occasional incident could escalate into an ongoing practice, so prompt response is necessary. My reaction to an unethical case would not depend on the severity of the situation. I am convinced that any seemingly insignificant violation of ethical standards can lead to gross violations of human rights in the future.

Human behavior is an unpredictable pattern that can change depending on various circumstances. The same is true of human reactions, including non-ethical situations at work. I believe that a person’s acceptance or rejection of a specific unethical situation depends primarily on his upbringing and environment. For example, one person will find firing someone on the grounds of rape fundamentally wrong, while another will see nothing wrong with it. The fact is that one of these two employees has been taught since childhood that racial discrimination is unacceptable, while the other has not. The same is true of different unethical situations in which people react differently.

A three-step framework must be followed for an organization to become more consistent in making ethical decisions. The first step is to examine the moral needs of employees and the controversial situations that may arise in the workplace. In this way, the company will be able to understand which ethical aspects are worth paying attention to in the first place. The second step is to develop a specific set of rules that will handle various ethical situations. The third step will be the introduction of controls by which the employer will monitor compliance with ethical practices. Such a means could be monthly surveys or interviews with employees.

To summarize, leadership is about making difficult decisions in favor of a more important goal. A person who condemns himself to all the attendant costs of exposing a large company exhibits the highest degree of ethical intelligence. A person’s acceptance of action in an unethical situation depends on his upbringing and environment. Only ideas and principles that have formed knowledge can influence the responsiveness in such cases.


Boot, E.R. (2019). The ethics of whistleblowing. Routledge. Web.

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