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Ethical Decision-Making Model

This is an excerpt from Outdoor Leadership 2nd Edition eBook by Bruce Martin,Mary Breunig,Mark Wagstaff & Marni A. Goldenberg.

The ethical decision-making model requires a leader to work through the following steps:

  1. Identify the problem - Gather as much information as possible to clarify the problem.
  2. List options - Brainstorm all options, possibly collectively with group members.
  3. Consider the nature and ethical dimensions of the problem - Which option will have the least chance of bringing harm to the participants or the environment? What decisions will safeguard the well-being of the group and individuals in it? How can a leader best honor group members and the natural environment? Leaders should not try to manage things on their own but rather should involve others, including group members, to ensure that they are seeing the whole issue.
  4. Apply a principle ethic if appropriate - A principle ethic is a set of rules determined by a governing professional organization or by the current professional standards of behavior. This could be either a professional code of ethics or a company's policies and procedures manual.
  5. Generate possible actions - Collaboratively brainstorm possible solutions to the dilemma.
  6. Consider the possible consequences of all options and determine a course of action - This stage involves looking at all the options and the consequences for all relevant parties, including the environment.
  7. Consider the rights and responsibilities of all people involved - This is referred to as the dignity of risk, whereby an individual holds the right to take risks and the right to fail when engaging in life experiences (Vatland et al., 2011). It is important to choose alternatives that uphold the rights of participants and allow them to accept personal responsibility for their choices and actions.
  8. Assess the selected course of action - Leaders should be careful that the action chosen does not raise any new dilemmas.
  9. Implement the course of action - The leader has worked through the process and should be able to justify his or her actions and responses.


Professional Development Exercise

Keep a journal in which you describe decisions that you make during the day. Distinguish between simple and complex decisions. Write a one-page essay in which you draw conclusions regarding the decisions you made during the day. What did you learn?

Learn more about Outdoor Leadership, Second Edition.