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Ethics, Engineering, and Leadership

William A. (Bill) Brant, J.D., P.E.

How can ethics help me? How can Ethics, Engineering, and Leadership help me? You and I will explore the answers and benefits of these questions together.

Shakespeare in his comedy, As You Like It, said, “All the world’s a stage.” We are acting on the world stage. Our actions and words influence others. This is leadership. Whether our actions and words are right or wrong is ethics. Applying leadership and ethics to engineering is the challenge of this course. We do this by living in reality, with honor, ethics, and leadership. We must think, act, and be ethical.

Our course consist of three main parts: (1) Personal Ethics, (2) Engineering Ethics, and (3) Leadership Lessons.

Personal ethics is the cornerstone of ethics. We must be true to ourselves to be true to others. How do we be true to ourselves? One way we address being true to ourselves is setting our Life’s Priorities. In essence, we have to know what we are looking for in life in order to achieve it. Moreover, Life’s Priorities change; they are not the same for teenagers, young adults, and adults.

We will spend a brief minute with Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle studying the “good life” before we jump into Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. On our way to developing our full potential, we will list out our “good things in life.” Your list represents a portrait of your priorities and character traits for your life. We will work with your list to develop what matters most to you, governing values, and happiness.

The three main schools of ethical theory will be briefly covered before we discuss core engineering virtues and values. Years ago I developed a pictorial representation of “The Problem,” different directions pulling on us---society versus the individual, and good versus evil. With “The Problem” in mind we will visit some tough ethical issues. We will conclude personal ethics with an honor code.

In the second part, engineering ethics, we discuss references to different engineering societies’ ethics codes, i.e., ASME, ASCE, etc. The CitiCorp Building structural problem is viewed as an ethics case. Thereafter, we will discuss briefly the Texas Professional Conduct and Ethics Code, which is similar to many states’ codes. We finish the engineering ethics part by discussing the 5P’s---precursors to ethical problems---and apply them to the Columbia Shuttle tragedy.

The last part of our course, Leadership Lessons, will examine leaders President Lyndon Johnson and Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Lyndon Johnson was selected for his leadership in a crisis immediately following President Kennedy’s assassination. Johnson handled the crisis well and there are leadership lessons we can learn vicariously through the crisis. Marcus Aurelius would have been Plato’s example of a philosopher-king. His virtues were love of fellow man, truthfulness, moderation, and these should be the same qualities of law. Right, reason, and justice were one and the same for Aurelius. The idea of a natural law was written into the legal code of Rome.

Marcus Aurelius wrote a guide or journal to himself during the war with the Germans, now referred to as “Meditations.” In “Meditations,” Marcus grappled with great philosophical questions. Aurelius practiced stoic philosophy. Stoics try to control the things within their control and let go of things beyond their control; something we can learn. In our concluding remarks, we discuss Jena Pincott’s article, “Are these rules worth breaking?” We see that it is important to give ourselves ethical reminders often.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

Note: This course requires users to pay first before viewing the course content.

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NY PE & PLS: You must choose courses that are technical in nature or related to matters of laws and ethics contributing to the health and welfare of the public. NY Board does not accept courses related to office management, risk management, leadership, marketing, accounting, financial planning, real estate, and basic CAD. Specific course topics that are on the borderline and are not acceptable by the NY Board have been noted under the course description on our website.