What We Do: Civility

In Quest of Character, Civility and Community

CIVILITY, the public dimension of our model, develops the leaders’ ability to negotiate with competency and skill public leadership roles and encourages the undertaking of just and loving acts in public spaces; discerns the appropriate and responsible use of power; and explores the public values of civility:

  • Recognition: Recognition in ethical leadership practices begins within consciousness, a focused awareness that is extended to the self, others, and to ultimate frames of references.
  • Respect: The recognition of rules of association of free people (citizens) and their inherent social dignity; respect includes (1) a certain self-referential index that recognizes oneself as inhering and therefore deserving certain acknowledgements of one’s human dignity in public space; (2) and an obligation or duty to others to demonstrate in public space an obligation to others as inhering and therefore deserving certain acknowledgements of human dignity. Fundamental to this two-fold definition of respect is the need for empathy and a sense of justice.
  • Reverence: Both loyalty and reverence for self, others and to one’s ultimate reference. Loyalty in its most fundamental sense is a discipline of informed consent of the will to a higher cause to which the leader seeks union within the self and with others. Ultimately, loyalty does not seek confirmation from external events or rewards, but finds it genesis and apotheosis in the integrity of the cause to which the leader is committed. Loyalty begins with the integrity of the act—behavior that is an outflow of one’s personal commitment to truth that finds rational correspondence with the vision of the hopeful. It was Albert Schweitzer who popularized the idea of reverence for life as an ethical demand. “Reverence for life,” for Schweitzer, meant a type of ethics that would reconcile egotism and altruism by demanding respect for all human beings and by seeking the highest development of each individual. The spiritual unity which loyalty seeks finds its fullest expression in reverence for all life. Leaders should not, therefore, allow their loyalties to kin, nation, or even religious belief to supersede the ethic of reverence for life. At a deeper level, reverence for life appeals to something that is fundamentally human that seeks ultimate unity with what some mystics have called the Larger Life. The Larger Life finds affinity with what we are calling a sense of community.

By civility, we mean more than a set of manners, certain etiquettes and social graces rooted in a specific class orientation and moral sensibilities; it is the social-historical script or contract that the individual citizen negotiates within the context of the larger society; the psychosocial ecology of the individual; a certain understanding or self-referential index of the individual's place within a democratic social system as it relates to individual character; it is inclusive of social capital and the inherent benefits accrued by networks of reciprocity. Civility is character in the public space.

By public, we mean the space where citizens meet and engage in meaningful discussion and action about values; and where they hold one another accountable for what they know and value.

By values, we mean accepted principles and practices that constitute the public good; values provide the foundations of institutional life which create the context for civil society.