At the heart of every dilemma there is usually an ethical decision to be made. For some, it is easy to distinguish between right and wrong. It’s black and white, clear as day, but for some dilemmas it could be as clear as mud or almost all grey area. So where do you go from there? Ethics. Northouse (2016) explains ethics as, “…values and morals an individual or a society finds desirable or appropriate. Furthermore, ethics is concerned with the virtuousness of individuals and their motives” (p. 329). Ethical leadership is also driven by the leader’s moral compass. According to Kohlberg there are three levels to moral development: preconventional, conventional, and postconventional moralities. I’d like to discuss the recent events of the Carrier Roosevelt and Commanding Officer at the time, Capt. Brett Crozier and his ethical dilemma.
Around March and April of this year, Capt. Crozier’s ethical dilemma was his 4,800 personnel carrier was losing a battle of COVID-19 through attrition. According to an article by the United States Naval Institute (2020), Capt. Crozier was running out of resources to battle the accelerating spread of COVID-19 on his ship (LaGrone, 2020). Capt. Crozier had already expressed concerns to his superiors about the situation but received little response on how to handle the situation (Cooper, Gibbons-Neff, Schmitt, 2020). Capt. Crozier was faced with an ethical dilemma, was he to attempt to raise concerns above and beyond his chain of command or continue to monitor the situation and utilize the resources as best as possible and wait upon further direction from his supervisors. Ultimately, Capt. Crozier would end up assembling a four page letter that was sent to his chain of command and to 20-30 individuals outside of his chain through an unclassified network (LaGrone, 2020). This letter would eventually get leaked to public media which creates firestorm bringing attention from all directions through all social platforms. Through his action, Capt. Crozier was instructed to port and would be relieved of his duties but arguably saved the lives of 4,000+ members of his crew.
Analysis through Kohlberg’s motivational development, I believe that Capt. Crozier approached the dilemma postconventional morality, stage six universal principles development. Northouse (2016) states, “Decisions that are made need to respect the viewpoints of all parties involved. People follow their internal rules of fairness, even if they conflict with laws” (p. 332). I believe Capt. Crozier’s stance on the situation provides evidence that despite having to go beyond his chain of command, “conflict with laws”, his decision reflects an “internalized universal principles of justice that apply to everyone” (Northouse, 2016, p. 332). He sacrificed reprimand from his superiors, eventually would be fired from his position, for the health and safety of his crew.
Barret, Claire. (2020, April 3). Theodore Roosevelt captain followed in footsteps of ship’s namesake by writing bombshell letter. Navytimes.com. https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2020/04/04/theodore-roosevelt-captain-followed-in-footsteps-of-ships-namesake-by-writing-bombshell-letter/
Cooper, H. Gibbons-Neff, T. Schmitt, E. (2020, April 3). The Navy Fired the Captain of the Theodore Roosevelt. See How the Crew Responded. Nytimes.com. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/03/us/politics/coronavirus-brett-crozier-theodore-roosevelt.html
LaGrone, Sam. (2020, April 2). Carrier Roosevelt CO Relieved Over ‘Extremely Poor Judgment’ in Creating ‘Firestorm’ Over COVID-19 Outbreak. USNI.org. https://news.usni.org/2020/04/02/carrier-roosevelt-co-relieved-over-extremely-poor-judgement-in-creating-firestorm-over-covid-19-outbreak
Northouse, Peter G. Leadership. SAGE Publications, Inc. (US), 2016. [MBS Direct].