Cardinal Virtues and Leadership Series: Justice

lady justiceThe other day my 5 year old daughter said… OK, to be more accurate she whined, “She [referring to her 7 year old sister] got candy… why don’t I?”

Ah yes, my children often remind me of how important fairness and justice are. As such, tonight we continue our Cardinal Virtues and Leadership series with a discussion on Justice.

If you haven’t already, feel free to read part 1 of this series, a discussion on Prudence.

Justice Defined

Like most things, there are many ways to define Justice.

My favorite definition comes from the authors of the Catholic Encyclopedia who state, “Justice teaches us to give to another what belongs to him. They also state that “Justice requires that all persons should be left in the free enjoyment of all their rights.

Obviously there is a lot to be interpreted from these statements. So, allow me to offer my two cents on what Justice is and how it applies to those called to lead others.

The Opposite of Justice

When I first think of Justice my mind wanders to the opposite end of the spectrum where I envision young people forced to slave away in poor and unsafe working conditions for extremely low, if any, pay.

There is no justice here. There is only greed and selfishness on the part of the people running this business.

Sadly, I think it’s safe to assume many in this world continue to work in unsafe and unjust environments far more than any of us would like to imagine.

Justice and Leadership

On the other hand, strong and noble leaders of people can practice Justice by practicing what we lean practitioners commonly refer to as “respect for people.” But what does this really mean?

To me it obviously means:

  • To always provide safe working conditions.
  • To always pay fair wages no matter how much pressure is placed on the organization to increase profits.
  • To never discriminating because of age, sex, race, or religion.

I also think it means, perhaps less obviously:

  • To expect excellence of all associates, no matter their position or rank.
  • To always encourage continued skill development of all associates, no matter their position or rank.
  • And last, but certainly not least, a leader can exemplify the virtue of Justice by doing everything in his or her power to remain competitive and profitable by optimizing processes and relentlessly removing waste ensuring the employment of as many citizens as possible.

Justice is Hard Wired?

As I mentioned at the start of this article, children are excellent examples of how fairness and justice seem to be hard wired into our DNA.

In fact, a 2008 UCLA study claimed that reactions to fairness and justice are in fact wired into our brains as they concluded, “Fairness is activating the same part of the brain that responds to food in rats.”

Yikes. No wonder my daughter went nuts on me when her big sister got some candy [food] and she didn’t [justice]… at least not until I caved and gave her some which was only fair now that I think about it.

Photo Credit: 1

2 Comments

  1. Matt Hayes

    December 1, 2009 - 9:09 am

    I think it’s important to remember your last point – that leaders must attack waste to keep people employed. I agree 100% but think most companies could care less about this type of “justice” since all they care about is short term gains which are easiest to achieve by whacking a few thousand employees.

  2. Tom

    December 1, 2009 - 3:00 pm

    I think the “greed and selfishness” extends to our own back yards. We want a $300 computer, a $500 Flat screen HD TV and an $8 shirt from our local retailer forcing them to export jobs and exploit workers to win our businss.