Ethical Leadership in an Uncertain Digital World*

Interview with Lukas Findeisen on the new module and the idea behind it.

Lukas Findeisein has been working in the Sense Office for almost two years, and in the 2020 winter semester, he developed a module called “Ethical Leadership in an uncertain digital world”. The elective course was available for students from different semesters and programs, in order to have a class made up of multiple perspectives. Using an interactive style of teaching as well as non-traditional methods of evaluation (students can record a podcast for their final exam), Lukas aims to empower students to act proactively and responsibly in a digital and uncertain world. To discover more about his module, read the full interview:

Lukas Findeisen
Lukas Findeisen from the Sense Office of the Karlshochschule.

How did the module come to life?

At some point during my research in the Sense Office, I thought that leadership was strongly related to digitalization because it is a change process which is affecting all of us. There is a discussion about what it means to approach this topic in the “right way” – to do it ethically. As I talked about leadership in ethics, and ethics in digitalization, many people started to complain about the complexity that the world has, therefore the topic of complexity and uncertainty was added. After this journey, the module came to life and was named ethical leadership in an uncertain digital world.

What is the module about?

I could talk forever about this topic, so I had to break it down to the parts I found would be interesting for everybody. The module has four focus areas:

The first competence, leadership and complexity, relates to uncertainty. The second one is digital and technical literacy which focuses more on technical developments because one result of my research is future leaders do need to have a decent digital literacy no matter what they do. The third one is about reciprocity and responsibility: how can we build trust in a digital environment? What is the digital environment in the first place? We proceed viewing this from a philosophical perspective, and from there we go in the direction of the 4th competence area: negotiating ethics. 

Why do you think it is important to talk about this right now?

People who want to make a difference need to be able to articulate themselves in the digital world, while also being capable of triggering its transformation processes. I believe the major changes in the future will at least have some kind of digital component, the world is moving closer together. Digitalization opens the doors for different opportunities, we need leaders in the future who are able to recognize and make use of these resources.

How do you imagine an even more digital future?

I think good things lie ahead, things can and will get better. We will be more sustainable thanks to digitalization. On the other side, I also think that we are drifting into a society divided by knowledge. I believe some will understand what is happening around them and also how systems are influencing our perception of the world. But some people, maybe even the majority, will just “play their role in it”, not really participating in the process of proactively creating the kind of future they want to live in. That is the risk I see: it’s quite an exclusive process. We need to access certain platforms, have a decent internet connection, and some digital sympathy and skills in order to even communicate digitally. Because some people manage to get through these “obstacles”, they may stay invisible for many people for ever.

Discussing ethics is complicated, even if you don’t include the digital age into the conversation. How do you think we can make the discussion regarding ethics in the digital world broader, so more people can have access and discuss it?

It’s important to show it’s fun, and it is not that difficult. Many people say when it comes to technology: “ok, no, that’s not possible, I cannot do it”, which is convenient as it gives this feeling like there is not even a need to try to understand. One essential step to take for leadership here I think is to deconstruct our own expert-syndromes and show we are also failing or more specifically: failing forward – in this digital world. If we communicate our failures as much as our successes and share our learning stories, I believe a lot of helpful information will be shared. At the same time, I find it important to embrace the complexity that comes with digitalization and appreciate it. We are from the analog world, so we are used to reducing complexity. That’s what we got trained for, if there’s something complex happening, we get told to make it simpler. I believe this reduction of complexity takes away decisions from us. Ethics in the digital world would be to embrace this complexity, not try to reduce it, just accept it as something new and unfamiliar. 

To conclude: is there a topic that the students like the most?

People are normally excited about the discussion of what is the difference between machines and humans and what makes us different from machines. There is the philosophical idea that we as humans, we know more than we can say, and we cannot express everything we know. In the digital world, what we can and cannot express is really limited, students relate to that idea very quickly. We have to learn a lot about ourselves as humans in the process of creating technology. Artificial intelligence, for instance, it’s always going to be a reflection.

Article by Lukas Findeisen from the Sense Office

You like to get an insight? In the next couple of days, we will link a podcast of our students and Lukas Findeisen about the module “Ethical Leadership in an uncertain digital world”.

*Karlshochschule is an educational institution and a non-profit organization as well. We want to encourage individuals and young people to take responsibility, find their own voice and initiate change in a sustainable and tolerant way. Listening to different opinions not only promotes different perspectives, but also discourse. The content of this blog is characterized by the diverse experience and opinions of the authors, which may not be the majority opinion of the university, but provokes reflection and discussion.

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