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Do the right thing, even when nobody is looking!
King’s chief operating officer shares tips on effective and ethical leadership.
Do the Right Thing

It was December 2, 2012. Ivan Fernandez Anaya, a Spanish long-distance runner, was running the race of his life. He was running as hard as possible, but he just couldn’t catch up with the front runner, Abel Mutai, a Kenyan who had led the race the entire time. Then, an opportunity presented itself. Close to the finish line, Abel, who did not speak Spanish, got confused by all the signs thinking he was already at the finish line. He stopped. Ivan ran right past him. But then, an extraordinary thing happened. Without even a moment of hesitation, Ivan turned around, came back for Abel, and pointed him toward the finish line. Abel won the race, and Ivan came in second. Most called it a moment of sportsmanship; others wondered why Ivan hadn’t just claimed the prize. Ivan responded by saying that there would  have been no honor in winning a race that clearly belonged to Abel. When pushed further for an explanation, he simply said, “what would my mother think if I won that way?”

In life, we are presented with moments like this. When our “Ivan” moment arrives, will we know the right thing to do? Will we act without hesitation?

At the start of the pandemic, dynamic schools learned quickly how to adapt to continue their educational mission. Students and teachers learned together how to develop skills and adapt to change, to lead and learn virtually. They trusted one another. Suddenly, grades were no longer the only success factor. When we became connected via a screen, we needed other criteria to evaluate performance. How could we fulfill our mission and instill in our students the characteristics embodied in our Guiding Principles?

In boarding schools such as King’s Academy, students have an extended family. In addition to their biological parents, they have advisors — essentially their parents at school — dorm parents, class deans, counselors and faculty as a whole who play an essential role in students’ journeys to adulthood. Our role at King’s is to teach students how to succeed in life by acting fairly and equitably, preparing them for their own “Ivan” moment. Here at King’s, our five Guiding Principles of Respect, Love of Learning, Responsibility, an Integrated Life, and Global Citizenship, act as the foundation of what is expected from our students.

When looking to hire potential employees, most companies look at more attributes than just our intelligence quotient (IQ) to determine if we are the best candidate. They look for individuals with a high emotional quotient (EQ), the ability to be responsible, empathetic, ethical, and to make peace with others. They determine our social quotient (SQ), the ability to network with people and friends, and to maintain good relationships. Most recently, given all the changes in the world, they are interested in our adversity quotient (AQ), the ability to tolerate challenging situations and stay composed and sane. Tolerance builds strength and helps us deal with situations with maturity.

Great leaders exhibit all four abilities to navigate the many challenges of leadership.

In life, we face situations where we need to make tough decisions, like rejecting someone in a relationship or asking someone to leave a workplace. It is up to us: we are always in charge of the HOW. Ethics can be confusing to people, but when we put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, we can act with humanity. We have a moral obligation to be fair, to walk the talk.

As Rumi, the famous Persian poet, wrote: “Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates. At the first gate, ask yourself, “Is it true?” At the second gate, ask, “Is it necessary?” At the third gate, ask, “Is it kind?” Only if you have responded affirmatively to all three can you proceed.”

As you grow in your career, and after you graduate from college, think about these behaviors:

Be true to yourself and others: Being honest contributes to your effective leadership. People will trust your opinion even if you are against them.

Practice what you preach.

Pay attention to all those around you: Listen to those who give you feedback, even if their opinion contradicts your practices. Sometimes you need to hear what the other person thinks of you and your business to reflect and appreciate their views.

Respect others: When you give a promise, keep it.

Practice equity.

To be an effective leader, remember always to have a sense of urgency, follow the code of conduct and ethics, instill a circle of trust, stay motivated, stay positive, and be transparent. Most importantly, be kind in your dealings with others.

The American author and philosopher Aldo Leopold once said, “Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching — even when doing the wrong thing is legal.”

When in doubt, lean on what you have been taught here at King’s. Think about what your parents and teachers would expect you to do.

Soha Hmaidan joined King’s Academy in 2021 as Chief Operating Officer and is responsible for overseeing non-academic and operational processes across the institution.