News | Feb. 19, 2021

Land and Maritime Commander contributes to virtual ethics panel discussion

By Michael L. Jones DLA Land and Maritime Public Affairs

Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime Commander Navy Rear Adm. Kristen Fabry participated in a February 10 virtual leadership ethics panel discussion led by Thomas More University.

Completing the panel were Dr. Joseph L. Chillo, president of Thomas More University, Dr. Judith Marlowe, chair of Thomas More’s Board of Trustees and the Honorable Diane Ewing Whalen, mayor of Florence, Kentucky.  Panelists shared their experiences grappling with challenging ethical issues encountered during their careers.

Moderated by Dr. Cate Sherron, director of Thomas More’s Institute for Ethical Leadership and Interdisciplinary Studies, the discussion attracted more than 100 students from Thomas More University who proposed questions involving ethical decision making and its importance across differing vocations and activities.

Sherron queried panelists for their responses to a broad range of problematic ethical situations. Those questions ranged from what being an ethical leader means, identifying effective methods that would empower people to make good ethical choices, to the importance of ethical leadership during the current global epidemic and its accompanying health crisis. 

Fabry recounted several ethical situations that spanned her military career from attendance at the U.S. Naval Academy to her present assignment as DLA Land and Maritime commander.

Citing honor, courage and commitment as core values introduced during her time at the Academy, Fabry shared several ethical decision-making moments she observed.

One involved classmates using fake identification to get into local bars, while another detailed a student risking receiving an honor violation involving truthfulness during a morning formation when asked if he’d shaved, even when the student didn’t think he needed to shave.

“Properly responding to small ethical decisions helps strengthen muscle memory and develops discipline to positively handle ethical situations,” Fabry said. “Incorporating core values helps promote ethical behavior and can position a person to properly navigate more serious ethical decisions that may involve lives or national security issues.” She added that unethical behavior and decisions can create consequences that could jeopardize your integrity.

Connecting unethical leadership and its organizational cost, Fabry discussed the negative impact of unethical behavior and its damaging influence on public trust. “We need to always make sure our behavior is beyond reproach,” Fabry said. “It’s not a matter of can you do something. You can, and you may, but should you? Behaviors that might appear improper may compromise your integrity and your ethics. Would the behaviors pass public scrutiny, and could you sleep at night with your decisions?” Fabry posed to the audience.

Drawing from her experience as Land and Maritime commander addressing the question of empowering people to make good ethical choices, Fabry reflected on her Deputy Commander Kenneth Watson’s suggestion to hold an ethical panel discussion for the workforce. “We assembled our senior leadership team and video streamed an ethics discussion involving our entire workforce. We talked about personal ethical challenges encountered during our careers and decision-making processes we used to negotiate them,” Fabry said. “It was well received and served as an alternative method to emphasize the importance ethics plays in sustaining a high performing organization.”

Though ethical response examples varied among panelists, the foundational significance of recognizing the need to exercise ethical decision making was consistent across occupational pursuits from politics to education. When questioned by an audience member about balancing personal and work ethics, panelists responded uniformly that there should be no distinction. The consensus was that practices, both personal and occupational, are linked and shouldn’t be separated for convenience.