Imagine if the rainbow behavior chart that is commonly used in preschool classrooms was assigned to us throughout our lives. In relation to the colors of the rainbow, green is the standard that denotes good behavior. Between first and second grades, we dismiss the rainbow chart. But behavior standards do not disappear after kindergarten. Parents and teachers hope that children learn to discern the difference between right and wrong as they mature and conduct themselves accordingly.
Outside of kindergarten, there are rules and regulations that guide our behavior and conduct. Veterans of military service are familiar with Article 133 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which outlines the acceptable and unacceptable conduct and behavior of commissioned officers. Midshipmen of the United States Naval Academy learn what is considered “conduct unbecoming of an officer” through the review of several case studies in the Naval Law textbook.
In summary, conduct unbecoming of an officer is any conduct performed that would bring dishonor or disrepute upon the military profession. The regulation further explains moral turpitude, an act or behavior that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community, is punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Offenses such as murder, voluntary manslaughter, kidnapping, robbery and aggravated assaults involve moral turpitude. These criminal offenses, which are often identified with physical harm or damage, fit the general description of turpitude. What about those offenses that cause psychological harm?
Our current political climate and news headlines suggests that we should consider another form of moral turpitude defined by offenses such as stealing of your peace, provocation, humiliation, abuse of authority, inappropriate use of force, and senseless threats that gravely disturb and divide communities of people. These are also examples of conduct unbecoming of an officer, a leader, a teacher or anyone who has power that should require that they conduct themselves in such a way as not to dishonor the profession.
Leaders have a moral responsibility to consider how their conduct affects others besides themselves. They must hold themselves to higher standards than those they lead because they serve as examples to their subordinates as well as to others who are watching them. People are watching our behavior. If we accept, support or turn a blind eye to the offenses that cause division and suffering among a group — whether it is a kindergarten class, a family unit, a military brigade or the population of 300 million people — it is conduct unbecoming of us.
QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of nonprofit leadership and management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Her children attend Suffolk Public Schools. Connect with her via firstname.lastname@example.org and QNikki_Notes via Twitter.