Principles of Ethics in Leadership

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Al Buehler is one of the most influential track and field coaches in U.S. history. Although what he accomplished as a track and field coach was remarkable, it was his character that was awe-inspiring. He was known for carrying on his principles, even in the most difficult times.


Even during the segregation laws happening in the 1950s, Buehler invited the team from North Carolina Central University (NCCU), an all-black liberal arts college, to train at Duke University. He teamed up with NCCU coach Dr.

LeRoy Walker, to limelight events where both combined teams were able to participate. If the event did not accept Walker, then Buehler would refuse to participate.

He served on the US Olympic coaching staff in 1968, 1972, 1984, and 1988. He organized multiple events nationally and internationally by inviting the first African runners to the United States with the Soviets at the height of the Cold War.

Buehler even trained female runner Ellison Goodall Bishop before Duke University even had a women’s team, and eventually became an All-American.

He took one step further and assisted with implementing Title IX, which brought equality to women’s sports on college campuses. Buehler advocated and assisted with implementing Title IX while giving up his men’s track scholarships.

Buehler not only trained students to become better athletes, but he also trained them in their journey towards personal development. He says, “Basically I am concerned with the overall development of my athletes and students. How high they jump or how fast they run is not nearly as important as what kind of person they turn out to be.

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I want them to be good husbands, fathers, wives, mothers, sons, daughters, and first-rate citizens.” (Johnson, 2020)

Buehler was a role model, a mentor, and a teacher. He believed that finish lines were not just endings but beginnings. He says, “in my view of life, the finish line is a starting point… for dreams, for opening long-closed doors, for challenges, for change. Starting at the finish line also means carrying your principles and values forward beyond the finish line of any race or goal and into how you live your life.” (Johnson, 2020)

Although Buehler retired, he still makes an impact with his words. “Buehler’s Words of Wisdom” shared with his teams every day, live on (Johnson, 2020)

  • If you don’t follow your principles, then that’s being a phony
  • Take good care of those you love
  • By being true to yourself, you can generate enthusiasm that will motivate you and inspire those around you
  • Turn your attention to those positive things that enable you to be the best you can be
  • Take responsibility. Only you can determine the course of your life
  • Take action, even when all the odds seem to be against you

Discussion Probes Sample Answers

1. What virtues does Al Buehler demonstrate? What virtues does he hope to develop in others?

Al Buehler demonstrates Courage; he dared to stand up against racism by not attending events that Dr. LeRoy Walker was not allowed. He also demonstrated Justice; he fought for equality in women’s sports on college campuses when he assisted in implementing Title IX. He sacrificed the men’s track scholarships to fight for justice. Buehler also demonstrated Wisdom & Knowledge; every day he would give them his “words of wisdom” to live by. (Johnson, 2020)

Buehler hoped to develop courage in others as well. He hopes that people will stand up for what they believe in even with all the risks known. He also hoped to develop optimism. He wants others to see the positive in situations and outcomes instead of focusing heavily on the negative. Pay attention to the way one sees problems. Humility is also a virtue that Buehler hoped to develop in others. He hoped that others know their character flaws and strengths and be motivated to make changes. Staying true to who one is can lead to a happier life. (Johnson, 2020)

2. What does it mean to you to “start at the finish line?”

Buehler brought up an excellent point when he speaks about, “the finish line is a starting point… for dreams, for opening long-closed doors, for challenges, for change. Starting at the finish line also means carrying your principles and values forward beyond the finish line of any race or goal and into how you live your life.” (Johnson, 2020) An example of this is graduating with your master’s degree, you are at the finish line, so you are ready to apply the knowledge and skills that you developed while attending school in your career.

In other words, starting at the finish line, to me just means the end of one goal and the beginning of another. Everyone has a set of goals they want to achieve, and once one is completed, another one begins.

3. How does start at the finish line compared to Covey’s second habit: Begin with the end in mind?

Starting at the finish line compares to Covey’s second habit regarding imagination. Covey’s second habit suggests that it, “means to start with a clear understanding of your destination.” (Team, 2019) Covey’s second habit is envisioning the end product of your goal and being able to stick with your habit no matter what gets in the way.

Starting at the finish line is a bit different, but imagination is used as well. You start at the finish line with a clear aligning of goals, directions, and outcomes and what it will take to get there.

4. How does Buehler serve as a moral exemplar?

Buehler serves as a moral exemplar by displaying certainty, positivity, and unity of self and moral goals.

He displays certainty by being concrete about what he believes in. For example, in Case study 3.3, (Johnson, 2020) Buehler supported the duo Carlos Rogers and Tommie Smith when they were booed for protesting racial injustice on the winner’s stand at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Buehler even took them to the airport after the Olympic team kicked them off because he supported them for having the courage to speak up.

Another display of a moral exemplar is positivity. In his words of wisdom in Case study 3.3, he says, “Turn your attention on those positive things that enable you to be the best you can be.” (Johnson, 2020) He takes a positive approach to life and is optimistic about the future.

The last display as a moral exemplar is his Unity of Self and Moral Goals. Buehler was not only a mentor, a teacher, and a role model to his students, but to the civilian community as well. Case study 3.3 (Johnson, 2020) describes how Buehler “organized multiple national and international meets, including the first to invite African runners to the United States and a competition with the Soviets at the height of the Cold War.” He displayed his justice for wanting everyone to be treated equally, no matter what race.

5. What can we learn from Buehler’s Examples and Advice?

What one can learn from Buehler’s examples and advice is that no matter how difficult a situation may feel, how difficult a hardship may feel, you should always keep your beliefs and morals in place.

Learning your strengths and the positivity in yourself can help you achieve any goals that one has set out for yourself. Buehler’s advice teaches others to not give up and not deflect away from the principle of why one is doing what they do at the beginning of their journey.


  1. Johnson, C. E. (2020). Meeting the ethical challenges of leadership: casting light or shadow (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publishing (PG 72, 75-76, 84, 102-103)
  2. Team, F.C.C. (2019, November 8). Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind. Retrieved from

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Principles of Ethics in Leadership. (2022, Aug 12). Retrieved from

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