Elephant’s CONSULT Focus

Elephant- Grey Border    ethical-spectrum-logo-wedge-grey-no-borders-plus-grey-3-0


Why an Elephant?

Elly, like many elephants, is known for being intelligent and having a great memory. Elephants also typically look out for one another. Elly and people who prefer the Consult Focus value consulting with others to come to the best possible solutions.

Main Consideration:

When deciding what’s right, Elly and others with a Consult Focus tend to focus on CONSULTing with others to get diverse perspectives in order to avoid harmful biases.


Like Elly, someone with a Consult Focus may ask themselves: “Who will help me consider diverse perspectives?” They believe in recognizing and challenging their own biases, which we all have.


1. OTHER PERSPECTIVES. Elly, intending to show an elephant from across the world that Elly cares most about personal characteristics, says: “I don’t distinguish between African Elephants and Asian Elephants. We are all the same!” However, after consulting with a wise mentor, Elly realizes that this statement was actually hurtful to the other elephant because it ignored some very important aspects of the other elephant’s life and experiences. By focusing on consulting with others, Elly helps us see diverse perspectives more clearly.

2. AVOID BIASES. Elly has to help choose someone for a special job in the herd. Elly’s good friend really wants the job, and Elly thinks “I can be objective.” After consulting with another friend, Elly realizes “I am fooling myself, I would be biased.” Elly reminds us to consult with others who are trustworthy so that we can become more aware of our own harmful biases, including self-deception. By understanding that we are all biased in some way, and focusing on different viewpoints, Elly helps us see things from different angles.


1. OTHERS’ BIASES. Elly consults with a mentor about how to distribute some food in a fair/just way. Elly does not realize that this mentor has negative feelings about certain individuals and groups. The mentor has biases against those with disabilities and different beliefs. Elly must be very careful about who to consult with, since others have harmful biases as well. It can help if Elly consults with those who incorporate well-respected focus areas that have stood the test of time (e.g. Olly the Otter’s Character Focus, Hadley the Hawk’s Code Focus, Whitley the Wolf’s Consequences Focus, and Bailey the Bear’s Care Focus).

2. IMPLEMENTATION. Food is in short supply. Elly has time to consult with three trusted mentors about how to distribute the available food to the group in a fair/just way. One says “split the food equally across the group.” The second says “give more to those who have had the greatest struggles in the past.” The third says “give more to those who have worked the hardest.” Elly is not sure how many perspectives to consider and what to do when they provide conflicting advice. There are no easy answers, but it can help if Elly consults with those who incorporate well-respected focus areas that have stood the test of time (e.g. Olly the Otter’s Character Focus, Hadley the Hawk’s Code Focus, Whitley the Wolf’s Consequences Focus, and Bailey the Bear’s Care Focus).

Theoretical Background:

Behavioral Ethics, Behavioral Economics and the Psychology of Decision Making (based on the wisdom of Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman and others).


Elly the Elephant represents a very important and respected focus area (CONSULT). However, it does not include everything. To balance out the challenges above, the Elephant CONSULTant focus area should be used in combination with other focus areas like Bear’s CARE. Combining focus areas is called PLURALISM and can be very beneficial.

Next Steps:

1. Remind yourself of the strengths and challenges of your main focus animal/color. This can help you anticipate benefits and identify potential problems down the road. For example, if you only focus on the Golden Rule (Bear’s Care focus: yellow/gold), you may not hold someone accountable for their behavior because you would not would to be held accountable if you were in their situation.

2. Pick one other focus area (another animal/color) to read more about (see take5.gmu.edu/animals/). This can help you better understand the strengths and challenges of different decision-making strategies and help you see the benefits of uniting the focus areas (“Unite to light the way”) since they can counteract each other’s challenges.

3. We all need reminders. Use the Take5 card (take5.gmu.edu/ethics-card/) to help you make well-balanced decisions (individually or in groups).


To better understand this focus area, see the PDF Handout.


Overall Conclusion about the focus areas of the animals:

The Otter, Hawk, Wolf, Bear and Elephant represent very respected views from moral philosophy. We recommend combining the views of these 5 animals to balance out their strengths and weaknesses. For some tips on how to do this, please see the ethicspectrum page.

For George Mason University community members who would like to learn more, the Leadership Education and Development Office (LEAD) offers workshops and other programs on ethics and leadership topics. The workshop that directly addresses the ethics and leadership topics discussed on this website is called: “What Would You Do? Making Tough Ethical Choices.” Please see our general page at lead.gmu.edu or our workshop request page.