Hawk’s CODE Focus


HADLEY the HAWK. Focus Color: RED

Why a Hawk?

Hadley, like many hawks, is known for being very focused and for avoiding distractions. Hadley and people who prefer the Code Focus, aim their attention on the consistent principles that should guide our actions.

Main Consideration:

When deciding what’s right Hadley and others with a Code Focus tend to believe that it’s best to stick to consistent principles or CODEs that should apply across situations, as opposed to calculating the results of specific actions.


Like Hadley, someone with a Code Focus may ask themselves: “Would I want this action made into a rule/code for everyone to follow?” They believe in the importance of protecting other’s rights, especially individuals or small groups who might be left out by others.


1. INTENT MATTERS. Hadley and some friends were recently playing a game of high flying aerial tag. During the game they distinguished between a foul committed by mistake and an “intentional foul”, just as we do in many sports (e.g. basketball, soccer). Hadley helps us to remember the importance of distinguishing between hurting someone by mistake and hurting someone on purpose, just as we distinguish between involuntary manslaughter (killing someone by mistake) and premeditated murder. Either way, someone is hurt (or even killed), but Hadley helps us consider the intent of our actions (e.g. “what are we trying to do?”), not just what happens as a result.

2. RIGHTS. Hadley heard about an animal attack that many believe was based on prejudice and intolerance of difference. Many animals were on the verge of rioting to show their anger, but no one knew who committed the attack. It was tearing the community apart. Hadley was part of a council of animals who were meeting to decide what to do. Some council members recommended finding a scapegoat (i.e. holding a random individual responsible) in order to prevent a riot where others would get hurt. Hadley stopped the group from finding a scapegoat by saying: “We must not use someone, even if finding a scapegoat would prevent further violence.” Hadley helps us to consistently focus on respecting others’ rights (e.g. through consistent rules/codes for all) and not using others.


1. CODE CONFLICT. Two of Hadley’s most important rules/codes are: “Keep your promises” & “Help others when they need you”. One day, Hadley promised to meet a young hawk to help them learn an important new flying technique. On the way there, Hadley found out that another friend was having a very bad argument and needed Hadley right then too. Hadley felt stuck and wondered: “… should I keep my promise, or help the other friend?” Hadley doesn’t help us clarify what to do when two important rules/codes conflict. In these situations, Hadley asks for help from friends who see things from a different perspective (e.g. Olly the Otter’s Character Focus, Whitley the Wolf’s Consequences Focus).

2. EXCEPTIONS. A few years ago, Hadley’s family had a very difficult time and was starving. Hadley did not want to break the “never steal” code, but others disagree with Hadley’s dedicated adherence to certain principles. Hadley believes that it is very beneficial to follow consistent principles that stand the test of time. However, one of Hadley’s friends strongly believes that exceptions exist for most, if not all of Hadley’s rules/codes. This friend encourages Hadley to focus more on the consequences of actions (e.g. it’s OK to steal to save someone from starving), since there can be exceptions for the codes that Haley chooses to follow.

3. MORE THAN CODES. Hadley’s friend was injured recently. Hadley went to visit. The friend was so happy to see Hadley and asked “Why did you stop by to see me, Hadley?” Hadley said: “I asked myself ‘what would I want everyone to consistently do in this situation?’ and I determined that I should stop by…” This seems very different than what another friend said when explaining why they were visiting: “You are my friend and I really care about you” (e.g. feelings of compassion). There seems to be more to life than codes/duty alone. A friend encourages Hadley to focus more on the type of hawk that Hadley wants to be, not just the codes that Haley chooses to follow.

Theoretical Background:

Deontological Ethics (based on the wisdom of philosopher Immanuel Kant and others).


Hadley the Hawk represents a very important and respected focus area (CODE) from moral philosophy. However, no focus area is perfect. To balance out the challenges above, Hawk’s CODE should be combined with other focus areas like Otter’s CHARACTER and Wolf’s CONSEQUENCES. 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.