WHITLEY the WOLF. Focus Color: BLUE

Why a Wolf?

Whitley, like many wolves, is known for being dedicated to what’s best for the larger group (or pack), as well as being adaptable to changing circumstances. Whitley and people who prefer the Consequences Focus calculate how to adjust their actions in order to create the best results for the greatest number. Whitley and people who prefer the Consequences Focus go even further than the average wolf in order to consider the impact of their actions on society as a whole, not just the self or one’s pack/group.

Main Consideration:

When deciding what’s right Whitley and others with a Consequences Focus tend to focus their attention on getting good results, or CONSEQUENCES, that benefit as many as possible.


Like Whitley, someone with a Consequences Focus may ask themselves: “What will bring the best results and least harm for all affected?” They believe in the importance of calculating the impact BEYOND themselves and their pack (or “in-group”).


1. CONSEQUENCES MATTER. A few years ago, Whitley’s wolf pack had a very difficult time, and was starving. Whitley was weighing the pros and cons of stealing some food for the pack. Whitley considered the impact on those being stolen from, not just Whitley’s pack. A friend said that Whitley should “never steal.” Whitley believes that the “never steal” code often ends up with the best overall results for the greatest number (not just Whitley’s pack), but in this situation, Whitley reasoned that it was OK to steal. Whitley calculated that saving the pack would create the greatest overall good (e.g. saving lives and not significantly hurting those Whitley was stealing from). Whitley helps us consider the overall consequences of our actions for the greatest number, not just sticking to consistent codes of conduct like never steal.

2. IMPARTIALITY. Whitley had to help choose someone for a special job in the wolf pack. Whitley’s good friend really wanted the job, and Whitley really wanted to help this friend. However, Whitley knew that another wolf was more qualified and would do a better job, which would create better consequences for all. Whitley advocated for the other wolf instead of the good friend. Whitley helps us consider the overall consequences of our actions for the greatest number, not just helping those with whom we have close relationships.


1.RIGHTS VIOLATIONS (or “tyranny of the majority”). A wolf with a disability is born into Whitley’s pack. Whitley calculates that this wolf would eventually slow the pack down and cause negative consequences for the overall group. Whitley believes that it’s essential to focus on results for the greatest number and therefore considers moving the pack on, without the wolf with the disability. Whitley’s friend argues that just focusing on overall results can lead to violating someone’s rights and that this young wolf has rights, just like any other wolf. To focus on rights, especially those of individuals or smaller groups, Whitley sometimes needs help from friends with a different focus area (e.g. Hadley the Hawk’s Code Focus).

2. SOMETHING MORE. Whitley’s friend was injured recently. Whitley went to visit. The friend was so happy to see Whitley and asked “Why did you stop by to see me, Whitley?” Whitley said: “I calculated the greatest good I could do today and this is it.” 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 just calculating consequences. Friends (e.g. Olly the Otter and Bailey the Bear) encourage Whitley to focus more on the type of wolf that Whitley wants to be, not just the consequences of various actions.

3. SPECULATION. Whitley calculates that the pack could get more food, and be more successful overall, if it expands it’s territory. Whitley also estimates that because of the positive impact of the pack, this will be good for the overall health of the environment too (i.e. greatest good for the greatest number). However, Whitley does not realize that there is a neighboring wolf pack whose territory they would be crossing into, leading to more fights, and worse overall conditions for everyone involved. Sometimes, Whitley’s speculation about future consequences can be very wrong. Whitley sometimes needs help from friends with a different focus area (e.g. Olly the Otter’s Character Focus, Hadley the Hawk’s Code Focus).

Theoretical Background:

Consequentialist Ethics and Utilitarianism (based on the wisdom of philosophers such as John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham).


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