When I think of some of the greatest ethical leaders (the keyword here is “ethical”), a few immediately come to mind, based on what they’ve done for others. From Harriet Tubman and Eleanor Roosevelt to Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, there’s no shortage of visionary leaders in history who have placed ethics and values first, tuned into their Ethics GPS, and have accomplished positive change for the good of humanity.
At the same time, fast forward to today, with leaders who take ethical “detours.” In their organizations, they’re seen as high performers and they’re known for making shareholders happy. Although they may say the right thing, they don’t always do the right thing, when it comes to the different stakeholders they serve. Sometimes the “Do No Harm” and “Do Well By Doing Good” mantras don’t apply to all parties involved.
For me, leadership and ethics go hand-in-hand. As my friend and colleague, Richard Bistrong, CEO of Front-Line Anti-Bribery LLC shared in a recent social media post, “If we are not careful, bad behavior can hide behind good performance, until it’s too late, for everyone.” Unfortunately, Richard is correct, the bad behavior is present, and it often goes unnoticed and also unquestioned.
When I wrote Answers for Ethical Marketers, the book’s mission was to help business professionals communicate with honesty, transparency, respect and objectivity, knowing that ethics and values were always leading the way. In my book, I discussed a number of steps business leaders could take to “Live” their values, demonstrate ethics daily and “walk” the ethics “talk.” Among the top suggestions included were:
Living / working by a standard (a code of ethics), and knowing one standard is in place for everyone.
Choosing the high road when making decisions; remembering two wrongs don’t make a right.
Keeping transparency top of mind; having to engage in uncomfortable conversations with open dialogue.
In my video, I share more about how to “walk” the ethics “talk: and to evaluate whether you and the leaders around you demonstrate ethics in every communication and business interaction.
As a leader, are you simply talking about ethics or are you living your ethics and values?