That's a good piece Frank.
Humans are superb at not seeing, being blind to what they find
subconciously unacceptable, or in business even worse the collective
So when you say "If you look only at the mistakes others made without trying to understand why they happened, you will learn almost nothing. It may be hard to believe, but often those who behave unethically think of themselves as perfectly ethical and responsible."
I say, Oh yes indeed.
I think that often there are people in a company that do see, often not in management. This can start an undercurrent.
I give a simple example. Very often managers play golf inside normal
work hours, which they describe as business meetings, even networking. Sometimes this is true. Rather often it is only partly true. This can be seen as skiving, and that can lead to resentment. Double standards and that is ethics.
Similarly there can be the problem of common justice. One person acting as prosecution, evidence holder, judge, jury. It is unethical yet it happens. Just to twist things, maybe it happens over the golf issue.
This is extremely interesting territory.
Organisations and people within organisations rarely if ever demonstrate a homogeneous mix of ethical values, but they do have to function.
Ask the question. How will the Iraq even create a temporary framework to govern given that it seeks to balance such disparate issues?
History tells us that we compromise because the alternatives are often far worse. Pragmatism becomes the order of the day and I think that this is a pattern that is repeated in corporations.
Organisations function according to their perception of how they need to respond to the power of the circumstances around them. There is a behavioural bottom line for organisations which should not be crossed (ethical considerations embodied in the law) but, there is a vast array of other ethical issues that may or may not be taken on board. They are generally only taken on board when it is perceived that the short term self interest of the company matches the ethical value.
Organisations then present different images to their stakeholders to maximise the warm glow that they project.
Profit to the shareholders.
Respect me vibes to the institutions.
We work for our workforce vibes to employees and their supporters.
All these images conflict and one of the key roles of leadership (setting the agenda) is to ensure that this conflict is managed and the business machine does not slow down.
Those leaders who have gone through the processes of:
1. Learning to lead and manage themselves.
2. Developing a clear understanding their values and goals.
3. Learning to lead and motivate others.
4. Learning how to apply leadership strategically.
will manage without falling off the horse.
It is unlikely however, that they will lead on ethics even if their standpoint is ahead of their company's minimal position.
They are more likely to gratefully respond to what the social consensus
seeks to make imperative.
This is an excerpt from Frank's book
Stop Telling... Start
The Art of Managing People by Asking Questions
Ethics and Leadership?
Ethics and leadership both seem to be abstract and ambiguous—so imagine what happens when we discuss ethical leadership. Ethical leadership is not about how to lead to reach specific goals, but what ethical affects leadership has. Ethics aren't morals themselves but the meaning of moral ways and actions. Ethics don't decide, nor do they take decisions away. They serve as a means of guidance—to find answers, make decisions, and know how to justify them.
Leadership is about those who are in a position to make decisions; create opinions and attitudes. It is more then just managing. Because leaders have to lead by example, their words, actions, and values play a huge role in their success. Responsibility and credibility are two of the most important elements of leadership; each is deeply based on the interaction with others. Because every action, even the smallest, has an impact, ethics are always part of the decision-making process. Ethics are not a cookbook for great decisions. Leaders know that every decision has to be carried by responsibility and credibility. To be recognized as a leader requires exuding trust. Remember that for many the values and ethics of the leader have to match their own understanding of those.
To understand the impact of ethics, it's important to ask the right questions:
- How do we implement corporate social responsibility?
- How do we select and support employees while achieving the business goals?
- What core competencies does a business need to stay successful? How do those bind the people?
- What values do managers need to keep the worth, responsibility and future compatibility of the business?
Today's leaders have to understand what is needed tomorrow if they want to implement the necessary changes to keep the business running. Successful leaders are smart, responsible, and ethical. They're expected to:
- Take responsibility and delegate.
- Continuously work on the vision and goals of the business and follow those.
- Support shareholders, stakeholders, and suppliers to help them grow and stay within the vision and goals of the business.
- Implement valuable, clear and responsible business solutions, either with or without the team.
- Design smart teams with responsible team players.
- Support employees to be themselves by bringing back the fun, and understanding diversity.
- Change the rules (when necessary).
How much can a leader learn by looking at those who have chosen to be unethical?
If you look only at the mistakes others made without trying to understand why they happened, you will learn almost nothing. It may be hard to believe, but often those who behave unethically think of themselves as perfectly ethical and responsible. It's a matter of how they interpret values. They may be wrong, but remember that values do change over the years and sometimes people make errors of judgment out of ignorance rather than lack of conscience. It is a fine line to walk.
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