Abigail Adams, the wife of John Adams our second president, was his intellectual equal. They wrote each other frequently when they were apart because they trusted each other’s judgement. In one of her letters she wrote, in part, “…How difficult the task to quench the fire and the pride of private ambition, and to sacrifice ourselves and all our hopes and expectations to the public weal! How few have souls capable of so noble an undertaking!”
Ethics and ambition will be in conflict with each other if a leader is not the master of his ambition. There are two kinds of leaders; one kind keeps his/her integrity intact, and the other type of leader does not.
The one who does keeps it close and guards it. It is OK if it is a little tattered around the edges and maybe holding a patch or two, but it is essentially all there. The one who does not keep his integrity intact sheds pieces along the way so that when that leader reaches the position he or she holds, there is a real question whether or not they can conduct themselves in an ethical manner.
I think the verdict is clear. Just in the past five years you can find real life examples of corporate leaders who failed in spectacular fashion.The seeds of their destruction was a result, in large part, to their unethical conduct. They chose the easy path instead because it looked like the fastest way out of a dilemma. Yet solutions that often seem to be a way out of a dilemma create opportunities for inappropriate behavior.
It leads to policies that, instead of creating innovation and growth, function as a shield allowing directors and managers to engage in behavior that is self-serving and unethical.
How many of you have heard the phrase honest to a fault? All us deal with a lot of noise in popular culture. With great sound and fury we demand that our leaders must be as close to perfect as possible. Yet, even the best of us lead imperfect lives, and the successful leader is one who catches his/her mistake and quickly corrects it. Good leaders do not allow gaps to form between the error and the action to correct the mistake.
How can you be sure you are doing everything you can to keep your integrity intact? Review the absence of the word “morality” in the business environment. This word gets very little attention in within the business community and this is ultimately harmful. This is not about forming judgements or replacing standards of behavior. It is about the moral dimensions of what they are doing. A leader cannot build an ethical culture in his organization without understanding the foundation on which ethics rests.
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