First published on Technorati: http://technorati.com/lifestyle/article/ethical-leadership-in-diverse-environments-1/
The recent Penn State scandal, what transpires from it, and how it was handled by many or not has been fascinating to me.It highlighted the diversity of how different people see or practice ethics. Supporting “Coach Patterno” students had pleasure turning over cars and starting fires while others were outraged having vigils for the victims.
Some knew or witnessed little children allegedly being molested, hurt and raped at Penn State; and just turned the other way. How do we as human beings define ethics and priorities? Do we sacrifice ethics for the sake of priorities, even if misguided? Was winning and having a football team at Penn State more important than protecting children?
Our country is diverse, and this is the beauty of it. Diversity is supposed to bring us all together to a greater good, to better solutions, to better outcomes. I still want to believe in that, despite witnessing leaders like Coach Patterno, that has been a role model for over 40 years, knowing about the children being harmed; and either didn’t care or just felt that it was more important to win and maintain the status quo.
Ethics are ethics and exist in any culture; they are the standards of right and wrong that inﬂuence behavior. What is considered unethical in some cultures is considered ethical in others. But harming the people we are supposed to protect is unethical in any culture and no matter how diverse our backgrounds are.
Integrity is an important trait of effective leaders in any culture, and ethics and trust are part of integrity.
Recently we have seen many leaders from diverse backgrounds lose their way. A French politician, inspiring President, and former head of International Monetary fund allegedly accused of rape; a Republican US Senator (Nevada) paying off people to cover an extra-marital affair; a previous CEO for Hewlett-Packard falsifying expense reports covering a relationship with a contractor; dictators in the Middle East like Mubarak and Gadhafi that were aspiring great leaders at the beginning.
All these diverse leaders were successful and at the top of their game, their subsequent behaviors are shocking, making me wonder what made them lose their way?
• Was status more important to them than ethics; was money, wining, greed their priorities?
• What turned them to be unethical toxic leaders?
• What made them risk everything they had?
• Did they think they were above the law? And rules that applied to everyone else did not apply to them?
These leaders that lost their way didn’t get to leadership roles to do wrong or be unethical, yet they did. The reason is that at a certain point they lost their ethics, their moral compass and direction, making the other side look greener.
Ethical leadership across any culture, either personal or organizational, requires courage, and the ability to do the right thing at the risk of rejection and loss.
As human beings including the leaders, as diverse as we are, share the need to be liked by others, fitting in without rocking the boat, we take risks when we challenge status quo by speaking our mind and ﬁghting for what we believe is right and it requires courage.
Courage means we do the right thing in spite of fear and it is difficult. It requires taking responsibility for our mistakes and failures, rather than trying to cover them up or blaming others.
Moral and ethical values are important to our well being, it is not just about making money or wining or having an elite status, it is not right to lie, hide or even stretch the truth; Once a lie is made it triggers a domino’s effect of other lies, it has hidden costs, as loosing self-respect, reputation and morals
Leaders from any background should lead by ethical example and enforce ethical standards, because it is the right thing to do.
We will discuss ethical behaviors and more about courage in the next post.
Diversity starts at home,
Sahar Andrade, MB.BCh
Diversity Consultant – Social Media Strategist
Sahar Consulting, LLC. – Home of the D.I.A.L.O.G.™ Programs
Diversity& Inclusion in Active Leadership Organizational Growth™
(Exchanging Ideas through Conversation)™