When I started blogging, I made up a list of attributes of leadership that has come to be 84 items long. You may have noticed that I’m working through the list, tackling a different subject every week (plus other stuff from time to time.)
Well I was wanting to comment today on the current political scene in Toronto and checked my list to see if the purpose of my post was going to come up as a future item and lo and behold, much to my surprise, it didn’t.
And what was it I wanted to talk about today? Ethics. I happened to notice that right now, if you live inToronto, you can’t help be inundated by the news about political scandals. In fact for the first time in my memory anyway, there is a major scandal at every level of Government.
The Ford boys are mired in the hash/crack ‘I don’t/didn’t do it’ scandal. The provincial Liberals are trying to extricate themselves from a $1 billion decision to close a few gas plants. And the Federal conservatives are just padding their expense accounts. (I mean, talk about boring. The Conservatives can’t even bother to have a good scandal with sex, drugs, and billions.)
So I wanted to talk this week about ethics and went to my list of topics and found, much to my surprise that ethics wasn’t even on my list of potential leadership qualities. Perhaps this says something about my ethically-challenged self but since I compiled the list from stuff I found on the web it can’t only be my fault.
But this led me to the question. Do you need to be ethical to be a good leader or does it get in the way? Given all the scandals we are seeing nowadays one must wonder whether politics attracts people who aren’t ethical or is it that people lose their ethics by being involved in politics.
Do candidates start out ethical and lose it over time or were they always unethical and it just takes us a while to figure it out?
Does ethics even matter in leadership?
Leadership without ethics is doomed – I reference SNC Lavalin for the proof. Sometimes it takes a while but the truth eventually surfaces and the unethical fall.
You’re one of the good ones, Bob!
Let’s be honest here – the dollar trumps ethics, and the main reason a lot of companies subscribe to a set of ethics is because they can’t risk getting caught without them. Secondly, who says you have to practice the ethics you define for yourself – as long as they’re written down somewhere then we’re all in the clear!
Some companies can and do risk an absence of responsible conduct (British Petroleum – New Orlearns, Dow – Bhopal, India), especially for overseas operations. Major disasters, or human or environmental tragedy can be spun by clever, well-paid PR. The truth gets distorted, accountability dissolved, issues swept neatly and quietly under the rug, and lawyers take care of the rest. (How do they sleep at night?) Our society is generally apathetic and has a short memory – why not take full advantage of that? Why pour money into safety or fair wages or the community you operate in when you have such a great damage control unit?
Am I being too cynical, or frightfully aware? Maybe I’m basing my opinion on a minority, but am I now being naive?
Also, with or without ethics the business hardly suffers. The people running the business pay the price. Careful who you work for, I guess! Most job postings won’t say “Scapegoat Wanted – temporary positions available.”