ETHICALLY INTELLIGENT LEADERSHIP
INDIVIDUAL & TEAM ADVISING
Character Matters. Ethics Matter. Reputation Matters.
Ethically Intelligent Leadership draws from a interdependent collection of Life Smarts
mindsets and skillsets that help guide us in making wise choices and taking wise actions to skillfully navigate, adapt, and inspire with resiliency, courage and unshakeable integrity during times of stress and change.
"Ethics is deeply personal, but it is also deeply social. Many people respond to criticism of their ethics by saying, 'I have to look at myself in the mirror. I have to live with myself.' That is, of course, correct. But your organization also has to live with you and your choices. Ethical decision-making must pass some kind of publicity test. What would happen to your organization if your decisions were on the front page of the newspaper? Would you still be proud to tell your children or other loved ones what you did?"
- from Freeman & Pramar, 'Ethics as Conversation: A Process for Progress," MIT Sloan Management Review, January 2019
Compliance is what a business has to do. Ethics are what a business chooses to do.
Making honest assessments and taking complete ownership for the impact your organization has upon the People you work with and the products and services you offer to the public, the Planet we inhabit, and your overall Purpose (beyond Profit) through a wide ripple effect improves the odds you won't justify, excuse, or deny thoughts, choices, actions and behaviors that contribute to unethical decisions and practices and a toxic workplace culture.
However, when the focus is "profits first, no matter what it takes" a highly-competitive attitude can quickly make you vulnerable to making compromises in integrity in order to "win." Your ego trips you up on a regular basis by offering a bunch of "great sounding" excuses and justifications to not do the right thing- especially when you think you can "get away with it." A "what's it for us" inward-only focused mindset doesn't want to look at shadow behaviors, or unproductive and even harmful (to self and others) habits and patterns.
To be totally blunt, this isn't very wise when it comes to the Big Picture.
Since we live in a more secular world today – especially at work - leaders and managers experience organizational ethical conflicts and dilemmas more than ever before, but often struggle with how to address them in a way that won't offend anyone's particular belief system or religion so much that doing and saying nothing at all is often the default response. Coaches, trainers and advisors may skirt bringing to light any dark behavioral ethical issues in an organization's overall culture, in an individual's behavior or within leadership norms because they don't want to open up a can of worms, and instead dance around elephants in mid-room and naked emperors in charge. Intimidation and outright fear of speaking up is understandable when psychological safety is not guaranteed, yet when issues exist with individuals in power within a family, social, organizational or institutional culture that adversely affects people in multiple ways, not acting due to concerns about repercussions tends to make matters worse. And while an ostrich burying its head in the sand is a myth, people do so metaphorically all the time.
"A culture of ethics and respect is organic – an expression in actions, words, symbols, stories and values that flows through an organization - from the boardroom to the mailroom and back again, and this expression doesn’t just instruct
employees to do the right thing, it encourages them to do so.
The culture empowers their actions; and their actions is what brings the culture to life." - NAVEX Global
As a result, when trying to uphold moral obligations to society as a whole, those in formal leadership positions are often challenged to determine what is right or wrong, what they ought to do and not do, and which perspective is most ethically correct and fair when multiple options are in front of them. Unfortunately since this process is hard and often complex, there are no easy answers for leaders as how to circumvent ethical dilemmas from occurring in the first place. In today’s world, unethical behavior and corrupt, unchecked decision-making processes has led to scandals of various kinds. From Enron to Madoff to Volkswagen to Wells Fargo to the Catholic Church to the Entertainment Industry, Sports Teams and Educational and Governmental Institutions, and so many in between, we continually hear about the high cost that comes when trust is compromised by unethical leaders and even their employees and followers. But when not much happens as a consequence, the result is even greater distrust, rising cynicism and calls for change – even though it is often unclear what changes need to take place – or how to go about them.
One thing is clear however. All the great-sounding excuses that people give as to why they avoid addressing ethical issues without or within simply won't cut it any longer. As the saying goes, you can run but you cannot hide. Current and advancing technology has made it abundantly obvious that what we say and do can be captured on recordings and instantly displayed for the world to see - and now with AI can be manipulated by nefarious actors. Texts, emails, and internet searches are never entirely wiped away. Any past skeletons or behavioral discretions have a higher potential of being exposed than ever before, and more people are speaking up where they once were intimidated by threats and silenced by NDAs. The planet has become a small town, and if you ever lived in one, you're already familiar with having to keep your nose clean because your fellow townspeople know everybody's business and gossip is a form of entertainment.
With all the calls for transparency, accountability and authenticity, it simply isn't smart to speak and act in ways that are not Ethically Intelligent, regardless of your religious, spiritual or philosophical beliefs, for as we know, those three do not always keep unethical beliefs, choices and decisions at bay, especially when people cherry-pick what they want to adhere to and ignore or distort what they don't like to fit their needs.
The status quo of dysfunctional cultures and leadership - no matter whether if it's at home, school, work, and as global citizens directly impacted by the actions of others isn't something we can ignore and just "hope" gets better all by itself.
Can you - or your organization - afford to have any part of your life be mindless and unconscious – regardless if it is within your personal life, your professional life, within your family and intimate relationships, your social world, within your faith or political beliefs, and how you acknowledge your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs – as well as those of others?
How are you showing up in any given moment? What about your Team Members? What will be your legacy?
The good news is that just like Emotional and Social Intelligence, Ethical Intelligence can be learned and directly applied in all areas of your life, starting right now. In fact, Ethical Intelligence acts as a system of "checks and balances" to help ensure you don't use the other two to perpetuate a fear-driven, dysfunctional worn-out status quo that enables you to "spin" whatever you think, do and say as acceptable - even when you know in your heart it isn't.
Ethically Intelligent Leadership: Individual and Team Advising
Although Ethics and Compliance matters are usually paired together, compliance is a legal function of business that addresses regulations, statues, etc. Compliance is what a business has to do. Ethics are what a business chooses to do.
You can be ethical yet not have a workplace culture that works together. Even if you have a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) policy, if it doesn't address the underlying socio-political-cultural issues, biases, and discriminatory behaviors that adversely impact diverse groups of human beings, it's just a "check the box" initiative. Your Code of Ethical Workplace Conduct is the place where you define and shape what you stand up for - and what is unacceptable - and ensure there are no "grey areas."
Regardless of whether your organization's current code of ethical, honorable and harmonious workplace conduct needs an
upgrade, or you're a start-up that doesn't yet have a formal Code of Conduct crafted that defines it both internally and to the public, my approach is holistic, synergistic and comprehensive and not "one size fits all."
Please contact me for more details and to determine if we are a good fit.