How many times do we turn on the news and there is another story of a corrupt businessperson or a politician? It’s hard to believe that the Enron scandal was just over 10 years ago; it’s even harder to believe that it wasn’t an isolated incident. Sometimes I shake my head and wonder what is wrong with people these days. Weren’t people taught right from wrong when they were children? I can only assume they were: yet somehow corruption persists. Merriam-Webster defines ethics as “the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation.” Sounds great – what does that mean? Another definition listed makes a little more sense: “the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group.” Now we are getting somewhere–ethics relates to conduct, specifically governing conduct. If we look back at the first definition, ethics outlines what is good and bad along with morals and obligation. Since I’m on a dictionary kick, what are morals? According to Merriam-Webster, morals are “of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior.” Basically morals and ethics should be what guide people’s actions.
Why do so many people seem to get it wrong? In some ways, leaders today must take on additional responsibility like parents. While our team members are not our children, they are grown adults. Sometimes they need to be reminded of simple things like the golden rule. It is amazing how many times problems could be solved with the simple “do unto others as you would have done to you”! It seems that the temptations of today can derail some people’s ‘moral compass’ quite easily, which is tough for leaders to fight against. However, all is not lost. I believe the majority of people want to do the right things and be good people – call me an optimist.
The key is for leaders to tap into that ‘good’ in each person. Doing the right things and feeling good are very powerful motivational tools. A watch-out, though, is to walk the fine line between motivating for the sake of pure goodness and elevating people’s sense of self-righteousness. A situation can turn ugly if the team members elevate their own egos by being ‘right’. Ironically, one way to manage egos is to remove emotion from the equation. Unfortunately, emotion is necessary to drive motivation and passion in a team member. No one ever said being a leader was easy!
CEO, The Professional Development Team