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The Ethics Prism: beyond the hero & villain model of ethical leadership

Posted by on 28 Apr 2013 in The Capable Leader | 0 comments

The Ethics Prism: Ethical Leadership in cross cultural settings Written by Meena Thuraisingham, Organisational Psychologist, Consultant and Author April 2013 At the core of the ethical behaviour of leaders are values – the very personal values held by the leader and their advocacy of those values for the organisation they lead. We all advocate honesty as a value in all of our intentional dealings with others. However whether we face the ‘big’ or ‘small’ tests of leadership, there are moments we can all admit to when we were not completely honest in what we said or did.  Of course we all had good reason – we did not want to lose the client, we did not want to worry the board, we did not want the analysts to over-react, we did not want to destabilise the company’s highest revenue generator. At an organisational level, these tests are more complex for example in valuing or prioritising shareholder value over stakeholder concerns. These bigger tests are more difficult to pin on a single leader and are often counted and rationalised away as structural or systemic values dilemmas.  But all lead down the same path – unethical behaviour by one or more leaders. Unethical behaviour occurs when an individual is faced with a fork in the road and the consequent dilemma, and chooses one of 2 paths. The dilemma may be between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ (2 values come into direct conflict) or between ‘right’ and ‘right’ (when 2 values have to be assigned priorities and one take precedence over the other). What is deemed right or wrong however is rooted deeply in what one personally values or values more – one’s personal value system.  But more importantly, when the chosen path is unethical, values held either by the individual, the company or the business community have been distorted in some way.  Distorted because a leader ultimately accountable did not show the moral courage (or was unwilling) to endure the hardship that results from the ‘tougher’ of the 2 paths. An example of a scenario where a choice is made between the right and wrong is when an individual or company operates with a ‘win at all costs’ mentality. Whole competitive systems are distorted – as true of drug cheats in sports who want to win at all costs as it is of principal dancers in the Russian Ballet as it is of large listed companies who choose to use their monopolistic power to squeeze out other competitors. This of course is true anywhere in the world. Any culture in the world can grow the ‘win at all costs’ mentality. These kinds of delimmas are easy to spot. The choice between right and...

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The Ethics Prism: Ethical Leadership in cross cultural settings

Posted by on 16 Apr 2013 in Become Asia Capable | 0 comments

Rethinking the ‘heroes & villains’ model of ethical leadership At the core of the ethical behaviour of leaders are values – the very personal values held by the leader and their advocacy of those values for the organisation they lead. We all advocate honesty as a value in all of our intentional dealings with others. However whether we face the ‘big’ or ‘small’ tests of leadership, there are moments we can all admit to when we were not completely honest in what we said or did.  Of course we all had good reason – we did not want to lose the client, we did not want to worry the board, we did not want the analysts to over-react, we did not want to destabilise the company’s highest revenue generator. At an organisational level, these tests are more complex for example in valuing or prioritising shareholder value over stakeholder concerns. These bigger tests are more difficult to pin on a single leader and are often counted and rationalised away as structural or systemic values dilemmas. But all lead down the same path – unethical behaviour by one or more leaders. Unethical behaviour occurs when an individual is faced with a fork in the road and the consequent dilemma, and chooses one of 2 paths. The dilemma may be between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ (2 values come into direct conflict) or between ‘right’ and ‘right’ (when 2 values have to be assigned priorities and one take precedence over the other). What is deemed right or wrong however is rooted deeply in what one personally values or values more – one’s personal value system. But more importantly, when the chosen path is unethical, values held either by the individual, the company or the business community have been distorted in some way. Distorted because a leader ultimately accountable did not show the moral courage (or was unwilling) to endure the hardship that results from the ‘tougher’ of the 2 paths. An example of a scenario where a choice is made between the right and wrong is when an individual or company operates with a ‘win at all costs’ mentality. Whole competitive systems are distorted – as true of drug cheats in sports who want to win at all costs as it is of principal dancers in the Russian Ballet as it is of large listed companies who choose to use their monopolistic power to squeeze out other competitors. This of course is true anywhere in the world. Any culture in the world can grow the ‘win at all costs’ mentality. These kinds of dilemmas are easy to spot. The choice between right and right, although tougher to navigate through is now easier to spot...

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