From Kyle Palantzas of Coburg Consultants
With business hitting record speeds, frequencies and magnitudes, the line between right and wrong is becoming more ambiguous. History has painted an elaborate ethical spectrum, from the rise of Starbucks and the demise of Enron – ethics are more important now than ever before. Business acumen is being distilled through a stricter and amplified filter, as companies and managers maneuver their decisions and strategies to live within an acceptable ethical framework.
As ethics continue to gain prevalence, business schools across the globe are engraining approaches to breed ethically-charged managers and leaders. These efforts are producing well-rounded, informed and consequence-cautious minds, able to distinguish and narrow this spectrum.
However, most issues and circumstances are far more complex than just right versus wrong, good versus bad, or black versus white. It takes a combination of rational, values and social conventions to reach a constructive result.
Ethics take on many identities that affect decisions on a multitude of interconnected and diverse roles. To fully embody this moral compass, one must realize its complexity and adapt to situations. To personify the role of ethics in my life, I recognize the context and shape my approach accordingly.
As a student, my ethical identity is driven by a commitment to integrity and challenge. The initial step to shaping this framework is the use of my own thoughts and ideas to further my learning. My ethics test and foster my abilities, as I constantly seek development and opportunity. Digging deeper, my moral principles extend into respecting and accepting the open exchange of ideas and learning – adding to the productive, fruitful and expanding academic environment.
As an employee, my moral compass is steered by the combination of personal and corporate values and principles. Adding another layer to my ethical framework thickens the degree of severity, as the difference between right and wrong takes on more meaning. As an employee, I embody the ideals, standards and objectives of my company. I hold no conflicts of interest, give an honest and transparent effort and fully commit to my responsibilities and duties – treating my firm’s stakeholders as my own.
As an athlete my ethics are cultivated through competition and sportsmanship. My loyalty to train and participate in healthy rivalry is a privilege and test of character. To win with respect and lose with honour are both amicable outcomes. The allegiance to my team and the attitude towards my progress both encompass the spirit of sport.
As a shareholder my ethics are represented by another company, living through its decisions, actions and strategies. As an investor I only support a company that takes pride in its product, generates a sustainable profit and sees the world through a humane, environmental and sustainable lens. My investment must seek positive change and see the glass half full, reinforcing my moral values.
As a citizen my ethics guide my everyday routine and impact my future plans. From the simplest gestures of respect, to mapping out my objectives, values and life goals – my moral code plays an active role to influence and trump my actions and decisions.
As you can see ethics connects and is embodied in all aspects of life. It requires adaptability of beliefs, practice in situational contexts and awareness about its overarching reach. It truly is a balance between moral propositions, consequences and everything in between. The word ethics is derived from the Greek word Ethos, which means character. However, we are selling ourselves short if we limit ethics only to individuals.
Businesses are investing large amounts of capital to build and develop this “character” through powerful brands, missions, innovations and charitable initiatives. Balancing between maximizing profits and the increasing need for non-economic factors is continually shaping and re-shaping business strategies worldwide. However, every corporation, be it 2 or 2 million employees, is made up of individuals – allowing personal and corporate ethics to collide and come full circle. To achieve moral prosperity firms must honour and invest in ethical leaders to instil a focus of ethics on the entire organization.
What is an ethical leader, you ask?
To me, an ethical leader is someone who has the ability to capture and communicate their values and beliefs. This noble character is an advocate of accountability and acts as a support mechanism to promote ethical conduct and guide employees’ actions. This morale booster comes from many backgrounds and departments and is found at the bottom and top of an organization. A role model that leads by example, this type of leader understands and encapsulates the power, impact and relevancy of ethics in today’s business environment.
Companies are recognizing and rewarding these ethical leaders, who in turn act as a vehicle to promote and contribute to the firm’s corporate social responsibility. With uncertainty in the economy, many firms have taken a stance within this ethical realm, promoting cultures of collaboration while breeding influential and inspiring values.
In my opinion, diversifying and linking personal and corporate values not only promote ethical leadership, but also adds to the richness of what a company represents.