We live in a hyperconnected world. We have a large workforce in virtual, mobile, and decentralized offices. Teams and organizations increasingly become more diverse. Today many companies are on social media, using traditional communication channels less and less.
If we add to the above the economic, social, political, and health challenges of recent times, it is no surprise that ethical standards are defied amid all this pressure and complexity in which we live.
Let’s look at how today, more than ever, we must lead with integrity and how we can facilitate the process of making ethical decisions in these times.
The classic study of ethics in business “Moral Mazes” by Robert Jackall, points out that ethical leadership is carried out with personal actions and interpersonal relationships; in other words, it is a set of both personal and professional behaviors.
Ethical leadership experts stated that leaders who communicate a strong message of ethics and values, but who are not perceived as ethical (personally) can be considered hypocritical leaders. Furthermore, nothing makes people more cynical than having a leader who talks incessantly about integrity, but then engages in unethical behavior and goes so far as to encourage others to do so, either explicitly or implicitly (Trevino & Brown, 2004 Managing to be ethical. Academy of Management).
We follow and listen to a person who exudes trustworthiness; not only for their professional acts, but their personal actions as well, and leadership experts confirm this. From my point of view, it is not possible to separate one from the other. Besides, today, due to the high level of personal exposure on social media and the fact that there are hundreds of cameras watching you wherever you go, we have, more than ever, to demonstrate integrity. It is better that what you say is what you do and that what you do is what you say.
This is not a new topic; history reminds us that leading with integrity can even be a challenge. Many leaders have even been punished for defending their morals and principles. For example, Nelson Mandela went to prison because he defended equal rights in his country. Due to his moral stance, he was widely considered a political prisoner.
Both in ancient times and today, it can be a challenge to maintain integrity. But what is very true is that without it we cannot lead. As leaders, we must constantly evaluate our character and choose what is ethical.
I’m sharing with you one of the exercises that I encourage my students to practice so that they can improve their integrity and ability to make ethical decisions.
This exercise consists of 5 questions that we must ask ourselves before making decisions:
- Is what I want to do (or say) ethical, correct, and/or legal?
- Would I do it if you were on the opposite side?
- Could I rule out a better alternative?
- Would a trusted advisor or specialist agree?
- Would family, friends, my employer, or co-workers approve?
Developing and maintaining ethical leadership requires a high degree of intentionality and an understanding of what is and is not ethical. Furthermore, it entails strategies that allow us to create an ethical culture in which we can live by daily, influence others, and create a legacy for future generations.
Question: Do you practice integrity daily?