What makes for an ethical leader? The formula is not complex.
[bctt tweet=”An ethical leader consistently does what is right, even if it presents a challenge.” username=”RichardMBowen”]
It’s not about being ethical in public and not in private. It’s not about valuing profit or celebrity above people. It’s not about taking advantage of your prominence or position. It’s about recognizing the responsibility a leader must demonstrate in any profession, the arts, education business, non-profit or government. Any profession.
The continued egregious behavior of some of our most prominent leaders encourages others to follow their lead. And too often in business and government those who protest are fired, so those who may want to protest about what they see hide in fear of retaliation. Wells Fargo is a case in point, with their cross-selling examples and having employees fired for speaking up about what they knew was wrong.
The list of ethical abuses in business and government is rampant. Remember Equifax, which collected sensitive personal data without asking, stored it without asking, made a profit off of it without asking, and then left it vulnerable to hackers in 2017?
Unfortunately, ethics rules violations are growing amongst our government officials. The Gallup organization’s interesting poll about honesty and ethical standards in the workplace in late December show that members of Congress are rock bottom of the honesty table with 58% of the U.S. public saying they have low/very low levels of honesty and ethical standards.
It’s incidents like these which make for low ratings and loss of respect. For instance, United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and White House Social Media Director Dan Scavino, were both found by the Office of Special Counsel to have violated federal law by using official Twitter accounts to post messages in favor of or against candidates for office.
Or the numerous cabinet officials who are under investigation for potential misuse of government resources for travel, with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigning after incurring more than $1 million in travel.
To compound the egregiousness federal agencies have been resisting obligations to disclose information under the Freedom of Information Act. Until he was forced to resign, Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt even instructed agency employees to avoid making records, in violation of the Federal Records Act, in addition to the cloud over his travel spending, dealings with industry lobbyists and misuse of government resources.
According to the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), there were a total of 1,584 violations of rules which resulted in disciplinary action in 2015. Unfortunately, our administration’s executive order on ethics which said it would curtail the revolving door between the White House and lobbying in order to “drain the swamp,” contains significant loopholes, and the administration’s approach in practice has been much worse still. The swamp is not being drained.
[bctt tweet=”What is growing is the dissatisfaction of citizens to accept the continued egregious behavior government officials may present.” username=”RichardMBowen”]
Right now, protestors have taken to the streets calling for the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló of Puerto Rico.
The chaos in Puerto Rico follows the Center for Investigative Journalism’s publication of nearly 900 pages of leaked chats from the governor’s private Telegram Messenger group in which he and 11 top aides and Cabinet members exchanged profanity-laced, homophobic and misogynistic messages about fellow politicians, members of the media and celebrities. The comments have “offended almost every group on the island.”
Protestor Layzne Alvez told CNN the territory’s government had been “left to run wild with our economy, with our money, with all the federal funds the government are sending here.” She said, “We are going to force our local leaders, representatives, senators, whoever we need to, to get him out. We are going to stay here.”
I’m not singling out political figures. Their behavior right now just seems to be making more of the headlines for their blatant disrespect of ethical practices and respect for citizens.
I’ve often cited the Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Volkswagen and other business leaders for their blatant ignoring of ethical values.
[bctt tweet=”Leaders are public figures, whether in business or government. They are the ones charged with setting the tone, establishing the culture, and getting buy-in to the organization’s values and beliefs.” username=”RichardMBowen”]
In the Leadership Challenge authors James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner surveyed over 100,000 respondents on the characteristics they most admired in leaders. Consistently in the United States as well as abroad, the answer was that people want a leader (leaders) who are honest, a foundation of ethics and an ethical culture.
Whether in business or government it is imperative we hold our leaders accountable. The higher a position the more an individual is “on display.” Ethical leaders demonstrate ethical behavior, not a sometime thing, but as a daily, consistent habit.