Just because leaders believe in ethical behavior doesn’t mean they partake.
“You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this…” James 2:19 (NLT)
“We have a pool and a pond…the pond would be good for you.” – Ty Webb, Caddyshack
It’s not every day I get to mix a Caddyshack quote with a bible verse. But, hey, it’s Sunday.
Do you believe in a high ethical standard?
Good for you!
Did you know that the biggest espousers of ethical cultures are sometimes the biggest violators of the ethics they espouse?
Sounds dark and cynical, doesn’t it?
Stay with me. There’s perhaps some light at the other end of the tunnel that will save you from being run over by a train one day.
Ethical behaviors or any of its similar corporate recruiting poster cousins like “values” and “principles” are important. And, shockingly, ethical culture can grow up around an unethical individual, even if that individual is in a leadership position.
Why? Because for some unethical predators, having a roomful of highly predictable ethical brethren is a useful thing. And, as long as nobody’s really looking, the unethical leader can be on the take for years…
…all the while leading an ethical company or organization.
Just as patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, I’d propose that ethical cultures are the best hiding places for the unethical.
In some of the most ethical environments exist leaders who trade on inside information; discriminate based on race, gender, and age; make choices that destroy the environment and families; break non disclosure agreements; talk freely of petty felonies; and warm the books for personal gain in ways that leaders in less sterling environments could never get away with.
They cheat and steal when they can, usually under the cover of plausible deniability.
They may fall to the lowest legal standard when the ethical standard is much, much higher. They may fall far below the legal standard when they know nobody will suspect them.
Probably worse, and perhaps much worse, they stand by while others do these things–knowing that it’s suicidal to try to poke the bear.
I’m embarrassed to know that these are facts.
The point of this post is that we, as leaders with an enlightened code, have to know one thing: even unethical leaders recognize the value and actively espouse the growth of ethical cultures, for such cultures are dense cover, and fertile hunting grounds.
I am not likely the world’s most ethical person. I know that, and that knowledge fuels a desire to watch out for dents.
Like James from the verse above, I find it important to know that just because I or someone else believe in something (one God or an ethical standard of behavior) doesn’t mean that I or they are on the good side of that belief.
Demons believe in one God, too. Unethical executives love the cloak of an ethical culture.
They believe in ethics, too.
They just believe in ethics like Ty Webb believed in sharing his pool with Spackler. The pond will be just fine for the little people.
Be on guard when it comes to the espousers of ethical cultures, especially those who wear badges to signify their “success” at building one.
Some of them are unethical predators that depend on a herd of ethical animals.
What do you think?