Industry Research

Standing For Strong Ethics

Posted on January 5, 2012 by Sara Eastwood-McLean - Also by this author

As scandals and bad behavior take up media attention, LCT and the NLA are leading the way to a more ethical, professional, and sophisticated chauffeured transportation industry.
As scandals and bad behavior take up media attention, LCT and the NLA are leading the way to a more ethical, professional, and sophisticated chauffeured transportation industry.

TACOMA, Wash. -- I was driving to work recently and decided to check in with a friendly operator I know. The conversation segued into one about the disturbing revelations out of Penn State’s “Happy Valley” and Syracuse University amid a series of sorry stories in the ongoing saga of breached trust and confidence among people, institutions, and their leaders.

Is it possible that we have been victims of our own self-assurance about our leaders and the integrity of our institutions? Is it reasonable to expect our leaders to conduct themselves ethically and uphold a standard of competence as a moral imperative?

While there is no excuse for the acute breaches in trust and confidence among such failed individuals and institutions, it is also irresponsible to dismiss wider fault in enabling a culture of duplicity, incompetence, and corruption. It doesn’t just result from unsupported solo acts. The daily drone of news in the college scandals reveals a general abdication of responsibility as more witnesses point to an institutional culture of benign neglect (at best) — or one that promoted an insidious cover up.

• • •

  • What are the common traits of leadership that has run amok and gone awry?
  • The pursuit of self-aggrandizement — to ensure one’s own success regardless of the outcome.
  • Delusional overconfidence that trips into blinding arrogance.
  • Breeding fear among peers and associates which in turn discourages the truth-telling needed for responsible decision-making.
  • A relentless drive for self-preservation and power that is disguised as protecting the interests of the “institution.”
  • A mis-read of peoples’ trust and confidence as “permission” for invincibility, which leads to unchecked risk-taking.
  • Shifting from the ethical practice of avoiding conflicts of interest to a policy of leveraging such conflict as new business “opportunities.”

• • •

How can things be made different going forward? Returning to the pre-recession manic state of leveraged, irresponsible consumption is not an option. Many economists believe that we are now enduring a somewhat painful but necessary transition from consumer-driven growth — premised upon acquiring, consuming, and amassing material assets — to growth that is driven by an emphasis on actually making and building things.

The most challenging question before us is: How will our thinking and behavior evolve to a level that will lead to an authentic shift to this new pattern of responsibility? Regardless of your view of the “Occupy” movement, for example, it’s succeeded in driving and changing the national conversation about fair and ethical conduct.

Active, engaged leadership is the path to clear direction. It is during the best of times that leaders must build up the savings bank of reputation equity and credibility. Ethical lapses that remain unaddressed lead to imbalances and injustices. They accumulate and become self-perpetuating, often tempting corruption. Leadership is a collective succession of everyday acts. Unchecked, concentrated power erodes ethical conduct. Power should never fall far from the tree in your backyard. Responsibility should be everyone’s business.

This New Year is the right time to engage in provocative thinking. In our business world, we witness daily the unethical practices “excused” as a necessity for survival. Such behavior compromises the long-term health that sustains a business community. All we have is our reputation — for better or for worse.

Sara Eastwood-McLean

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