Ethics are the principles that guide your conduct in life and at work. Leaders who possess self-awareness tend to value paying attention to the bottom line, taking care of their employees and community and making a living. Other leaders rationalize practices that value profits over everything and take advantage of others. There are many ways to make money in the world and it’s up to each person to decide whether he or she will do it in a way that benefits everyone or benefits a few. Here are two familiar approaches to doing business:
Person A sets up a company that pays employees very little, provides no benefits, creates a hostile work environment, drives individuals relentlessly and puts profits before people. When asked about his (or her) ethics, the leader usually pours forth rationalizations such as: At least they have a job; we pay taxes that benefit the community; our goods/services are affordable; if it weren’t us, someone else would do it.
Person B sets up a company that pays employees well, provides benefits, creates a satisfying work environment, encourages individuals to succeed and puts people before profits. When asked about his ethics, the leader admits that he makes a little less than Person A but his employees are happier and the organization is a good corporate citizen.
The ethical question inherent in these two examples is: How will you choose to behave toward yourself and others and what effects will those choices have at various levels? As a leader, you have the choice of what kind of organization you create: You can design a workplace that sucks the life out of people and the community or one that supports everyone involved. One approach will make you feel better as a human being. Which one will you choose?