Saturday, October 09, 2010

Values and ethics in your leadership style..... Challenge?

Ethics and values go hand in hand. Leaders are role model for the people. They watch their leaders, may the leader be political or entrepreneur. People always observe them and get influenced by their behaviour? That is the reason, why leader has more accountability to exhibit the right behaviour than followers.

Who is a good leader? There are lot of research, books and material available on leadership and we try to follow the same in our personal life. But there are some inbuilt traits which has the major impact on our personalities and consequent to that on our success. One of the factors is our values and ethics driven by values.

Hitler, Saddam Hussein are at one side, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King is at another side. All were leading somebody but what they gave to the society and their country? What ethical content should be given to leadership? What is ethics? What is leadership without values? Let's examine the power of ethics in leadership, a key success topic.

A leader is a person capable of influencing the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of other people. In order for a leadership to be ethical, that influence must be based on principles and values.

The charisma of many leaders such as Hitler and Hussein have led thousands and millions of followers to carry out atrocities and injustices, to commit crimes against their fellow citizens and against humanity and, in their actions, to contradict what they preach in their public speeches with such energy and “magic.”

However, this lack of ethics in leadership is not limited to the area of politics. Only recently we witnessed the serious consequences of the ethical flaws of business leaders, Raju in Satyam case. We had also the example of Enron and Andersen in the United States and the more recent case of HP CEO Mark Hurd.

If we begin with the definition of leadership as the ability to move other people towards a common objective that they would not achieve on their own, these three famous people in contemporary and current history, along with others, fit this definition perfectly. But, how ethical and value based is their behavior?

Ethics studies man’s behavior within a framework of common moral rules that have been mutually agreed to. Ethics is created by man, with a broad religious and moral foundation, for the purpose of facilitating coexistence.

I am ethical when I obey the rules and laws agreed to by society, the laws and guidelines for social behavior. I am ethical when I practice what I preach, when I base my behavior on moral principles.

Ethics plays a fundamental role in leadership because leaders inspire others to action, to achieve a vision with confidence.

Confidence grows from the credibility leaders inspire. And they credibility, in turn, arises from their integrity, from how close their walk matches their talk. If leaders promise something and fail to keep that promise, their integrity fails, they lose credibility and, consequently, their people lose confidence in them. The team spirit breaks and the possibility of making the vision a reality is weakened.

With so many spiritual and material temptations, we find it difficult to react based strictly on moral principles. External pressures can be pushing you to say YES when you should say NO.

We are not perfect, but as leaders, we have the responsibility to weigh our actions, no matter how simple they appear. In being leaders we are like a shop window, exposed to the eyes of our children, our loved ones, associates, employees, clients, providers, friends and neighbors.

Humility allows us to admit that we are weak and to ask for help to act with rectitude. Courage allows us to acknowledge our errors, forgive ourselves, express forgiveness, and be reconciled. Humility and courage help us improve the way we lead ourselves and others, to achieve inspired visions in our lives and in the lives of others.

What are your values? Under which principles do you act in your life? The impact of ethics in leadership is very high. Living a life faithful to what we endorse, "Walking the Talk,” practicing what we preach, is the great challenge. It is my daily challenge and I know that it is also yours. Be great in the small things and you will be a great leader.


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Vinod Bidwaik,

The article is on quite broader lines. It is so easy to quote Mahatma Gandhi or Dr Martin Luther King. But in day to day life these prominent name means nothing for a common worker. Being into corporate, you could have written something on the dilemma average manager or team leader faces. The article is little pedantic.

Take a situation. Subordinate complains to his team leader that he is unable to put up with 15 hours work schedule ad infinitum. Team leader is also of the view that long working hours is in fact a de-motivating factor and promises his subordinate to take this matter to his manager. Manager tells his team leader that this is what we are. Your every day spent in this company adds value to your CV. To get that value, long working hours is a price! Continue with this or just quit. What team leader should do now when his personal values clash with organisational values?

The above incident is a real life story and not just concoction out of the blue.

Many HR in private admit that in the name of organisational commitment what they expect from their employees is plain slavery. I have come across with managers showing how slavery under British rule was bit better than slavery that MNCs have unleashed. Our Government hungry of foreign exchange just winks at it. But then how many HR come forward and take up the cudgels?

You have written that "Ethics studies man’s behavior within a framework of common moral rules that have been mutually agreed to."

I beg to differ with you completely. Ethics is not a subject of study like economics or physics whereby you can apply its principles and deduct something write or wrong.

Definition of ethics is "Motivation based on ideas of right and wrong" or "a system of moral principles" or "the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc". Now tell me what happens when common moral rules that do not agree mutually? In the example quoted above, manager felt nothing wrong if the team members work for 15 hours+ everyday but then team leader felt it wrong.

Your second statement is "Ethics is created by man, with a broad religious and moral foundation, for the purpose of facilitating coexistence."

I beg to differ with you once again. Our behaviour should maintain social good or social harmony and our endeavour should not be "to facilitate co-existence". When you facilitate, at times this facilitation demands compromise also. That's what the manager in the preceding example also did. This compromise was with "values" - organisational or personal.

To quote example from mythology, the Mahabharat war was a result of clash of values. Was it difficult for Pandavas to facilitate co-existence with Kauravas and give up the claim on their kingdom?

Occasionally we see a TV footage showing Taliban stoning to death a woman under the charges of adultery. For Taliban, stoning to death is perfectly ethical conduct because this was their way of facilitating co-existence. They claim that their action is a result of broad religious and moral foundation. Will you be able to co-exist with them?


Dinesh V Divekar

Anonymous said...

i disagree with you As you wrongly uttered the example saying
...."Occasionally we see a TV footage showing Taliban stoning to death a woman under the charges of adultery. For Taliban, stoning to death is perfectly ethical conduct because this was their way of facilitating co-existence. They claim that their action is a result of broad religious and moral foundation. Will you be able to co-exist with them?"
...this can't be a related topic regarding Ethics!

You must know from any religious view there is no scope to act such cruel act as the Talibans do!
They do all things without having proper knowledge of Humanity! I'll like to say that the Talibans are not actually civilized people!

And...Ethics> it's simply the morality! if any one's decision or choice goes against the betterment of the Humanity it can't be Ethical!@


Anonymous said...

Bravo Dinesh for raising uncomfortable questions! There are always choices however the dices may be loaded against one of the parties usually the employee.

Claudia said...

Leaders usually have strong, charismatic personalities. That's one of the traits that make people folow them.
You're right...a leader without moral and ethical principles is a dangerous combination. Sometimes they get exposed, unmasked, if they're pretending and not practising what they're preaching. Other times they can become wrong models for easily influenced people.
You asked a question: "what is leadership without values?" and I think about personal value scale, who should be clearly defined and about moral values, ethical principles imposed by laws as well as common sense.
People are usually looking for models, for inspiration, for patterns and a leader has the responsibility of teaching them about the right values, helping them set a scale value of their own, based on equity, fairness, in accordance with the laws of the society they're part of.

P K MISHRA said...

Values and Ethics gives stronghold on one's impression on others. Values and ethics definitely pays a lot in terms of stability, popularity and also leaders have to project such a personality which consist of many things at the same time with greater temprament balance and high degree of intregity therefore leaders are more accountable to expose more prudent behaviour then their followers.

Person should justify his presence and participate in constructive way enable others to feel the magical leadership traits and also prosper the organization/communinity/ society at alrge.

Aelfrith said...

Hello Vinod

Yes it is true that leaders should "walk the walk" and not just "talk the talk" but you do a great disservice to the followers in this article.

You say "People always observe them and get influenced by their behaviour". This is a sweeping and dismissive statement effectively writing off those who support a leader as mere reflections of that leader. People actively and repeatedly choose to follow, they do this for a variety of reasons, often based on a spectrum of values and ethics not related to those of the Leader. As Clauidia points out some may be swept up by the Charisma projected by a leader. Yet you will find others may choose to follow because of the leader's family connections or their avowed religion, the future they promise, or their track record in the past. Approximately 80% of all followers don't know and don't care about the values and ethics of the leader and will base their choice to follow on some other factor(s).

Good Followership is as important as good Leadership to successful organisations and just difficult a skill-set to master. As with Leadership involves a well developed EQ and a strong sense of personal value and one’s personal values, a tolerance for dissonance – times when the values of the leader do not accurately reflect one’s personal values – without feeling one’s self-worth threatened and above all it requires a critical facility which allows the follower to criticise and where it becomes necessary leave the leader. This last skill avoids poor leaders being followed for long. The excuse sometimes used that “I did it because I was told to” has no place in Followership, the follower is as responsible for the outcomes as the leader. They should be two halves of an effective efficient whole.


Anonymous said...

Remember the difference between a boss and a leader; a boss says "Go!" - a leader says "Let's go!" ~E.M. Kelly

Very nice Contribution Vinod. Be it in a corporate or in life either we would be leaders or followers. Both roles need to be performed efficiently and effectively. A leader gains power and such following only through the followers. So for me both are important. A leader with values and ethics will successfully contribute for generations and a leader without ethics and values is not only a bad influence on his/her followers but also will stop the growth for few years. Evil looks more attractive and requires less efforts to reach a desired result which would not last long. But good values look plain and simple but very difficult to follow and at the end the results grow tenfold and last for generations together. So its we who has to choose between Ethics and Evil and become a good leader and as well a follower.

Sri Manjari.

Rahul said...

in Indian thev govt has a set of rules for its own employees .in private sector the small employees are exploited to the maximum .not only small employees but also doctors and engineers working in private ltd companies are exploited to the fullest. the salary difference between the higher management and other employees is stupendous. this disparity is leading to these life balance in private firms is totally unbalanced. govt of India is extremely short sighted and cannot take any good decisions in the favour of country and countrymen. India should call back the British and give them a contract to run the country and then the things would be smooth.

Blanchard Research and Training India LLP said...

Piece of writing!!!Actually, the most effective Leadership style revolves around the words honesty and integrity. Thanks

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