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Ethics in Leadership

I was recently involved in a LinkedIn discussion and thought about how others might have responded.

The discussion was about whether leaders should admit their mistakes, even if no one else knows about the mistake. Here were my two responses:

How ethical does the leader wish to be? An ETHICAL leader admits mistakes when s/he makes them (unless they can lead to harm for another, and that is in question, as well). Ethical means to do the right thing THIS time, NEXT time, and EVERY time. Withholding a mistake bends the parameters of ethical behavior and any further incidents SHOULD make the leader question his or her own ethical stance. We are either ethical or we are not.

I suppose many DO justify what they do...exactly why TRULY ethical leaders weigh out the ethical considerations of their actions for each and every action, not just those actions which are convenient or forward one's own agenda. Being ethical does not, to my way of thinking, mean being ethical only "when it's convenient" or "when it won't embarrass me." If we are making decisions based on popularity and hiding our mistakes to maintain that popularity, then are we true leaders? We are probably not. Each of has to look within ourselves and determine what our OWN ethical standard is. Some will believe that strong ethics is "not getting caught" (the world's prisons are filled with people who believe that). Others will believe that strong ethics is to do the best we can to benefit the most people. Others will believe, as Kant might tell us, that doing what is right has to occur in EVERY situation. It's true that we can't always live up to that, but we can certainly try in everything we do (and teach our children and students).