The line between right and wrong can be an insurmountable tripwire for many organizations if the proper awareness is not possessed by leadership. Ethical collapses happen when that bright line is unable to be seen by leadership (Jennings, 2006).
The ethical perspective of organizational leaders determine the ethical climate of the organization itself. There is a degree of criticism of the leadership material available that seems to overemphasize peripheral things such as traits, effectiveness, knowledge, and content rather than ethics, which is vital for effective leadership (Rost, 1993). Leaders who can recognize ad prevent potential ethical lapses effectively are positioned to avoid costly repercussions such as lawsuits, stock price drops, and reputation damage of the organization and team that may be irreparable (Rossy, 2011, p. 35). Leaders must be able to identify ethical issues by possessing a capacity to recognize the nature of moral challenges and respond with the right decision and stick with it (Kidder, 2009).
Evaluating the quality of ethics of a leader and the organization that leader oversees can be a predictor of the future of the organization. One litmus test is identifying those decisions and behaviors that are unethical acts as opposed to ethical mistakes. An unethical act is one with immoral intent, done with the full knowledge that the decision is fundamentally wrong legally, morally, or culturally (Rossy, 2011, p. 35). An ethical mistake is different in the sense that the decisions and actions are unintentionally unethical that is followed by regret afterwards and a desire to somehow undo the decision or action (Rossy, 2011, p. 35). Three key factors to differentiate between the two is intentionality, remorse, and accountability. (Rossy, 2011, p. 36)
As some organizations have found “there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed” (Lk. 12:2).
Of the three key factors, what is the most difficult for leaders to manage?
Jennings, M. M. (2006). The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse: How to Spot Moral Meltdowns in Companies… Before It’s Too Late (First Edition edition). St. Martin’s Griffin.
Kidder, R. M. (2009). How Good People Make Tough Choices Rev Ed: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living (Rev Upd edition). New York: Harper Perennial.
Rossy, G. L. (2011). Five questions for addressing ethical dilemmas. Strategy & Leadership, 39(6), 35–42.
Rost, J. (1993). Leadership for the Twenty-First Century (Reprint edition). New York: Praeger.