Identifying Ethical Sinkholes

To declare one is living an ethical lifestyle is kind of like declaring one lives a life of humility: if declared it is probably not true. Current headlines are riddled with individuals who have declared their innocence against accusations of immorality, or swore of their innocence in light of some evidence that unethical behavior was performed, and in the end the person is often found guilty of what they were denying. Somewhere along the way these individuals decided to go against their ethics, or failed to develop their ethics, which is a position anyone can find themselves in regardless of how ‘ethical’ they may feel they are.

In order to be an authentic leader, particularly in the fashion Jesus was, one must have strong ethics (Walumbwa, 2008).  Unfortunately, many people fail to identify the gap between who they want to be and who they actually are (Bazerman and Tenbrunsel, 2011, p. 1) allowing them to live in an ethical delusion where their moral ideals are not reflected in their immoral behavior and decisions. Such behavior is considered hypocrisy, which Jesus warned against (Mt. 23).

Guarding such a lifestyle starts with identifying the “sinkholes” in one’s ethics. Such areas can be identified by decision uncertainty, stress, and making decisions in isolation, void of accountability and input (Bazerman and Tenbrunsel, 2011, p. 160). In order to identify sinkholes one must pay attention to areas of uncertainty, areas where deadlines are approaching, and areas where isolation is felt (Bazerman and Tenbrunsel, 2011, p. 164).

Instead, leaders should build strong ethical behavior on strong moral character, strong personal values, and strong decision-making based in such character and values (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999, p. 182).

Regarding accountability, how should leaders build systems of accountability in their lives to guard against sinkholes?


Bass, B. M., & Steidlmeier, P. (1999). Ethics, character, and authentic transformational leadership behavior. The Leadership Quarterly, 10(2), 181–217.

Bazerman, M. H., & Tenbrunsel, A. E. (2012). Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do about It (1 edition). Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Walumbwa, F. O., Avolio, B. J., Gardner, W. L., Wernsing, T. S., & Peterson, S. J. (2008). Authentic Leadership: Development and Validation of a Theory-Based Measure†. Journal of Management, 34(1), 89–126.

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