Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Ethics: Actions Do Have Consequences

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Although ethics and personal integrity appear to have a diminishing role in our culture, when a massive failure of ethics and moral standards results in corporate implosions such as the Enron bankruptcy, as well as the collapse of the financial markets people notice. There is no question that in business, the highest moral and ethical standards are expected and demanded.

Actions do have consequences. Despite the thinking in popular culture that has helped enable a number of political leaders’ “ethical lapses,” in business ethics and integrity are closely paid attention to by superiors, associates, subordinates—and most importantly, customers.

All of these people judge managers and employees by their actions, not their words. Even a minor lapse in ethical judgment is not easily forgiven or forgotten.

This is important for managers to consider because their behavior impacts people on multiple levels. The consequences and implications of any ethical decision are far-reaching and must be carefully thought through before the action is taken.

The moral and ethical behavior of a manager has many consequences and implications beyond an immediate judgment or choice. Ethical behavior and integrity play an essential role in any manager’s position, for the following reasons:


The basis of all relationships is trust. Managers are primarily responsible for the directing of human resources. While they may also be responsible for the tools and equipment associated with business, their primary charge is the management of their individual employees. In this capacity, they are dealing with superiors and subordinates in financial terms.

Superiors are relying on the manager to provide accurate reports and records of their unit’s activities. The employee relies on the manager to assure that his or her efforts are supported and performance accurately reported.

The foundation of and glue that holds these relationships together is trust. Any ethical lapse is considered a breach of trust and will result in the pillars of management collapsing. Once this occurs, the manager has lost their effectiveness.

Related: Can You Be Trusted? The Answer May Surprise You


Rapport is the building and nurturing of quality relationships. This is a term normally used to describe relationships among employees, but it goes beyond this. Managers require good rapport at all levels with their superiors, subordinates and associates.

The manager’s role is to act as a liaison between the various levels they are in communication with. The employee has access to his or her manager. The manager has full access from senior management to support staff.

Exceptional management, support and communication means the manager must actively maintain good rapport at every level. However, building relationships and establishing rapport is a people skill that further demands trust and ethical behavior. These are the cornerstones of building rapport on all levels. Any degree of moral and ethical failure at any level will undermine the manager’s efforts and effectiveness.

Related: Emotional Bonds are a Reflection of a Leader’s Effectiveness


There are managers who have undoubtedly displayed lapses in moral and ethical judgment, yet still maintained their job and position. They may have shielded their actions from their superiors, but not from their subordinates. In some instances they may have made statements or promises and failed to follow up on them.

In any ethical failure, they have betrayed the trust of their subordinates. When this occurs, these managers have lost credibility in the eyes of their people, which more often than not results in sapping their motivation.

Employees will either leave or let their performance drop knowing their manager has little integrity. While these managers might think they have won in the short-term, in the long run there are profound consequences to be paid.

Related: Six Ways to Enhance Your Personal Credibility


Managers who have betrayed trust cannot be relied upon. If this occurs between the manager and his or her superiors, it is dealt with on the senior level, normally resulting in termination.

A loss of credibility with individual employees will result in them being unable to trust the manager. Rapport with these individuals will be eroded to the point that all work-related effectiveness is lost.

The consequences will be a revolving door of people under the manager’s responsibility, as any respectable person will not continue under these circumstances.

Related: Emotional Bonds are a Reflection of a Leader’s Effectiveness


A person’s reputation is the most valued possession that they have. Once destroyed, a personal reputation is difficult, if not impossible, to restore. The same is true for a company’s reputation.

A manager holds the responsibility for both his or her reputation as well as the company’s. His or her personal actions have a double, if not triple, impact since senior managers, his or her subordinates, and the company’s customers are continually examining his or her actions. This is an awesome responsibility unparalleled in magnitude in any organizational environment.

Related: You Are Judged by the Actions You Take

Excerpt: Ethics & Integrity: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series by Timothy Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

2 Responses

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  1. I like the way you have shown in this article how ethical bahaviour can impact on many of the attributes of successful leaders. Another attribute that is necessary for leaders to be ethical is courage. I often find that leaders have the ability for moral reasoning but lack the courage to use it. Instead they tend to allow their role or organisation influence their behaviour.


    November 24, 2012 at 2:20 pm

  2. […] Ethics: Actions Do Have Consequences […]

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