“Leaders Should Set a Clear and Decisive Tone at the Top”
The wealth, power and influence of the great leaders is widely known. How they achieved it is another issue unto itself. They were people of achievement, capability and resilience. They had their personal convictions continually tested as they faced countless and enormous difficulties and challenges. Yet, it was their character, ethics, morals and values that utterly defined them as great leaders. In the quest for wealth, fame and power, many individuals will tend to sacrifice these qualities on the altar of achievement.
Admiral Hyman Rickover in a 1977 speech stated, “There is abundant evidence around us to conclude that morals and ethics are becoming less prevalent in people’s lives. The standards of conduct, which lay deeply buried in accepted though for centuries no long are absolute. Many people seem unable to differentiate between physical relief and moral satisfaction; they confuse material success in life with virtue.” What distinguished the great leaders from typical ones was their refusal to sell themselves out, or to compromise their integrity for the sake of money, power or prestige.
Rickover was prophetic. Since his remarks, this country has seen corporate scandal after scandal occur, including a stable of well-known companies, such as Drexel Burnham, Enron, Arthur Anderson, WorldCom, Tyco International, Countrywide, AIG, and Lehman Brothers, just to list a few. The actions of a handful of wealthy and influential leaders threw the country into a financial panic, as well as a lengthy and deep recession. It resulted in costing millions of individuals and families their homes, savings and retirements. It destroyed trust and credibility within our society. This was further exasperated when many of the companies and leaders who were directly responsible for such pain and misery became isolated from the consequences of their actions and behaviors through government bailouts, generous “golden parachutes,” and performance bonuses.
Sharon Allen, Chairman of Deloitte LLP wrote in the introduction to The Deloitte LLP 2010 Ethics & Workplace Survey, “Regardless of the economic environment, business leaders should be mindful of the significant impact that trust in the workplace… By establishing a values-based culture, organizations can cultivate the trust necessary to reduce turnover and mitigate unethical behavior…. Ultimately, an organization’s most senior leaders should set a clear and decisive tone at the top.”
“Ethics and moral judgment are not new concepts for leadership. They have been identified as critical characteristics of leadership over the last century. An organization’s leaders help define the culture, values, standards, and moral character of the organization having ramifications both inside and external to the organization. Ethical leaders have been found to display pride yet reject selfish and conceited behavior… Ethical leaders are not normally high-profile charismatic leaders but are quiet leaders moving ‘patiently, carefully, and incrementally…’”
The great leaders are defined by who they are as individuals. They have all been shaped by their character, morals, values, integrity and ethics. These are the values that define them as being truly great and valuable, whether or not they actually achieved publically recognized pinnacles of success.
- Admiral Rickover H.C., Thoughts on Man’s Purpose in Life (speech presented at the San Diego Rotary Club, 1977)
- The Deloitte LLP 2010 Ethics & Workplace Survey (Deloitte LLP, August, 2010)
- Scharff M.M., WorldCom: A Failure of Moral and Ethical Values (Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship, July 2005)
Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. (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)
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