Or asked a different way – is it ever right not to ‘do the right thing’?
It’s a question I asked myself recently, having watched a business contact wrestling with some ethically and morally ‘off’ behaviours within their business. They were struggling to deal with it. There was fear at having to actually confront the behaviours; after all, confronting such things is never easy. There was fear at what the potential outcomes might be. Might this provoke an unwanted resignation?
Leadership is Hard
Sometimes it’s hard to be a leader – your team or colleagues are human after all with all the frailties and vices that brings. Being a leader can often be fun, motivating and satisfying. It can also be a challenge.
Difficult and painful decisions have to be made and even though a leader might wish they didn’t have to make that difficult decision or could ignore the painful action – the truth is, if they want to maintain that respected and inspiring position sometimes, those tough calls have to be made.
Leaders have to take into account how others feel; the effects upon a business and deliberate other pros and cons of their decision-making. And yet. Sometimes it’s just not easy. People are going to be upset and some people may strongly object, but we still have to do ‘the right thing’.
Leaders set the tone of an organisation. They create the culture of that business. They ‘model the way’. They set and maintain the standards that they and others should achieve and live by.
And therefore – if they start making decisions based on expediency over what is ‘right’ and, for example, put money over ethics then things are going to start to go off track.
The media recently has been filled with leaders within businesses who thought that ‘small’ deviations from doing ‘the right thing’ wouldn’t make too much difference. After all, most of us like to think we behave well. It’s other people who behave badly or make questionable decisions, not us.
But we’re all capable of turning a blind eye, letting something go, just this once. Maybe today you are ‘just too busy’ to deal with it. Perhaps – it would be better to think it over, but the next day, the moment has passed and it seems ‘silly’ to upset the apple cart and drag up this minor issue.
But all too soon it becomes a worm at the heart of a business. Slowly eating away at the heart and turning it rotten.
I was doing some research recently for some training I was delivering to a group of aspiring leaders and I was looking for companies who’ve got it wrong. We’ve heard of many of the names who are as famous now in a very negative way, as they once were in a good way.
Enron; Arthur Andersen; BP; Uber; Miramax; Volkswagen; Barclays and Deutsche Bank; Hewlett Packard… the list goes on. And one that really surprised and shocked me was Rolls Royce. Because, I mean, they are Rolls Royce! The height of luxury and steadiness.
If you buy a Rolls Royce it means you are a certain kind of person, and the car you drive is as reliable, sturdy, and tasteful – as the person who drives it. But they’ve recently been fined for bribery and corruption. Just terrible.
Turning a blind eye is always worse than doing something. Not speaking up is rarely good. I mean, we are not talking about a little white lie here in response to your sisters question of whether she looks fat in this dress. (And to be a good sister – if she does – you should tell her!).
No – here we are talking about overlooking someone dropping the ball on the job, or using inappropriate language to a colleague or being rude to a customer. The rot sets in. By saying nothing you are actually saying – that’s ok, or if it’s not exactly OK – it is not that big a deal. And so the boundaries push out a little, and then a little more, until you have Barings Bank on your hands.
A leader has to have the courage to do something that is ‘the right thing’ to do. Because if you don’t – how can you expect anyone else to? Insisting on others also doing the right thing is vital to keep a healthy and positive culture. But you can only do that by setting a strong example.
Because doing the ‘right thing’ IS ALWAYS the right thing to do!
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Jan Sargent is co-Director with Julie Hutchison of Transforming Performance, a consultancy which provides businesses with expert support in Leadership Coaching, Team Development and Performance Coaching, Executive Coaching, Mentoring, Training and Behavioural Profiling and help in getting the best from you and your people. If you’d like to have a chat and a coffee to discuss how we can help you, we’d love to talk. Call us on:
07947 823842 or 01722 484155