May 05, 2009

Rules for Being an Ethical and Effective Leader

Bruce Weinstein, “The Ethics Guy” for Business Week, says that winning at all costs is for losers. He offers ten leadership guidelines those whose decisions can affect the financial well being of other people.
  1. What's good for the gander is good for the goose — As organizations slash labor forces and freeze salaries, leaders should also take pay cuts.
  2. Know your product — Leaders have an ethical obligation, to their organization, clients and themselves, to know understand their organization is doing and to speak up about any concerns.
  3. Winning at all costs is for losers — Hardball leadership is shortsighted, unfair, and ultimately bad for the organization, since the consequences will be more regulation and oversight.
  4. Tell the truth — A leader has an ethical obligation to be honest with stakeholders about issues that directly concern them.
  5. Prevent harm — The good leader recognizes that preventing harm to clients and the organization is both an ethical responsibility and a wise business policy.
  6. Don't exploit — It is easy to take advantage of a crisis for financial gain, but doing so isn't consistent with good leadership. Taking the low road can be harmful professionally and personally.
  7. Don't make promises you can't keep — Good leaders are careful to make only those promises they are likely to keep and keep the promises they do make. When they are unable to keep those promises, they own up to it.
  8. Take responsibility for your mistakes — Transparency and accountability should be the new buzzwords. This means, in part, that business leaders who make mistakes should apologize to those they have let down and do whatever is necessary to make amends.
  9. People, not profits — Money has no intrinsic value; it is good only for what it can get us. For the good leader, this means that the ultimate goal in business—and life—is not hoarding riches but making things better for all, especially the neediest.
  10. Be kind, not king — Good leaders are enthusiastically devoted to accomplishing their mission, but this pursuit cannot be at the expense of the well being of others.
  11. (Bonus rule) You are not your career — Good leaders not only make room for family, friends, and spirituality; they know these are the things that truly make life worth living.
Good advice in difficult times. (MSNBC/Business Week; see also, The Ethics Guy Blog.)

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