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Leadership Thought #321 – There Is Such A Thing As Right and Wrong

I appreciate the fact that there are a lot of “grey” areas in life.  Not everything is black and white.  Sometimes there are mitigating circumstances and/or good reasons why people act they way they do.  Everything doesn’t always fits into a neat little box of appropriate behavior; however there are some things that are almost always unacceptable despite the circumstances.  There is a reason why all religions are typically based on a foundation of common morality and expected ethical behavior.  Whether the leaders of these religions actually they live up to their own principles is another issue altogether. 

I often tell my kids that just because you “CAN” do something doesn’t mean you “SHOULD.”  This advice is just as applicable for leaders of all types of organizations.  Here are a few basic rules of engagement that every leader should consider:

  • All people should be treated with dignity and respect;
  • You shouldn’t take advantage of other people’s personal vulnerabilities.  Manipulation is a slippery ethical slope;
  • It is not okay to steal and unfairly take what does not belong to you; 
  • Cheating is never a virtue, even if you win; 
  • Honesty shouldn’t be optional.  Dishonesty only ever breeds further dishonesty; 
  • Your products/services should be safe to use;
  • You have the obligation to provide a safe and secure work environment for your employees; 
  • You shouldn’t use your position of authority to frighten or push people into situations they find morally questionable; 
  • Once someone takes you into their personal confidence, you should respect this fact and be worthy of their trust, not use it against them;  
  • Professional and personal commitments actually mean something. When you commit to another party you should do your best to honor the agreement.
  • Two wrongs will never make a right.  Never act out of spite.

We live in a society today where there are a lot of “broken” people and organizations.  The evidence is everywhere and borne out by sociological statistics and anecdotal experience.  Something just isn’t right (and most of us know it).  We often rationalize our behavior through the lens of personal psychology and situational ethics.  Spin it however you want, but actions will always have consequences and wrong actions eventually lead to adverse outcomes.  A win–lose mindset is rarely advisable in business or your personal life.   There is such a thing as right and wrong.


5 Responses

  1. Hi Ed – just a quick note to thank you for taking the time to write and submit your blog. Without fail I am able to take something away from your themes and core messages. I regularly Tweet them and place them on LinkedIn and Yammer for my colleagues, who I am sure take something worthwhile away also. Keep up the great content! Steve Riddle

  2. Dear Ed, I am not certain if I obtained your comment, other than the one about “Right and Wrong”, for which I agree, but that is subjective, when based upon culture or religion, that is why I use the “Golden Rule” as a standard to trump, unwanted behaviors.
    NOTE: Your article was well thoughtout, and it relates in kind to some ideas I have on “Leadership”. I will soon post an Essay on Leadership and hope you review it…
    Cheers mate, Russ

  3. Thank you so much for saying this and for posting on this subject.

    It is so sad that these things should have to be said, but I’m glad you did.

    I sometimes teach ethics to my business students and it amazes me how confused they are about the simple points you bring up in this article.

    It also amazes me that we need to give degrees in ethics and have entire ethics departments in companies. In most cases, it is so simple – treat others the way you want to be treated.

    It would be a much better world if the Ethics that we spent time on were the gray ones and not the black and white ones.

    Thank you so much again.

  4. […] Leadership Thought #321 – There Is Such A Thing As Right and Wrong (edrobinson.wordpress.com) […]

  5. […] Leadership Thought #321 – There Is Such A Thing As Right and Wrong (edrobinson.wordpress.com) […]

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