According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, ethics is defined as “moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior.” Therefore, in an ideal world, ethics should play the ultimate role when making a decision. If ethics are the principles which guides one’s behavior then, ideally, all decisions should be made entirely based on ethics. Unfortunately, such is not always the case.
A few problems arise when one tries to make an ethical decision, especially as a leader. First, ethics may mean different things to different people. For example, my religious and spiritual beliefs are the foundation for what I deem ethical. However, for someone else, ethics might be based on laws or their own personal understanding of what is right or wrong. Generally, I do believe there are some behaviors that all can agree upon as being ethical or unethical. For example, most people understand that stealing from someone or murder is wrong. However, it is difficult, at times, to have similar ethical expectations of others as one does of themselves because of these differences in the understanding of ethics. Additionally, there are times when it might be easier for a leader to make an unethical decision for an immediate gain or to appease the wants of others. Examples of these include leaders who embezzle money or use other schemes to make money quickly or unlawfully.
For most leaders, making ethical decisions tends to be the goal. I firmly believe that more often than not, leaders do make ethical decisions for the betterment of their organization or business. There are cases when making an unethical decision might be easier, but the true character of a leader is tested when they are confronted with such a decision. Making the easier decision is not always the best decision for a leader’s personal sake or for the organization/business. Recognizing that not all decisions are ethical, one’s moral principles acts as a guide for their behavior and decision making. Therefore, ethics do (and should) play a major role in decision making.
As previously mentioned, my religious and spiritual beliefs shape my personal ethics. I grew up in a very Christian family (one grandfather was a pastor and the other is a deacon), so from a young age, I was instilled with a belief in God and His teachings, according to the Bible. As I get older, I am learning that a spiritual journey and relationship with God is one that is personal and cannot be easily taught or given by others. Therefore, I will admit that as I continue on my personal journey with God, my personal ethics are still being developed and shaped. Some behaviors that I may have thought were acceptable in the past, I no longer view the same. For example, I have a lot of passion for the organizations I am involved with, especially S.M.A.R.T, which is great as a leader. It is my passion which keeps me dedicated to the organization. However, because of this passion, when things are not going as I want them to, it might cause me to communicate in a way that is considered disrespectful to others. Either my tone, the loudness of my voice, or the things that I say have made others feel disrespected. Personally, I find disrespecting others to be unethical. Although I may not consciously decide to disrespect them, it is a result of my behavior. While, at one point, I made excuses for my “lashing out” but considering it my “burning passion for the organization,” I now realize that it is unacceptable. As a leader, and person, I should be always aim to be respectful of others, regardless of my own feelings. Moreover, I was able to recognize the impact that my behavior was having on other members of my executive board – they, too, began to think it was okay to conduct themselves in a similar manner.
My personal ethics include values such as: respect, honesty, caring, and fairness. When making a decision, I tend to consider these four values the most, in conjunction with how my decision might better the organization. The goal, for me, is to always aid in making an organization or someone else better. These four values tend to help me ensure that my decisions are well-rounded and ethical. I have already alluded to the role respect plays in my decision making. I consider how I might communicate a decision, or I consider other aspects of people’s lives and how this decision might impact them. I try to ensure that all of my decisions are respectful to others. I also aim to always be honest in my decision making. When I need help, I ask for it. I try to be as transparent as possible about any decision I have made and why. I am always willing to share my reasoning and am open to feedback from others. My compassionate side also comes out when making a decision. In most instances, I really try to consider the needs and circumstances of others. For example, S.M.A.R.T. can be a demanding organization, so when making decisions, I always consider the others aspects of our member’s lives and how my decisions could be more of a burden than a help to them. Lastly, I try to make sure my decisions are fair for everyone involved. If I want to inconvenience or be unfair to anyone, I would rather it be myself than someone else.
Communication is key in relation to personal ethics. As previously mentioned, ethical standards differ for different people. Therefore, I find it most difficult to try to understand the reasoning of others’ ethics, rather than communicating my own. I tend to be a very direct person. I get straight to the point, especially as a leader. Therefore, I simply share with others what I believe and value. I also communicate my personal ethics through my actions. If my decisions are made according to my ethical beliefs, then others should be able to recognize, through my behavior, what my personal morals are.
Overall, being an ethical decision maker is important to me. As a leader, I understand that I play a part in establishing what is considered right and wrong, based on my actions and decisions. My hope is to always be an example, and being ethical is the foundation of setting a good example for others. The old adage, “actions speak louder than words” rings true in relation to ethics. I aim to show people what my moral principles are based on my actions. At times, it can get difficult because I might let emotions cloud my judgment, but after all, doing the right thing for the sake of others is most important to me.