The World of Unethical Behavior- Nu Leadership Series

”Wealth in the new regime flows directly from innovation, not optimization; that is, wealth is not gained by perfecting the known, but by imperfectly seizing the unknown.”
Kevin Kelly

One question that comes to mind is “Why should we distinguish organizational values from personal values?” Let’s take a closer look. Over the centuries, philosophers and researchers have examined the various aspects of values and ethics. Our investigation today will take us on an ethical journey that will help understand how to improve the integrity of 21st century organizations as well as leaders.

Are we in a new era of corruption by senior leaders? Have you noticed all of the leadership scandals? You have high profile CEOs. You have government officials. You have celebrities. What are the results of these bad behaviors?

People become less trusting of organizations and people. How can organizations exist when the leader-follower relationship is broken? According to one poll, 45% of the people give Congress poor marks for its honesty and ethics. How can intelligent and powerful people get in so much trouble?

In recent history, political strategists have shifted their approach for dealing with political scandals before the public. The most prevalent method is for a political figure to “get in front of the story” by voluntarily disclosing as much information as possible and by projecting an image of total cooperation with legal and media inquiries. This strategy goes along with denouncing questions as politically motivated, providing little information and praying that the storm will pass over.

Ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay took a similar approach when he discovered he was tied to the lobbyist Jack Abramoff scandal. Recently, evidence suggest that politicians are better off just hunkering down until it is over. This strategy is based on the belief that the public has a short attention span or memory. If a politician carries on with his duties, he can overcome any negative baggage. Examples of this approach can be found with prominent Democrats and Republicans as well the White House.

For example, President George Bush and the White House came under investigation in the Plame case in 2003. Senior White House officials faced legal and political scrutiny for leaking the identity of the covert CIA operative. The White House took no personnel actions and said nothing publicly. It appeared to have worked.

During the Clinton-Lewinsky Scandal, President Clinton used the hunkered down approach. Polls taken during the time suggested that most Americans concluded that Clinton probably lied; they considered the matter a private one for family. Clinton knew if he had acknowledged the affair in 1998, the political uproar would have driven him from office. Clinton explained in 2004, “I think the overwhelming likelihood is that I would have been forced from office…” Hunkering down does work. Unfortunately, this unethical behavior will continue unless citizens demand more. Lead, character does count.


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© 2007 by Daryl D. Green