As leaders, we are often faced with ethical dilemmas that can range from whether or not to accept a bottle of wine from a client (assuming company policy says not to) to padding the books or investments as a cover-up.

Ethical failings don’t just occur in the realm of big leaders, but are often present at every level of society. Unfortunately, this often happens with one little slip into a gray area. For example, a long time bookkeeper for a small office was running short of money for lunch one day, so she “borrowed” from the petty cash. With full intent of replacing the funds she promptly forgot the next day. A couple of weeks later, she “borrowed” more money because she didn’t have time to go to the bank that day. At this point, she starts to rationalize in her head that the executives make a lot more money than her and she deserves a little extra compensation.

Fast forwarding a few years, the bookkeeper is writing fraudulent company checks to herself and covering it up in the books until one day the business account goes negative and checks start bouncing. The executives become aware of the fraud and are left shaking their heads as they trusted this bookkeeper for many years. A question that is often asked, is why didn’t she just ask for a loan if she needed money so bad?

As leaders, we need to define and be sure of what our ethical boundaries are. Don’t be the person who will sell your ethics for small amount, or even a lot of money. At the end of the day, it isn’t worth it. If you start down the slippery slope with minor transgressions, you can easily fall into the trap of ethical missteps where the consequences are serious.

Ethics, or simple honesty, is the building block upon which our whole society is based, and business is a part of our society and it’s integral to the practice of being able to conduct business that you have a set of honest standards. – Kerry Stokes