The Ethical Boundary

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

What is a Leader?

Steve has been working as a janitor for two years at a local clinic. Even though he often works evenings with little supervision, he always is upbeat, hardworking and shows up on time for work. Steve’s coworkers, from doctors to receptionists, enjoy it when Steve is around and often feel motivated in their own jobs by observing the positive way in which Steve works.

Webster’s Dictionary defines a leader as someone who has “the power or ability to lead other people.” In a general sense, we often think of a leader as the President or a high-level executive of a company; the individual who has been granted authority over a country or an organization. However, the reality is that we can all be leaders in whatever our field or station in life.

Steve, as a janitor in the clinic, is demonstrating leadership within his organization despite having no authority over anyone and is in a field (janitorial service) that is often overlooked. Whether you are the “big cheese” in your organization or the “little guy,” you have the power to influence those around you. This power to influence can be either positive or negative.

While everyone has a bad day from time to time, do you pick up the pieces and move on, or continue down that negative path? When you misstep in your words or attitudes around your coworkers, do you take the time to apologize and try to correct the behavior?

Over the next few weeks, we will delve into what it means to be a leader, but don’t wait for us. Start today by reflecting on your own behaviors that exhibit leader-like qualities and work on demonstrating a good work ethic and positive attitude.