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Wouldn’t it be great if it was really that simple?
The reality is, if it was easy, everybody would be doing it!
Of course, the other reality is that every time we hear another ethics scandal, all of us pay a heavy price in a loss of trust and confidence in individuals and institutions.
If we want real ethics reform, we need to start with ourselves.
According to Michael Josephson of the Josephson Institute of Ethics “Ethical decision-making requires more than a belief in the importance of ethics.” It requires three things: Ethical Commitment; Ethical Consciousness and Ethical Competency.”
First, let’s enhance our ethical Commitment by pointing out the practical benefits of trusting relationships. “People need to understand that ethical principles are ground rules of decision-making,” Josephson says, “not simply factors to consider.”
Second, let’s increase our Consciousness of ethics by considering the consequences of choices in terms of “stakeholders.” Who will be helped or harmed by an action we’re considering? Determine whether a decision will violate any of your core ethical values, or principles.
“While weakness of will explains a good deal of improper conduct,” Josephson points out, “…Many people simply fail to apply their moral convictions to daily behavior. And some tend to develop a professional tunnel vision that blinds them to ethical issues that everyone else sees. They don’t seem to recognize that perfectly legal conduct often appears to be improper or inappropriate to those who expect them to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.”
Third, let’s stress competent, moral reasoning. “Let’s strive,” Josephson says, “to evaluate facts in light of ethical principles. Distinguish facts from informed opinions, speculation or assumptions. And try – to the best of [our] ability – to anticipate any possible unintended consequences.”
In these ethically challenged times, we need all the awareness, commitment and action necessary to live up to the highest level of integrity possible.
If we are ever going to return to a higher standard of leadership, we need to understand that ethics is not about what we say or what we intend, it’s about what we do. And HOW we utilize our principles in small ways, as well as those that challenge the courage of our convictions, will, ultimately, determine the purpose and course of our lives.