Understanding Group and Personal Ethics – Nu Leadership Series

Men cease to interest us when we find their limitations. The sin is limitations. As soon as you once come up to a man’s limitations, it is all over with him.

Emerson

In today’s society, personal and group ethics shape the value formation in organizations. Ethics and organizational culture can impact the success of an organization in the following ways: (a) group cultures influence ethical behavior more than the sum of their individual ethics, (b) ethic reasoning is a logical sequence where policies come last, making policies the result of ethical reasoning, not a substitute for it, and (c) ethics and culture gaps can only be reduced by preventing their root causes at the beginning of the process. Ethics in organizations are influenced more by the group ethics system (culture) than by the sum of the individual personal ethics systems.

Ethic plays a critical role in leadership. Ethics is defined as the code of moral principles that governs the behavior of a person/group to what is right. People will not respect a leader low in integrity. A leader can’t trick them with promotions or bribe them with money. In the long run, character does count in an effective organization. Draft, an organization management expert, explains that leaders at the highest management levels develop internal moral standards that can often allow them to break laws if necessary.

A leader’s unethical conduct brings about his own demise and shame of his organization. Therefore, it can be shown that effective leaders must have accountability mechanisms in place so that they won’t hit any ethical mine fields. Can you imagine what happens in an organization without accountability?

Each individual brings their own personal beliefs into the workplace. Leaders are not the exception. An individuals family background, traditions, spiritual values, and experiences impact how the make moral decisions. At the medium development point, individuals learn to conform to the expectations of moral behavior defined by their peers and society. Most leaders at this junction are willing to following laws and society expectations.

However, the highest levels of value formation are individuals who develop their own internal set of standards. Therefore, these individuals develop their own ethical principles that become more important in their decision-making than any external expectations. This high arching principle allows them to make unethical decisions, such as break laws or compromise organizational values, because it allows them to sustain their moral principles internally. Obviously, values will continue to play a critical role in organizational development in the future.

References:

CNN (2005). Reid: White House owes an explanation. Received on October 31, 2005 from http://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/10/30/leak.probe/index.html.

Ciulla, J.B. (1998). Ethics: The Heart of Leadership. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Draft, R. (1995). Organization Theory & Design. Congress gets low ratings on ethics, honesty.

Harris, J. (April 12, 2005). In recent scandals, a rethinking of capital’s conventional wisdom. Washington Post.

Heuser, B. (2005). The Ethics of Social Cohesion. Peabody Journal of Education. 80(4), pp.8-15.

Kern, C. (2003). Creating and Sustaining an Ethical Workplace Culture, Pepperdine University.

King, S. (2006). The Moral Manager. Public Integrity. 8(2), pp.113-133.

Lester, W. (2005). Associated Press. Congress gets low ratings on ethics, honesty.

Nelson, M. (1994). Why Americans hate Politics and Politicians. Virginia Quarterly Review. 70(4), p.636, 18p.

Yukl, G. (2002). Leadership in Organizations. Delhi, India: Pearson Education, Inc.

© 2006 by Daryl D. Green