What’s the Code of Your Ethics?

By Tom Davidson

“Divorced from ethics, leadership is reduced to management and politics to mere technique.” – James MacGregor Burns

As an everyday leader, you make hundreds of decisions a week, big and small. Know it or not, your actions and interactions are being guided by a code of conduct, your organization’s, your culture’s and your own.

What’s the code of your ethics? Here are some options:

From the Code of the West:

  • When you make a promise, keep it.
  • Always finish what you start.
  • Ride for the brand.

From the Boy Scout Oath and Law:

  • On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my Country….
  • A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

From the Ten Rules of Proper Mafioso Etiquette:

  • Always being available for Cosa Nostra is a duty – even if your wife’s about to give birth.
  • Never look at the wives of friends.
  • Never be seen with cops.

From the Four-Way Test of Rotary International:

  • Is it the truth?
  • Is it fair to all concerned?
  • Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
  • Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

While the missions of these organizations clearly vary widely, one thing absolutely have in common is the need for commonly understood ground rules that codify the acceptable and unacceptable behaviors of these groups.

  • Do you know the code of your organization?
  • Do you know the code of your profession?
  • Do you know the code that guides you personally?

If not, then its time you find out what they are, particularly your own. To do that, ask yourself these questions in this order:

  1. What truths do you believe in?
  2. Based on these, what’s important to you in priority order?
  3. Relative to those priorities, what reputation do you want to earn and with whom?
  4. To achieve that result, what behaviors would earn or erode that reputation?
  5. As a final check, how do you want to be remembered by the people you care about?

As a leader, you have to know your own code, or the currents of others will sweep you along in their wake. Your fate will be in the hands of others, and your lack of rudder will be apparent to potential followers.

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