Business Ethics: Most of us have faced a crossroad in our working career where we might be tempted to choose reward over righteousness. Perhaps we’ve let blind ambition cloud our vision and we failed to see how one little step in the wrong direction can ultimately lead to us running on the wrong side of the tracks. Let me illustrate my point by citing a personal career issue when I worked in the private sector.

For 10 of my 27 years in senior corporate management positions, I had oversight of our safety department. We stressed that wearing safety glasses was a requirement. However, if we observed someone not wearing them and choose not to confront them, we were compromising the ethics of our commitment to maintain a strong safety initiative. Once compromised, it’s a short trip to a serious injury or even a possible fatality. So our stance was very simple—everyone wore their safety glasses in the required areas of our facility—no exceptions! Ethics is not something you can plug into whenever the mood strikes.

Our safety ethics package had two simple rules: (1) We will never deliberately break the law. (2) We will never compromise the safety of an employee. These were the guiding principles by which we lived every day. And, anytime someone worked outside those guidelines, we always took action to get them back on course. What was the result of these ethical positions? We did not experience a lost time accident in the ten years that I had oversight of safety.

I’d like for you to think about business situations where a lapse of ethics can occur in your workplace. Perhaps you’ve really never taken the time to articulate your own personal ethical guidelines and boundaries in these areas. Why not sit down and write the rules you are never willing to break and commit to honor those promises. That’s what an ethical leader does. For me, it’s just common sense leadership.

Religious Ethics: Over the last several years we’ve seen a number of evangelic preachers fall by the wayside for a variety of poor choices and unethical decisions. Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker are two of the more high profile preachers that come to mind. In my own Catholic faith, we’ve uncovered a number of priests who have preyed on young boys and, recently yet another revelation of alleged abuse in Germany surfaced. None of these are a good thing for those who strive to maintain a Christian lifestyle. And certainly, these events add fuel for those who thrive on tearing down any sign of a belief in God.

Again, I have a very simple approach to religious ethics. (1) Follow the 10 commandments. (2) Live the spirit of the Eight Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) and (3) Follow the Golden Rule. (4) Follow the teaching in the New Testament. If we follow these with one more idea—a willingness to serve others, we’ve laid a very strong foundation for making ethical choices to guide us through life.

Political Ethics: Some will say, “Political Ethics” is an oxymoron. And unfortunately, they are right given the nature of today’s political environment.

For example, you’d have to be dead to not know about the healthcare debate that dominated the news for over a year. I won’t debate the merits of changing our healthcare system but I do want to discuss the process by which this legislation was crafted.

Americans have a right to expect their legislators to vote on the bills brought before them. They further have a right to expect legislators to know and be familiar with the content of a bill. How else will they know the final effects a piece of legislation will cause unless they understand the ramifications of a bill? But in the case of the healthcare bill, there were only a select few who actually had the opportunity to craft the bill. And even they were in the dark on some portions of the bill. Next, there were the “holdouts” that were willing to sell themselves in trade for their vote. My own senator was among those who traded her vote for a $300 million payoff. There were those in leadership positions who constantly engaged in misleading messages designed to bluff and shift the talking points in their favor. For the most part voters have now learned that the long-term effects of this bill will far exceed the projected cost and the intrusions on individuals in certain situations is not anything close to what voters were told. Now regulators are inserting mandates that were not included in the bill because of the public outcry during the time the bill was crafted. How ethical are all those actions?

The current unethical approach being taken is a severe breach in the code of ethics upon which our country was founded. Our founders were principled men who lived and died by their word. Their desire was straightforward and above board—they wanted to create one the best forms of government ever devised by man. While they were successful, over the years political leaders have compromised to such an extent that few if any things can be done in a purely 100% ethical manner anymore. We’ve lost our way and unfortunately, I’m not sure there is any true ethical corrective action in sight.

Closing Thoughts

It behooves all of us to periodically spend time reflecting on how we live our life. Are we allowing ourselves to thread the slippery slopes of sleaziness? Or, do we consistently seek a safe footing based upon sound character traits and righteous decision making? Our choices make or break us. It’s truly up to us to weigh the consequences of the choices we’ve made and ask ourselves if we are happy with our position in life. For those feeling a bit of trepidation right now, the challenge is to right the rudder and steer the ship of success through the ethical waters of life. It’s not always easy but it’s always right!

PS: A Little Action Please: To help with this life’s journey, a complimentary ezine can be subscribed to by emailing me with the word “ezine” on the subject line. The messages are designed to provide personal and organization leadership information on how to ethically lead yourself and others.

Author's Bio: 

Professional speaker/author Billy Arcement, MEd—The Leadership Strategist, shares his messages on leadership and personal development with business, government and education leaders throughout the United States. He teaches common sense leadership in these uncommon times. Billy authored the book, Searching For Success, now internationally published. His newest book, Journeying on Holy Ground, provides insightful guidance for establishing priorities on life’s journey. His website, provides information about his services. Email or call him directly at (225)-677-9426 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (225)-677-9426      end_of_the_skype_highlighting. © 2011.