Now more than ever we need ethical leadership.
In many companies businesses leaders regularly urge employees to speak up. To voice values. Only if they do can the organisation avoid the hidden rocks that can damage or even sink a company through reputational disaster.
The benefits of speaking up are widely known and recently summed up in an HBR report on Creating a culture where employees speak up.
Yet what about the leaders themselves? Do they set an example, do they speak up, do they voice values and put their heads above the parapet? Right now we need business leaders who stop telling others what to do, and instead show through their own actions what it means to speak up.
With the head of the world’s most powerful state willing to support torture will these leaders now speak up?
With a US head of state starting to emulate any number of renowned despots who have found it advantageous to brand an entire religion, race or ethic group as dangerous and beginning to treat all its members as pariahs, will business leaders at last speak up?
Many dreadful leaders have thrived because, amongst many others, business leaders failed to speak up with vigour. “
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”
Irish politician Edmund Burke.
Could the same start to happen with the new US president?
Fortunately, at least some US business leaders are been speaking up. Few though have yet shown much ethical leadership—doing what’s right. Many are are hiding behind a wait and see response, a “let’s not rock the boat” reaction, or adopting a cautious “don’t let’s make ourselves a target for presidential ire.”
Being an ethical leader means being someone who acts responsibly, acting with integrity. It means being seen to adopt and champion certain core values that are NOT up for grabs. Amongst these values are belief in diversity, and respect for individuals, and their right to be different.
Where do today’s business leaders stand? IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Oracle for example, have not commented on the Muslim ban, and it may well come back to haunt them.
Others CEOs from the tech world such as Airbnb, Salesforce, Apple and Facebook, have come out strongly against the racist ban.
“At best President Trump’s Muslin ban is a misguided, blunt solution to a complicated, nuanced problem” and “at worst, it is a racial attack that only further divides the country.”
Tony Xu, founder and CEO of DoorDash
“It is time for tech companies to start speaking up about some of the actions taken by President Trump’s administration,”
Sam Altman, president of Silicon Valley startup Combinator
Sometimes the test of being an ethical leader—doing what’s right—comes in the guise of a genuine ethical dilemma. A choice between two actions both of which have adverse consequences.
Just occasionally though, the test comes spotlighted, accompanied by loud bells and whistles. How many business leaders will show they are neither deaf nor blind to what is going on?
Business leaders must speak — loudly and clearly — against the abuses and excesses that Trump has promised
M. Weinberger, Top Silicon Valley investor calls on tech CEOs to speak out against Trump’s immigration order, Business Insider UK, Jan. 28, 2017