I am not born a leader. I have known that from the start. I have no commanding presence and neither am I charismatic or eloquent. I have no voice among many nor do I challenge a thought. I do not insist myself nor argue just to emphasize my point. I simply stand in one corner and watch them, listen to their words, suggest a thing or two and agree with everyone. If I am not comfortable with what was agreed upon, I voice my apprehension hoping someone will see my point and take it from there. If that doesn’t happen, I simply abide with full support. And that is me, a born follower.
Some people are either born leaders or moulded to be leaders. I will not argue if leaders are made or born. However, I agree that leadership is a skill that can be learned by training, observation, perception, practice and experience over time. In fact, there are a lot of leadership trainings and even a master degree in leadership. I wonder if these trainings also include moral standards and ethical standards.
Why is it imperative that leaders understand ethical and moral standards? It is because they have the POWER TO INFLUENCE people in their organization. Their influence can either be positive or negative. We can look at the example of many leaders who have helped shape history by their influence. We have positive leaders like Jesus Christ and his apostles, Martin Luther King, and Thomas Jefferson the principle author of declaration of independence. There were also leaders with negative influence like Adolf Hitler who led Germany in war and is linked to the Holocaust and extermination of Jews and other ‘undesirables’. In business, what happens if management fails to lead their people into the right path?
The organization collapse if management fails to steer them on the right path. A classic example is Enron. Enron’s Code of Ethics says that “As officers and employees of Enron Corp., its subsidiaries, and its affiliated companies, we are responsible for conducting the business affairs of the companies in accordance with all applicable laws and in a moral and honest manner.” However, in reality according to Sherron Watkins, the vice president for corporate development, “Enron’s unspoken message was, ‘Make the numbers, make the numbers, make the numbers—if you steal, if you cheat, just don’t get caught. If you do, beg for a second chance, and you’ll get one.’” These two statements contradict each other. It is management who has set the rules to follow and it is still management who has the hand in shaping the kind of culture they want for the company. In this case, it is very evident that they failed to re-direct the organization to adherence to ethical practices, but rather encourages unethical behaviour. This failure of top leadership plus a corporate culture that allows unethical conduct has contributed to the surmise of the company. What could the employees have done to prevent this?
Every employee has a choice to stand for what he believes in or simply dance with the company’s music. As for me, I might consider myself a born follower, but I am definitely not a blind follower. I have been working for more than two decades and in my experience, you always have a choice. I do not like to argue my point; I simply present facts, rules, laws and possible consequences. If after laying down my reasons for disagreement and still they persist to do unlawful or unethical ways, then they are on their own. Doing the right thing may not be the easiest thing to do or is not financially rewarding at times, but it gives me peace of mind. And Peace of Mind is Priceless.