Eth­i­cal lead­er­ship mat­ters

With­out it, abuse of au­thor­ity and preser­va­tion of power has far-reach­ing im­pli­ca­tions

Cape Argus - - OPINION - CYN­THIA SCHOEMAN Schoeman is manag­ing direc­tor of Ethics Mon­i­tor­ing and Man­age­ment Ser­vices and a found­ing non-ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Ethics Prac­ti­tion­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion.

IN CASE you are not con­vinced of the im­por­tance of eth­i­cal lead­er­ship or think it is not such a big deal, con­sider the al­ter­na­tive.

In­stead of cor­po­rate lead­ers fo­cus­ing on the well-be­ing of the or­gan­i­sa­tion, its peo­ple and its stake­hold­ers, or pub­lic sec­tor lead­ers be­ing guided by what is in the best in­ter­ests of the coun­try and its cit­i­zens, un­eth­i­cal lead­ers fo­cus on what’s in it for them, on ben­e­fit­ing them­selves and their favoured sup­port­ers, of­ten at the ex­pense of oth­ers.

Chief Jus­tice Mo­go­eng Mo­go­eng has spo­ken out about the im­por­tance of eth­i­cal lead­er­ship, most re­cently in an ex­cel­lent in­ter­view by Aldrin Sam­pear on Power FM 98.7 on May 15.

The open let­ter writ­ten by 28 civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions to the newly elected MPs and the na­tional coun­cil of provinces quotes the chief jus­tice: “The chal­lenge to all of us is to stop kow­tow­ing to cor­rupt lead­er­ship wher­ever it is to be found. We would never have been where we are right now had ev­ery­body been do­ing what they of­ten take an oath to do.”

The let­ter re­minds MPs that hav­ing been elected in ac­cor­dance with the rules of our Con­sti­tu­tion, “it is to the Con­sti­tu­tion – to which you will take an oath to obey, re­spect and up­hold – that you owe your great­est loy­alty”, and that “good gov­er­nance is not an end in it­self; it is a pre­req­ui­site for ef­fec­tive ser­vice de­liv­ery and so­cial jus­tice”.

Lead­er­ship is widely ac­cepted as hav­ing the most pow­er­ful im­pact on or­gan­i­sa­tional cul­ture. The in­creased power and au­thor­ity that comes with a po­si­tion of lead­er­ship al­lows lead­ers to have a greater in­flu­ence on oth­ers, whether by means of de­ci­sions, poli­cies or strat­egy.

Added to that, the higher vis­i­bil­ity that gen­er­ally ac­com­pa­nies a lead­er­ship role en­ables them, as role mod­els, to have a fur­ther im­pact on a wider au­di­ence than their di­rect fol­low­ers, to em­ploy­ees across the or­gan­i­sa­tion or cit­i­zens in the coun­try.

What is nec­es­sary to give ef­fect to eth­i­cal lead­er­ship? The fol­low­ing ques­tions high­light some of the key is­sues that need to be in place and taken into ac­count.

Are lead­ers up-to-speed as re­gards cur­rent and emerg­ing eth­i­cal trends and chal­lenges? This is cru­cial to equip them to deal more ef­fec­tively with un­ex­pected eth­i­cal breaches and to en­able them to build and main­tain an eth­i­cal brand and rep­u­ta­tion.

Do lead­ers advocate a com­pre­hen­sive or a lim­ited ap­proach to ethics? Specif­i­cally, do they view ethics pri­mar­ily as le­gal and reg­u­la­tory com­pli­ance with a fo­cus on risk? If so, they are miss­ing the critical im­pe­tus that is gained from a fo­cus on strength­en­ing val­ues and im­prov­ing eth­i­cal con­duct. Do lead­ers po­si­tion ethics as be­ing of sig­nif­i­cant value to the or­gan­i­sa­tion and its peo­ple, for ex­am­ple, in terms of the new ROI – the re­turn on in­tegrity – and eth­i­cal cap­i­tal? If the value of ethics is not high enough, it can erode the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s abil­ity to stand firm rel­a­tive to the pres­sures against be­ing eth­i­cal. Has the lead­er­ship (in­clud­ing the board) in­sisted upon the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a sound, in­te­grated ethics man­age­ment sys­tem, not least be­cause such a sys­tem can min­imise risk and rep­u­ta­tional dam­age? Or is ethics man­aged only via lim­ited in­di­ca­tors such as whis­tle-blow­ing re­ports or on an ad hoc and re­ac­tive ba­sis? Does ethics in­form lead­ers’ de­ci­sions? Are de­ci­sions made that are con­sis­tently fair to all af­fected par­ties?

The con­se­quences of the abuse of lead­er­ship power can be far-reach­ing, es­pe­cially as bad lead­ers (and those they ben­e­fit) have a vested in­ter­est in re­tain­ing power, so their demise is of­ten not as quick as would be de­sir­able. Un­til un­eth­i­cal lead­ers are re­moved from of­fice, the neg­a­tive con­se­quences of the abuse of power will con­tinue to im­pact oth­ers: em­ploy­ees, fol­low­ers, stake­hold­ers and cit­i­zens.

THOBILE MATHONSI African News Agency (ANA)

MIN­IS­TER of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Stella Nd­abeni-Abra­hams takes the oath dur­ing the swear­ing in of cab­i­net ministers by Chief Jus­tice Mo­go­eng Mo­go­eng at Se­fako Makgatho Pres­i­den­tial Guest House last month.

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