Last week we considered a few pointers from modern thinkers as to what they felt were the cornerstones of effective leadership. It does seem that these qualities collectively point to a sound base within human beings that could be termed integrity, which was defined as honest and strong moral principles which I have summed up as ethical or moral behaviour.
We have all witnessed what happens when leaders are thrust into power by force of their character and who don’t adhere to sound principles that would result in the populace being free to practice their pursuit of happiness and where everyone is treated fairly and where vulnerable citizens are looked after by the state. Interestingly SA ranks top in an ethics survey conducted by the London based Institution of Business Ethics. SA businesses have formal aspects of ethics management, have a code of ethics, provide whistle-blowing channels to staff and training staff in organizational business ethics. However, as we know in SA, business, and government for that matter, are largely tolerant of unethical behaviour Clearly something is amiss, and we will try and unpack this to discover where we are going wrong.
Before we look at the reasons for the above-mentioned dilemma, let’s look at the meaning and etymology of the word ethics and the Latin equivalent, morals. Ethics comes from the Greek word ethos, which has among its meaning’s, characteristic, spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its attitudes and aspirations. The Latin equivalent is morals derived from the word moralis, associated with or characterized by right behaviour, also associated with or concerning conduct or moral principles. Clearly then ethics and morality have to do with an accepted norm in the behaviour of the populace For example, there was a time in early Britain where a mans word was his bond and few individuals dared risking their place in society by violating this custom
Reverting to the earlier quoted survey into ethics mentioned above, it does seem that South African custom largely pays lip service to the written down guidelines in ethical behaviour and one sees the same malaise in the adherence to our Constitution Thus we have this incongruous situation we say one thing and do another. My feeling is that there is a clear disconnect in what we say we believe in to what we actually believe in and that this largely is a result of poor leadership. Socrates maintained that it’s the leaders in society that slide first and that mankind are bound to follow.
Next week we will examine in more detail how effective leadership would ensure that our lives are kept on an even keel by firstly looking at what we actually believe in, and secondly by discovering how we can all become effective leaders and how this is attained. So perhaps we can, in the following week, look at what directs our individual lives and how this impacts on our performance in the game of life.