“Ethical Leaders Can Save the Day”
Editorial from Mr Shantanu Prakash, CEO & MD, Educomp Solutions Ltd, on the World Forum for Ethics in Business activities
Date: 28 April 2013
Publication: New Europe newspaper
Corruption charges such as that on Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, business scandals such as the Horsemeat scandal spread across Europe and the recent happenings in Cyprus have brought to the forefront once again issues that have been a concern for the world in general for a long time. What has been surprising is that despite global attention on the issue of ethics post the financial meltdown in 2008-09, these incidents keep coming up with increasing regularity. There are a couple of questions that arise from this negative trend: Who should take the blame for such misdemeanours? Who can get the ethical bandwagon back on the road? In my view, the answer for both the concerns is the same: leaders.
Research has shown that subordinate behaviour is highly influenced by leader behaviour. According to Bandura’s Social Learning Theory (1977, 1986), “most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others, one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action”. This by itself shows what impact leader behaviour can make towards augmenting ethicality. But, with leaders diluting the importance of the path and focussing on the information in the financial books, a negative impact of ethics is being made. The trickle-down effect of such sub-standard ethical leadership can be witnessed more than ever.
Though, ethical deterioration has corrupted the whole system to some extent, ethical strengthening of just the top layer could solve for majority of the problems. Providing a better role model for the subordinates through leader behaviour, having a two-way communication of ethical standards and reinforcing both, good and bad subordinate behaviour, would motivate, and in some cases, force the subordinates to take the ethical road to reach their goals, both in the organization and in their personal life. In my opinion, that would be a great starting point for a global vision of living in an “ethical world”.
That said, ethical leaders need to be created to save the day. But the question is: How? The answer to it has been with us since the ancient Greek times. Aristotle, in his Nichomachaen Ethics, said that, “Morality cannot be learnt simply by reading a treatise on virtue. The spirit of morality is awakened in the individual only through the witness and conduct of a moral person”.
A lot of universities have introduced ethics courses in their curriculum but teaching an ethical course to the future leaders of the world is not enough. Orange needs to be put in the juice- maker to get some orange juice but just putting it in there without turning on the juice-maker and making the orange go through the churn won’t serve the purpose. Therefore, witnessing and practicing ethical leadership is very important for one to grow into an ethical leader.
Organizations such as World Forum for Ethics in Business (WFEB) are playing a pivotal role in the enlightenment and development of yester-year leaders and leaders of today and tomorrow. By organizing seminars and summits, training programs, work-shops and by undertaking projects to raise awareness on the critical link between business, spirituality and human values, such organizations are creating a platform where ethics can be discussed, learnt and evolved.
The public recognition and awards provided to ethically outstanding individuals and companies for their exemplary work and service by such organizations is the kind of push required to instigate an ethical wave in all and to develop ethical leaders that could walk everyone towards an ethical world. I believe the flowers still have breath left in them; they just need to be watered well to lead the garden back to its beauty.