Ethics And Leadership

It has been said that ethics are like kids.  Almost everyone has them, but no two are the same.  Perhaps that is what makes ethics so hard to define.  At least, hard to define to a level that all, or even most, can embrace.[su_spacer]
For me, ethics is a standard of conduct that is morally acceptable and conforms to what most would consider a high level of professional standards.[su_spacer]
So, you ask, just what is “morally acceptable”?  Good question.  Certainly “morally acceptable is not the same for an Islamic terrorist as it is for a Christian minister or a first-grade student.  That definition obviously leaves a lot of wiggle room.[su_spacer]
A “high level of professional standards” is likewise a bit iffy.  Professional standards tend to be defined by each individual and can vary from country to country or even from day to day as the need or urge presents itself.  Professional standards are not even the same across business types.  A high level of professional standards for the manager of a strip club may be as simple as not watering the drinks and don’t let the clientele touch the girls. Not the same standards as the manager of a Macy’s department store or a fine dining restaurant.[su_spacer]
A person once told me that ethics are the way you live that lets you sleep well at night. Well, okay but one has to wonder if Hitler slept well knowing that he was having hundreds of thousands murdered.  But then one could argue that he had no ethics anyway, so there may be some basis for that as a definition.[su_spacer]
Another definition that I’ve heard is ethical standards is not doing or saying anything that willfully harms another person.  That may have more than a kernel of truth to it.  Though certainly, a leader would find it very hard to follow that path when downsizing a department or company.[su_spacer]
Perhaps there is not a single definition of ethics that fits all situations.  Maybe it is a combination of all those things.  Maybe it is as simple as doing what you know in your heart is the right thing to do, even when it is not in your personal best interest.  After all, it is easy to be ethical when there is no skin in the game.[su_spacer]


Ken Vincent
Ken Vincent
KEN is a 46 year veteran hotelier and entrepreneur. Formerly owned two hotels, an advertising agency, a wholesale tour company, a POS company, a leasing company, and a hotel management company. The hotels included chain owned, franchises, and independents. They ranged in type from small luxury inns, to limited service properties, to large convention hotels and resorts. After retiring he authored a book, “So Many Hotels, So Little Time” in which he relates what life is like behind the scenes for a hotel manager. Ken operated more that 100 hotels and resorts in the US and Caribbean and formed eight companies. He is a firm believer that senior management should share their knowledge and experience with the next generation of management.

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  1. Here in Canada we have two Bill being incorporated into law. Both are around “gender identity” and protecting this group of people from harassment and harm. The ethics we have in business and law is just not ready to address gender identity. In ethics we focus on outcomes, especially measurable outcomes. But gender identity is determined not by biology or science, but by how someone feels at a certain moment. Today I feel like I’m a girl so I wear a dress and makeup. Today I feel like a boy so I wear pants and a tie. This feeling in the moment makes it difficult to do the right thing, the most ethical thing when it involves gender identity and gender expression.

    • That’s a good point. I talked about gender identity with a ethics professor yesterday.It sounded like the topic would fall under the same place when her students talk about religion and ethics. And, the results of a person deciding one day to be one gender or another can be measured, observed, and compared to other outcomes from other ethical decisions.