Before I begin, here’s a short story!
I was once interviewing a candidate for a very critical sales role. The sales team had been re-shuffled since they had not achieved the sales target for two consecutive quarters. Hiring a suitable candidate in sales function was a high priority.
There was a lot of pressure to get the right fit as quickly as possible. While interviewing this candidate, I was hoping for the best. And slowly I realized that this guy was the most suitable candidate amongst all we had met so far. A charismatic personality, logical in approach and excellent in communication skill; the icing on the cake was that he came from the same industry. I had just made up my mind to hire him; suddenly then he pulled a small pen drive from the folder he was carrying with him and pointed it towards me. With a smile on his face, he began to explain that the drive contained information on a competitor’s customer. And towards the end of the interview process, he told my sales head and me that if we hired him, he would give this information and more such information to help our organization get to the position of number one in the industry.
If someone comes to you with a similar offer, what would you do?
The inner turmoil and mental pressure will give rise to many logical and relevant questions:
‘It’s ok, everybody does it.’
‘I am not doing it for my personal self; it’s professional and good for my organization.’
‘We should hire him but we should not take the information from him. And hope he does not do the same when he leaves the company in future!’
With all these questions in mind, the conscience is constantly wrestling with the logical mind.
On one hand, you have a gold mine that can take your organization to the top position. And on the other side your conscience, your values, and principles in life, the ethical leadership mantra that you have preached and implemented throughout propels you to think in a different way, perhaps in the right direction.
As a custodian of an ethical culture in the organization, HR Leaders need to take tough calls in many such similar situations. Which brings us to the concept of ‘3 ethics check’ questions which you need to ask yourself.
- Will it make me proud and feel good about the decision I take?
- Is it fair; how will I feel if that happens to me?
- Is this legal to do, will I be violating any company policy or any other law?
Leaders must always remember that there is never a right way to do a wrong thing. Period!
Jan Koum, Whatsapp’s Co-founder who sold the messaging app for $19 billion in 2014 resigned from Facebook and its board, reportedly over the company’s attempts to weaken encryption and collect information about its users. According to reports, Koum could be leaving shares worth $1 billion on the table. Isn’t that a great example of how good leaders chose ethics over anything else?
Last year, Virat Kohli, the captain of India’s cricket team declared his decision to not endorse any soft drink stating “If I myself won’t consume such things, I won’t urge others to consume it, just because I’m getting money out of it.” All these real-life examples of famous personality’s journey reflect a lot on “Ethics” as one of the most important leadership traits of every good and successful leader. Remember what Denise Morrison, says, “To serve as a leader, live a balanced life, and apply ethical principles to make a significant difference.”