Have you ever found yourself in a dilemma where you are caught between doing what’s right and doing what you want to do? You know those ethical dilemmas that make being a leader with integrity a very unappealing path?
Let’s explore some of these seemingly grey situations leaders find themselves stuck in and ask yourself “What would I do?”
- Do I allow a great employee who has far exceeded expectations for years to pad her time sheets because I know she is worth the money she is getting, or do I address the issue of compensation and the behavior of submitting fraudulent time sheets?
- Do I confront my customer who verbally abused my employee publicly or do I let it go because he just signed a 2 million dollar contract that we’ve already begun staffing up to support?
- Do I hire the candidate who brings the business and contacts I need to meet quota this year but doesn’t reflect our company values or do I hire the candidate who fits the company values but is limited by a non-compete to bring business with him?
What makes these dilemmas so tough is that as much as it should be obvious what the right answer is, it doesn’t always feel that way in the midst of it. Sometimes, we shrug off the responsibility to do the right thing because we think the right thing is not to rock the boat. Or, more realistically, because doing the right thing means challenging something (old cultural habits) or someone (a boss). And if we are really honest with ourselves, sometimes doing the right thing means we have to give up something we don’t want to give up.
The reality is this is not easy stuff. There are no easy answers. I think the only way to know the right answer to any of these dilemmas is to determine first and foremost what is your intention as a leader? In other words, what kind of person you want to be?
- What do you want to have? What do you want to give? What do you want to be known for? How do you want others to feel when they engage with you?
Once you are clear on your intention, it’s a little easier to determine what behaviors and choices align best with your vision of yourself.
Now let’s ask another question. “What does my company need from me as its leader?” Leadership means so many things, but at the core, I think it can be argued that leadership is working in service to the whole. In the context of leadership at work, that means working in service to the organization. Let’s combine these two concepts, “What kind of person am I?” and “What does the organization need from me?” The answers to these two questions provide us with tremendous insight into how to handle our ethical dilemma.