I have chosen to use my work as a reflection of my values.
You hold great power in your words and how you use them. As Uncle Ben reminded his nephew Peter Parker (AKA Spider-Man), “With great power comes great responsibility.” We can all think of leaders and influencers who have taken advantage of their power and led people down a rabbit hole. You don’t want to be associated with any of those people. You want to stand out above the crowd as being honest and ethical. Your presence should be accurate, respecting the material and your audience. It should demonstrate a thoughtful determination of what is right and moral. Yes, those are very subjective terms, but there are elements that we can all agree on. In the business world, personal integrity and honesty truly matter.
Ethical responsibility in leading can be traced back to the city-state of Athens and its great philosophers like Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato. From them, we garnered the core of what it means to be an ethical leader.
- Personal trustworthiness: Your credibility is determined by what precedes you and what is earned while you are in a position of authority. Conduct yourself with dignity for the message and the audience.
- Truthfulness of the message: Do not spin the truth and share only what is to your advantage. There needs to be integrity in the material that you are sharing.
- Respect your audience (colleagues and clients): This means coming prepared with all the information and sharing everything that is of significance.
To establish an ethical nature, you must create your value system, the set of principles that you live and work by. You will go to this foundation whenever a questionable situation arises, or a problem appears. You’ve already developed one over the years through all the actions that you made or didn’t make. But now is the time to articulate exactly what your values are; where is the line that you will not cross? A few keywords might include:
Attitude Character Integrity
Honor Justice Respect
Responsibility Fairness Forgiveness
Thoughtfulness Compassion Knowledge
These values demonstrate boundaries beyond which you will not go. And it is much better to decide those limits beforehand rather than when you are in a pressure situation. I used to teach a class to my senior acting majors about life out in the real world of theatre. Many of them were heading off to New York or Hollywood, and they might be placed in situations or asked to do things that might be uncomfortable. They needed to decide beforehand what their limits were and where their ethical line was drawn.
Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave them all over everything you do.