Ethical Leadership 2


Recently we have read about some high profile ethical failures and this causes me to ask – Do our leaders in industry and government understand the difference between right and wrong. The destruction of the lives of others due to unethical practices in the financial sector cannot be overlooked or treated casually. Price rigging, of which we have heard so much recently, has an impact on all of us but in particular has a devastating effect on the poor and the needy. All of this is due to greed, profit, satisfying shareholders or just a total disregard for ethical business practice.

These unethical practices highlight the extent to which leaders determine what is right and wrong, what is ethical and what unethical behaviour is. Occasionally, I can accept, some make mistakes and wrong choices. Unfortunately this is not the norm. The norm appears to be dishonesty and unethical behaviour that is conducted with full knowledge and a total disregard of others.

Standards of behaviour in both business and government continue to decline and each day more instances are brought to our attention.

Business ethics become even more complex when multi-cultural clashes in values are involved. Deon Rossouw, President of the Business Ethics Network of Africa (BEN-Africa) refers to these clashes in his book “Business Ethics in Africa”:

He speaks of “the clash between cultural values and the values which underpin market economies. An example of this is the clash that is sometimes alleged between the radical individualist values of capitalism and African communal values. Any number of personal and social circumstances can be blamed for the divide between ethics and business in Africa, but once all the naming, blaming and shaming have been done, the unfortunate situation remains.” (pg. 12)

Deon Rossouw provides a current view of business ethics in Africa:

“In our part of the world business ethics is still often regarded as a contradiction in terms. There is plenty of information about the extent of unethical behaviour in business in Africa (Rossouw 1997; Kpundeh 1998; Gichure 2000). Surveys and studies done by African and international researchers tell tales of endemic corruption on our continent. For example, Deloitte and Touche conducted a survey on fraud in 1999 in seventeen African countries. In every country, with the exception of Botswana, fraud was on the increase. The kinds of fraud that were identified included forging bank documents, tax evasion, false insurance claims, and electronic funds transfer fraud.”

The indisputable fact is that any social structure, (such as we are currently seeing) built on dishonesty is on shaky ground. To quote Rossouw again: “because business is social in nature, concern for others’ interests as well as your own is essential if you want to run a sustainable business.” (pg. 13)

I acknowledge there are some leaders, politicians, government ministers and business executives who demonstrate the highest levels of ethics and ethical behaviour but unfortunately we hear so little about them. These are the people who inspire others and try their best to lead by example. They do things right and for the right reasons. They are to be commended.

© Des Squire (Managing Member) – AMSI and ASSOCIATES cc -des@amsiandassociates.co.za

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2 thoughts on “Ethical Leadership

  • Nathan Kufakunesu Winini

    Thanks Des. The reason why unethical practices are on the rise is because awarding professional business qualifications institutions are giving a deaf ear. I think they should step in and withdraw one’s qualification if found to be unethical in order to remain credible and “save the lives of others” because at the end people will ask , where the professional qualifications were obtained from. The Public Protectors should be allowed to practice professionally without fear or favor.
    It must be remembered that bad unethical practices or bad behavior that goes unpunished will tend to be repeated.