Understanding ethics is an active learning process. Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor, faced wars, plagues, and starvation. Yet, he still devoted time in the final years of his life to writing notes to himself about how to live virtuously. From anyone who hasn’t read his writing, the ability to do the right thing was a struggle. Sometimes he succumbed to anger despite his deep understanding of how ineffective it was.
In business, ethics plays an important role even and mostly when there are cultural differences and an unethical public administration environment.
As a Roman emperor, there was no one higher than Marcus Aurelius. As much as he understood ethics, there was no government official to dictate to him how to act. In 170 A.D. Marcus Aurelius was the most powerful man in the world.
Businesses are able to enhance ethics by delimiting acceptable behaviors beyond government control.
To Lead Down Or Up?
Where did Marcus Aurelius learn everything from? He cites philosophers, teachers, and the examples of others throughout his writing. As for us, that means you don’t have to be in a leadership position to lead by example. If people hadn’t inspired and taught Aurelius, there is no telling what kind of leader and person he would have become.
In business, a company’s values, ethics, and compliance with the laws and regulations will dictate how to act within the organization. Companies that have a Code of Ethics designed to ensure employees and third parties are behaving in a manner that is legally acceptable and respectful of one another, establish rules for behavior and send compliance messages that transcend the work environment.
Employees have the opportunity to learn from the organizations they work for and to take those principles to their personal life.
To take this one step further, one doesn’t need to wait for someone to tell them how to act ethically. We all have the capability and understanding to pursue an education in ethics, whether through a library, by seminars, or simply by learning from an ethical organization in a way that the subject fits one’s profession or path in life.
Because learning is an active process, so is implementing what you learn or already know to be true. Being ethical is not dependent on a position. The most junior employee or private citizen can be an example.
When There Is No Example
Public servants should be held to a high standard. Their ability to set and live by their principles initiates a chain reaction for others to follow. However, that doesn’t mean they always succeed. In these moments, when your leadership is failing you, you have a choice: to act the way they do or to respond per what you know to be ethically sound and virtuous.
Commonly employees in an organization say that they need more support from their company’s top management to navigate tricky ethical decisions.
If you are truly upset about how government officials and others are acting, why would you do the same thing they are doing? That is a moment to recenter and lead by example. What is suitable for the person can be great for the community as well.
Ethical companies and people can be a game-changer for the world.
If you are a business owner or leader looking to inspire others—or even offer a refresher for your employees on ethical decision-making, contact Prae Venire. Be the example that you wish to see in your company, your business’s industry, and the world.