Some call it wearing one’s heart on the sleeve; others call it wearing their emotions. If the discussion is of values and ethics, leaders must wear them openly, constantly encouraging, mentoring, and coaching others to operate within values-based and ethical standards the leader expresses. Values and ethics exist in a philosophical arena and often mistaken as the same. Values explain that who you are is what you were when. Ethics demonstrates values through behavior. This paper takes the position that values exist on a higher plane than ethics.
Dr. Gyertson6 shares an insight on value and ethic sources. He says throughout human development, there are socio-cultural influences in family and tribe. In the time of prehistory, these values meant survival and extended family. Exploring present value development offers a very different view of family and tribe. Family is nuclear now and connection to extended family is often limited to the July Family Picnic. Tribe, community, is multifaceted people have small neighborhood tribes, work tribes, social tribes, and others. They move among tribes and behave differently in different settings. While core values remain, behaviors shifts when moving among groups. Interacting in work groups is an example. Consider a group of university administrators working to satisfy the needs and desires of applicants and students. Administrators work to put applicants and students at ease as they enter classes. Faculty works with students lecturing, and facilitating to grow students knowledge. The student is the same person yet is interacting with the different elements of the university.
Value deals with the worth, utility, moral virtue, aesthetics, and, may be singular or a collective of each. Values are at the core of what a person believes. In June 2006, article in USA Today, Colorado Rockies pitcher Jason Jennings tells the reporter that players for the ball club hear the value of character and good living from the top of the organization all the way down. In the locker room, one does not see pornographic pictures or magazines. There are sports magazines, racing and car magazines, and prominently seen throughout the locker room are bibles. This ball club believes in Christian values and Christian ethical behavior. A fan tells of not hearing the usual trash talking or player showboating among members of the Rockies. The leadership in the Rockies organization provides evidence of expected behavior in the clubhouse, on the playing field, and among players of other teams. The Rockies are not the “winningest” team in major league baseball; however, they display the near the highest behavioral ethics.
Ethics comes from the Greek ethikos, meaning arising from habit. Ethics is a study of living, a study in which we discover things as being right or wrong or true and false based on how we know things. Therefore, ethics is the outward manifestation, the acting out of a belief.
Values versus ethics
Values and ethics do not exist separately from each other. However, they may develop differently over time. A child’s values grow from the values of parents. A child’s ethical behavior develops from observing what parents do. Trust in parents’ grows as a child sees their parents obeying their beliefs (values) through their ethics (what they do) consistently. It is a leader’s responsibility to an organization, workers, and her- and him-self to do no less. Followers of a leader will loose trust quickly if they observe attitudes and behaviors that do not match expressed ethical standards and values.
Values must identify or embody who a leader is. Values are the bases upon which leaders make judgments on what is important. Ethics identifies a leader’s moral compass, the leader’s understanding of good and right. Ethics are a set of moral principles.
Leaders must commit to personal values and organizational values seeking a fit between both. Moreover, leaders must manifest values in a way that leaves the observer fully aware of the leader’s commitment.
A leader studies the community in which an organization exists to know what the community values. Another consideration is the ethical behavior that leaves a leader questioning whether the community acts as it believes. These observations of what a community believes and how it behaves tells a leader the scope of normative order within a community. However, organizational leaders must operate on a higher plane.
A consideration for leader examination when establishing a code of ethics is that ethics and values do not fit a neat categorization into specialty areas. Melissa Ingwersen1 of JPMorgan Chase Bank supports the foundation of ethics at home and school before applying them to business. She says JPMorgan Chase does not want to compromise it banks or bankers by doing business with questionable clients. Therefore, JPMorgan Chase selects clients carefully attempting to maintain their reputation and the reputation of their clients.
What does the above example tell us about values and ethics in an organization? For Chase Bank, the value is honesty, integrity, and character building of clients by selecting clients who have similar values as the bank. Chase Bank does not compromise their core values for the sake of gaining business. Another view of this provided by Brenda Joyner, et al2, is a sense of corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSR includes such elements as economic, legal, discretionary activities and ethics. She says these exist within what are the values of the public.
Working standard – values and ethics
Stated above, ethics is the outward display of values. In some organizations, leaders are content to accept the ethic of responsibility to shareholders. Although this was the generally accepted behavior in economic boom years, most long-life businesses recognize that the bottom line is not an ethically symbolic way to engage.
Joyner, et al, relate the work of Paine (1994). In this, they attempt to put a value on following the letter of the law versus following spirit of the law. While obeying the letter of the law is legally and ethically correct, seeking the higher value to obey the spirit of the law propels a leader to higher trust, reducing cynicism, ultimately adding value to the ethical standard. The ethical standard is a leader and organization’s integrity strategy and values are the core beliefs driving the strategy.
Ray Coye3, writing in 1986 saw the need to differentiate values and ethics. In his view, there are no values for an organization separated from the collective values of leaders and members. He provides a definition of values as, “… serv(ing) as the authorities in the name of which choices are made and action taken.” In greater depth, this 1986 definition is one based on the prevailing attitude toward values and ethics considered correct – at that time (Coye, 1986)
• A value is chosen freely after consideration of alternatives and consequences
• Publicly affirmed, cherished, and prized
• Pattern of action that is consistent and repeated
Values exist at the core of our nature; they are our core belief system. Ethics, our behavior, reveal our values within an operating environment. If we say we cherish (value) our children but behave abusively, value and ethical behavior are incongruent. Within a leadership role, the same is true of our attitude toward workers. Recent history of organizational failure adds to common knowledge of how personal greed over the expressed organizational values ruin business and, worse, the faith workers have in the business and leaders.
Not all organizations are the Colorado Rockies Baseball Club, but trends start one person and one organization at a time. Be a trend setter.
1. Nightengale, B. (2006, June 1). Basball’s Rockies seek revival on two levels. USA Today. Retrieved September 20, 2006 from [http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/nl/rockies/2006-05-30-rockies-cover_x.htm].
2. Cook, J. R. Interview: Melissa Ingwersen, Central OH President, JPMorgan Chase Bank, NA. Ethical Leadership, Council for Ethics in Economics (1,1)
3. Joyner, B. E., Payne, D. & Raiborn, C. A. (2002, April). Building values, business ethics and corporate social responsibility into the developing organization. Journal of Developmental Entrepreneurship(7,1), pg. 113.
4. Coye, R. (1986, February) Individual Values and Business Ethics. Journal of Business Ethics (5,1), pg. 45.
5. Watson, S. (2006). Personal Values in Business: How successful businesses underpin their success with clear values. Retrieved September 20, 2006 from [http://www.summitconsultants.co.uk/news-detail.asp?fldNewsArticles_ID=126].
6. Gyertson, D. J. (2006). Ethical Frameworks. Presentation at Regent University DSL Residency September 13 to 22, 2006