Do the Right Thing

I teach in the MBA program at the University of Denver Daniels College of Business.  Ethical leadership is an important part of our curriculum.

I saw an interesting article on ethics called “You Can Be an Unethical Rule Follower” the other day.  You can read the entire article here.

The gist of the article is can be summed up in one sentence.  “Following the rules is a good indicator of high character, but each of us can be unethical and still follow the rules.”

The author sums it up very well when he says…

“To truly be a man of character, I must demonstrate character when the rule book does not help.  To truly be a man of character, I must draw my own line when no line has been drawn for me.”

At Daniels we follow the ethical principles laid out by the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative:

  • Act with honesty in all situations.
  • Build trust in all stakeholder relationships.
  • Accept responsibility for all decisions.
  • Maintain open and truthful communications.
  • Engage in fair competition and create equitable and just relationships.
  • Honor the right, freedoms views and property of others.
  • Comply with the spirit and intent of laws and regulations.
  • Create long-term value for all relevant stakeholders.

These are eight great principles for acting ethically.  However, if you look closely at them, you’ll see that there is still a lot of wiggle room when applying them in your life and career.  That’s why I like the article I mentioned at the beginning of this post so much.  It doesn’t let us off of the hook.  We have take responsibility for acting ethically.

To become ethical people of character, we must demonstrate character when the rule book does not help.  We must draw our own lines when no line have been drawn for us.  The seventh point in the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative comes into play here.  “Comply with the spirit and intent of laws and regulations.”
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In other words, don’t look for loopholes.  Don’t come from the perspective that if it’s not forbidden, it must be allowed.  Do what’s implicitly right, not what is explicitly wrong.

In my class, we have lots of discussions about the ethics of the situations presented in the cases I teach. These discussions are always lively.  We challenge one another’s ethical thoughts and ideas.  These conversations help students (and me too) to clarify our ethical positions.  They help us draw lines for ourselves when no lines have been drawn for us.  They help us become better people, citizens and leaders.

You can do the same.  When you’re confronted with an ethical dilemma ask yourself this simple question: “What is the right thing to do in this situation.?”  The do it — even if it’s difficult.  You’ll become a better person, citizen and leader if you do.

Your career mentor,




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