Some call it wearing your heart on your sleeve; others call it carrying your emotions. If the discussion is one of values and ethics, leaders should use them openly, constantly encouraging, mentoring, and coaching others to operate within the ethical and value-based standards the leader expresses. Values and ethics exist in a philosophical realm and are often confused as the same thing. Values explain that who you are is what you were when. Ethics demonstrate values through behavior. This article takes the position that values exist on a higher plane than ethics.
Dr. Gyertson6 shares a perspective on value and ethical sourcing. He says that throughout human development, there are sociocultural influences on the family and the tribe. In prehistoric times, these values meant survival and extended family. Exploring present value development offers a very different view of family and tribe. The family is now nuclear and the connection with the extended family is often limited to the family picnic in July. Tribe, community, are multifaceted people who have small neighborhood tribes, work tribes, social tribes and others. They move between tribes and behave differently in different environments. While core values remain, behaviors change when you move between groups. Interacting in work groups is an example. Consider a group of university administrators who work to meet the needs and wants of applicants and students. Administrators work to make applicants and students feel comfortable entering classes. The faculty works with the students by reading and facilitating the growth of the students’ knowledge. The student is the same person but is interacting with the different elements of the university.
The value deals with the value, utility, moral virtue, aesthetics and can be singular or collective of each one. Values are at the core of what a person believes. In a June 2006 article in USA Today, Colorado Rockies pitcher Jason Jennings tells the reporter that players at the baseball club hear the value of character and the good life from the top of the organization to the lowest levels. In the locker room one does not see pornographic photos or magazines. There are sports magazines, racing and car magazines, and bibles are prominently displayed throughout the locker room. This ball club believes in Christian values and ethical Christian behavior. One fan says he hasn’t heard of the usual crap or player bragging among the Rockies. Leadership in the Rockies organization provides evidence of expected behavior in the clubhouse, on the field, and among players on other teams. The Rockies aren’t the “winningest” team in Major League Baseball; however, they display a behavioral ethic close to the highest.
Ethics comes from the Greek ethikos, which means arising out of habit. Ethics is a study of life, a study in which we discover that things are right or wrong or true or false based on how we know them. Therefore, ethics is the external manifestation, the performance of a belief.
Values versus ethics
Values and ethics do not exist apart from each other. However, they can develop differently over time. A child’s values grow out of the parent’s values. A child’s ethical behavior develops by watching what parents do. Trust in parents grows as the child sees their parents consistently obey their beliefs (values) through their ethics (what they do). It is the responsibility of a leader with an organization, workers and with himself not to do less. Followers of a leader will quickly lose trust if they observe attitudes and behaviors that do not align with expressed ethical standards and values.
Values should identify or embody who a leader is. Values are the bases on which leaders make judgments about what is important. Ethics identifies a leader’s moral compass, the leader’s understanding of what is good and right. Ethics is a set of moral principles.
Leaders must commit to personal values and organizational values seeking a fit between the two. Furthermore, 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 learn what the community values. Another consideration is ethical behavior that leaves a leader questioning whether the community is acting as it believes. These observations of what a community believes and how it behaves tell a leader the extent of the normative order within a community. However, organizational leaders must operate on a higher plane.
One consideration for examining leaders when establishing a code of ethics is that ethics and values do not fit into neat categorization into specialty areas. Melissa Ingwersen1 of JPMorgan Chase Bank supports the foundation of ethics at home and school before applying it to business. She says JPMorgan Chase doesn’t want to compromise its banks or bankers by doing business with questionable customers. Therefore, JPMorgan Chase carefully selects clients trying to maintain its reputation and the reputation of its clients.
What does the above example tell us about values and ethics in an organization? For Chase Bank, value is honesty, integrity and building customer character by selecting customers who have similar values to the bank. Chase Bank does not compromise its core values for the sake of winning business. Another view of this provided by Brenda Joyner, et al2, is a sense of corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSR includes elements such as economic, legal, discretionary and ethical activities. She says that these exist within what are the values of the public.
Work standard – values and ethics.
Said previously, ethics is the external manifestation of values. In some organizations, leaders are content to accept the ethic of shareholder responsibility. Although this was generally accepted behavior in the boom years, most long-running companies recognize that the bottom line is not an ethically token way to participate.
Joyner, et al, relates to the work of Paine (1994). In this, they try to place value on following the letter of the law versus following the spirit of the law. While obeying the letter of the law is legally and ethically correct, seeking the highest value in obeying the spirit of the law propels a leader to greater confidence, reduces cynicism, and ultimately adds value to the ethical standard. The ethical standard is the integrity strategy of a leader and an organization, and values are the fundamental beliefs that drive the strategy.
Ray Coye3, writing in 1986, saw the need to differentiate values and ethics. In his opinion, there are no values for an organization separate from the collective values of its leaders and members. He provides a definition of values as, “…serving as the authorities on whose behalf decisions are made and action taken.” In greater depth, this 1986 definition is based on the prevailing attitude towards values and ethics considered correct – at that time (Coye, 1986).
• A value is freely chosen after considering alternatives and consequences.
• Publicly affirmed, appreciated and valued
• 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 love (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. The recent history of organizational failure adds to the common knowledge of how personal greed over expressed organizational values ruins the business and, worse still, the faith workers have in the business and leaders.
Not every organization is the Colorado Rockies Baseball Club, but trends start with one person and one organization at a time. Be a trendsetter.
1. Nightengale, B. (2006, June 1). The baseball Rockies seek a renaissance on two levels. USA Today. Retrieved on September 20, 2006 from [http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/nl/rockies/2006-05-30-rockies-cover_x.htm].
2. Cook, JR Interview: Melissa Ingwersen, President of Central OH, JPMorgan Chase Bank, NA. Ethical Leadership, Council on Ethics in Economics (1.1)
3. Joyner, BE, Payne, D., & Raiborn, CA (2002, April). Building values, business ethics and corporate social responsibility in the developing organization. Journal of Developmental Entrepreneurship(7.1), p. 113.
4. Coye, R. (1986, February) Individual values and business ethics. Business Ethics Magazine (5.1), p. Four. Five.
5. Watson, S. (2006). Personal values in business: how successful companies underpin their success with clear values. Retrieved on September 20, 2006 from [http://www.summitconsultants.co.uk/news-detail.asp?fldNewsArticles_ID=126].
6.Gyerson, D.J. (2006). Ethical Frameworks. Presentation at Regent University DSL Residency September 13-22, 2006