Leadership: Code of Conduct

By | June 7, 2015

[June 07, 2015]  “I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense1 … and so begins the U.S. military’s Code of Conduct that nearly every person knows of who lives in the United States. Any code of conduct is a set of guidelines, like a road map, to help people understand their responsibilities and thus such a code is an important part of an organization. Thus it follows that leaders who desire success also want a code of conduct that supports their organization’s mission.

Is a code of conduct really that important in a new age of equality and modernity? Is it necessary to channel people’s choices about how they behave and how they think about themselves? If we are true students of history and understand the psychology of people, then we must answer these questions in the affirmative. So yes, a code of conduct is important and yes it is essential that we influence people’s choices. In essence, such a code is more than a road map and more of a way of life that acts like a mentor in the absence of a mentor.

We can find codes of conduct everywhere and not just in modern times. Often they are called by other names such as: creeds, oaths, precepts, declarations, conventions, or commandments.   For example, we’ve all heard of a Medieval Knight’s code of chivalry and the Japanese Samurai warrior code of Bushido. Some are less well known but have been around a long time and exist to this day. To illustrate, the French Foreign Legion Code d’Honneur is still in use.2

A more formal definition of a Code of Conduct would be:

“Principles, values, standards, or rules of behavior that guide the decisions, procedures and systems of an organization in a way that (a) contributes to the welfare of its key stakeholders, and (b) respects the rights of all constituents affected by its operations.”

They key point in this definition is that a code of conduct is an organization-focused concept and provides basic rules of behavior for persons inside an organization and how they affect all stakeholders.

While leadership can mean many things, more than anything else it means influencing people to achieve something they would not ordinarily do. A code of conduct is a way that helps make this possible. Any organization without a code of conduct, whether simple or complex, is missing something important because as a simple tool it helps generate expectations.

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[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_the_United_States_Fighting_Force

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warrior#Code

[3] Some good Code of Conduct examples showing that they can be rather simple or more complex: http://www.uscourts.gov/judges-judgeships/code-conduct-united-states-judges

http://www.nyc.gov/html/dob/downloads/pdf/Code_of_Conduct_2009.pdf

http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/readings/code_of_conduct.htm

http://assets.coca-colacompany.com/45/59/f85d53a84ec597f74c754003450c/COBC_English.pdf

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.