[January 04, 2014] My grandmother told me to always do the right thing – and grandmothers are always giving the best of advice. As leaders we are obligated to do what we believe to be the right thing. For example, U.S President Obama has repeatedly invoked this to justify executive actions on immigration, health care, etc. Yet, if doing the right thing is an easy choice, then why do so many people disagree?
It’s not easy. Doing the right thing is based on the ethics of a particular society – a complex mix of history, values, and norms. It is not difficult to see that what people are doing will be judged by citizens of that society and by others not in that society. Thus, we see that the actions taken by the terrorist group ISIS is very popular in a few Sunni Muslim communities and yet abhorred by most in other societies.
Doing the right thing is an acknowledgement that the process is important and that the ends never justify the means. This translates into action … that to do good, one must use ethical behavior to achieve it. Hope therefore is not an acceptable plan of action. Leaders must lead by showing the way, articulating it so that everyone can understand, and then making the right things happen.
“I think that we as a people are always prone to think tomorrow will be a better day. Well, why will it be a better day? And I think the more that we believe in doing things better, doing the right thing rather than hoping that that’s going to happen, let’s make it happen.” – Bobby Knight
The next time someone tells you that their actions are the right thing to do and that you must accept it; it does not mean that it’s either right or should be accepted. As senior leaders we must do our utmost to do the hard intellectual work necessary to determine what is “right” and what is not. This is what distinguishes a great senior leader from others … they are able to distinguish what is the right thing to do and when it is not so clear to others.
Just stroll through a number of hot topics: abortion on demand, illegal immigration, welfare for life, gun control, etc. The answers are not easy and the debates passionate. Great leaders rise to the surface on these types of issues because they can make the argument what the right choices will be. Let us hope to see them rising quickly on these examples and doing the right thing.
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