What do Lord Rennard, former Barclays boss Bob Diamond and General Petraeus, former head of the CIA all have in common?

Answer – they all left their positions as a result of inappropriate behaviour.

All three were extremely clever and competent, able leaders, yet they all misbehaved in a way that cost them or at least contributed to their losing their leadership position.

It is interesting that moral courage, self discipline and trust are becoming more and more important in life as societal values change.  The common denominator in the News of the World phone hacking, the BBC and Jimmy Savill, the horse meat scandal, the Banks, the South African Police brutality stories is the same:  leaders are not being morally courageous in their behaviours and certainly not when it comes to exposing misbehaviour around them.

If leaders do not have the moral courage to do what is right organisational values mutate. Leaders need to have principles and stick to them they need to have the courage to do the right thing however unpalatable it may be. For to let one piece of misbehaviour go unchallenged is to lower their personal and organisational standards. And results, just judging by the cases above, have been typically disastrous.

A moral compass is essential at the top of an organisation as its leaders, once truly embedded in the organisation will control and influence what happens within the organisation. Once accepted a leader can take an organisation wherever they want with little challenge from within.  Whether they influence by word or deed they will be the ones who must be held responsible for their own behaviour and for the behaviour of those leaders around them.

When Lord Acton, expressed this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” he was absolutely right.  But now we have an insatiable media and the technology to match. Never more have society’s leaders needed that moral compass as the likelihood of being exposed for wrongdoing is so much greater.

In other words in today’s world, you’ve got far more chance of being found out.


Good Leaders, Great Decisions


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