Ethics Is Power ©
Developing an Ethical Corporate Culture in the Workplace
Ethics Is Power©. This finding
came out of over a decade of studies and workshops across multiple
industries around the world. My
own experience has validated it for me personally as a line manager,
executive, and Board Member.
ETHICS IS POWER©
A bakers dozen of related components acting together to significantly
increase personal, team, and organizational power and influence.
Ethics Is Power because for people who operate ethically
their word is their bond. Time consuming and costly written agreements
Ethics Is Power because for people who operate ethically,
there are no hidden agendas to worry about.
Ethics Is Power because you dont have to watch your
Ethics is Power because it fosters the development of one of the
most crucial success elements for organizations - trust.
Ethics is Power because those known to operate ethically
are preferred team members revered as even equal to and sometimes
greater than technical competence.
Ethics is Power because operating ethically increases ones
Rep or reputation in the firm, a key to the amount of
informal influence and power they possess in the eyes of others.
Ethics is Power because ethical people are more resistant
to influence attempts from political Sharks who use
unethical means. The power of those acting unethically is thus dampened
and the overall ethical influence is enhanced by comparison.
Ethics is Power because ethics means doing the right thing
which often results in doing the right things for the task. Doing
things right increases the chances of success and success usually
increases power. A bit convoluted but true nonetheless.
Ethics is Power because bosses who believe their subordinates
are ethical worry less that they will be negatively surprised by
something wrong in their unit. They know the person will tell them
if something is going wrong that could embarrass the boss in the
organization. Often the result is a boss who is willing to delegate
more responsibility to an ethical person, other factors being equal.
This can give the ethical person more responsibility and influence.
Ethics is Power because ethical people are less likely to
spend precious energy in internal turf battles, both personally
and departmentally. This can free up an enormous amount of energy
for task accomplishment which versus internal friction. It thus
empowers teams and organizations to better serve customers and operate
more efficiently. The result can be greater power and influence
in the market place.
Ethics is Power because operating ethically can increase
personal self esteem. Those with high self esteem often have high
confidence which can make them more powerful and influential with
others than those with low self esteem.
Ethics is Power because those higher in the organization
are more likely to listen to someone they know to be ethical versus
someone who they believe are trying to advance personal versus organizational
Ethics is Power because ethical environments are more likely
to bring out peoples personal best instead of their personal
worst - often the result of unethical environments. When ordinary
people are functioning together at their personal best they are
often capable of extraordinary performance thus increasing personal
and organizational impact and power.
* The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has requested
the use of this baker's dozen for their own website.
When all these related and somewhat overlapping components combine
synergistically, they increase the power and influence of individuals,
teams, and organizations. Also, most people know that ethical behavior
can empower their personal lives as well.
However, it is easy to fall into one or more of the misunderstandings
of how ethics is power©.
Overcoming the alternative views for the reasons to act ethically
can be a difficult task. Then, knowing how to make the most of ethical
behavior requires leadership that has the view of ethics as more
than the right thing to do.
For people like the politically savvy, the power of ethics
is obvious as it is for almost everyone who has experienced the
effects of ethical behavior from an increased influence perspective.
We have found most people intuitively understand this experience.
Yet they often dont believe it is realistic in what appears
to be cutthroat competitive business environments. Some others just
dont know how to tap into it.
How to tap into the full potential of ethics is power
is a key part of the political savvy aspect of leadership. The book,
based on decades of studies, tries to act as a guide to make the
most of ethics is power.
Our studies show that almost everyone has this basic ability, but
few use it. Far too many ethical people refuse to enter and be proactive
in their ability to influence others. They, all too often, are blocked
by the strong negative stereotype of organizational politics as
manipulative and involving self serving, unethical behavior. As
a result they can do the right thing in their local office situation
and gain some of the influence benefits of ethics is power.
Yet they often lose out on its greater potential.
The political savvy do not believe in the negative stereotype of
organization politics. They know organization politics is a two
edged sword. It can be used ethically to cut through bureaucratic
red tape and outdated processes, or it can be used negatively to
cut down others innovative ideas or colleagues standing in
the way of a desired promotion.
The Political Savvy view organization politics in a more balanced
way. They see it as how human nature plays out in hierarchical settings.
As Harry Truman said Politics is the art of getting things
done and Churchill said, When you mix people and power,
you get politics. Hierarchies are full of power. Organization
politics is how power and interests play out in the organization.
One thing is certain, they will play out.
The definition used in the book for political savvy is ethically
building a critical mass of support for an idea you care about.
The political savvy know how to accelerate the trust building process.
They use their word as their bond often and keep it.
Working openly for the best interests of the organization, they
don't have hidden agendas and can thus play above board. The political
savvy use ethics is power to go beyond their local situation
to influence up and outward across the organization. As a result,
their credibility and ethical influence networks are much larger
that those of most others.
The political savvy have a much greater chance of making the kind
of impact and contribution they desire and to attain career success
and satisfaction. The starting point for these outcomes is understanding
that ethics is power.
Recent scandals resulting in the crash of corporations, the non
accountability in the accounting industry - including one huge firm
whose balance sheet and very existence was completely zeroed out
- the lack of ethical direction from boards of directors, the missing
ethical wall on Wall Street firms, and now the non insured behavior
of the insurance industry have cost thousands of people their jobs
and have depleted millions of peoplesí retirement funds whose 401kís
held stock in all these firms and industries.
How could every part of the supposed checks and balances in business
have failed us all?
I believe the answer lies in part to greed, in part to fear, in
part to just plain following along with the crowd, and in part because
even the smartest people really dont get how operating ethically
gives you power.
most people, ethics is a should. Its like a Sunday
School issue. Yes, we should behave this way. Itís a felt
obligation. It is in almost every organizationís value statements.
I learned long ago that an organizationís value statement is only
a list. The true test of their in-practice value system is watching
what happens when two values collide.
When profit and ethics are in conflict which wins out? Johnson
& Johnson seemed to get this right years ago when Tylenol was
tampered with leaving several people ill.
They didnít listen to their lawyers who were trying to prevent
lawsuits, they admitted there was a problem and pulled all the product
off the shelves.
Another reason is that ethics is seen as a nice - but not a critical
thing - to do. It looks good to say it, but it is harder to do it.
Competition is fierce. To compete one has to cut costs which often
leads to cutting corners.
Political 'sharks' put self interest ahead of the organization's
interests. For them, as long as its legal, it is ethical enough.
They often do not get the difference between operating within the
law and operating ethically. As a result, ethics suffers and the
firm hires better and more expensive lawyers which actually increases
overall costs to the organization.
I have been in more organizational discussions than I would like
to admit where operating ethically was treated as a cost-benefit
If you raise your hand and say wait a minute, doing the right
thing is not about cost versus benefits, it is about doing the right
thing, you get looked at as a goody two shoes
rather than as a serious business person.
A third reason is that while operating ethically can make one a
good person in the eyes of others, goodness is not seen as a basis
of power and influence. There is some evidence that this is even
true among those who believe in operating ethically.
Operating ethically is seen as a softball approach
in the hardball world of business.
This brings up a related reason having to do with pride. There
are some who wear their ethical standards defiantly as a badge of
honor even if it means they are seen as less effective than others.
Here, pride cometh before the fall or rather pride cometh before
loss of effectiveness. I may not have had as much influence
and impact as others, but I was ethical, so there.
reasons and others blind us to what is obvious in hindsight: operating
ethically is not just a Sunday School should, not just a
nice thing to do when things arent so competitive, not just
being legal, not just to be overruled subject to cost benefit analyses,
not just a badge of honor for the less effective, but ethics is
truly a way to increase power and influence for the individual and
"How do we build a strong ethical base for our culture?"--
As competition and change builds at a faster pace, the temptation
to cut corners will only increase. Recent headlines indicate on
the surface what is likely going on undetected in other corporations.
Yet it is the ethical nature of a business and the trust it builds
with key stakeholders that will play a major role in its long term
success. One of the breakthrough findings of the studies was the
emergence of the phrase: "Ethics is Power"
Again, for most people operating ethically is a 'shouldism', a
type of obligation. What clearly should emerge from our results
was that those identified as politically savvy were seen to operate
ethically; resulting in much higher influence throughout the organization
The political savvy advantage provides a clear grounding for establishing
an ethical basis for a culture. Each person has their own personal
best. Ethical based cultures bring out the personal best in most
people. The result is an increased impact of satisfaction and performance.
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“..it presents an excellent set of actions/behaviors that
would collectively further anyone's leadership or organizational
agenda, and I really appreciate the straightforward writing..."
-- Barbara Beizer
Learning & Leadership Development / Freddie Mac
"The major value I received from the Political Savvy Seminar
was understanding that politically savvy individuals are not necessarily
political, but rather ethical and take the opportunity to relationships
across all departments within an organization. The true political
savvy individual never compromises ethics to justify a means to
Kelly Morrison, Internal Customer Support Manager
"Understanding the perceptions and reluctance many have to being Politically Savvy has been tremendously
beneficial to myself and my team. Dr. DeLuca's insight regarding how facts that support a new idea are 'Necessary but not sufficient'
speaks volumes to the work that my team does at NASA. There are a wealth of great ideas at NASA with supporting facts to justify them,
but they are not sufficient to take them beyond the idea stage. It takes Political Savvy to understand how the idea supports the NASA mission."
Stephen A. Gonzalez, Project Manager
"I thought your talk on "Political Savvy" was extremely
interesting and well done. In addition to being on the board of
ASTD-SCC, I am a member of the Connecticut chapter of the National
Speakers Association. That organization has exposed me to many fine
speakers, and I think that you are among the best I've seen. Your
enthusiasm, content knowledge, and facilitation technique made for
an engaging evening. If any of my clients have a need for an executive
coach or leadership training, I would recommend you."
Alice Stitelman, Ph.D.
ASTD Presentation June 2005