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Engaged Leadership Transforms Ethics Failures, Author Says

April 5, 2011

Bad apples or bad barrels?

Are the recent headlines about government corruption caused by bad leaders or an environment that overlooks bad behavior as long as goals are achieved? Dr. Craig Johnson, author of two books on ethics, said he believes that both factors have contributed to recent scandals involving government officials and corporate leaders across the country.

Yet, the George Fox University professor said he believes that corporations and governmental bodies can transform themselves through the efforts of ethical leaders who create a culture where moral behavior is reinforced along with clear policies on employee conduct.

“How do we change our tolerance level of unethical behavior?” Dr. Johnson asked the capacity audience in the DeSantis Family Chapel. “Courageous followers must step up to do it. Courage is the key. Though it might cost me, I’m going to step up (and call leaders on unethical behavior).”

Dr. Craig Johnson talks to an audience member after his lecture at the University's DeSantis Family Chapel.

After removing unethical leaders or what Dr. Johnson calls the bad apples, he recommends setting a new organizational tone by training better managers to look beyond the bottom line.

“We need to talk about ethics. We need to discuss ethics and look for opportunities to show how ethical behavior applies to the organization,” Dr. Johnson said.

Ethical leadership is needed at the top of organizations, Dr. Johnson said. He pointed to Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, as a leader who is admired and respected for ethical behavior. One can find examples of other ethical leaders among the list of 100 Best Companies to Work for in America.

Yet even the best organizations can have a lapse, Dr. Johnson said, so many now have ethics officers who report to the board of directors so that they can monitor the behavior of top executives and clear ethics codes to guide conduct.

He expressed optimism that Palm Beach County, which had been called “Corruption County” in some newspaper reports, would shed that moniker by following clear codes of conduct that recently have been enacted, particularly how contracts are awarded.

Dr. Johnson was on campus for the second MacArthur Leadership Series, a lecture series focused on leadership topics that is sponsored annually by the MacArthur School of Leadership at PBA and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Dr. Lea Williams will speak in 2012 about “Women of Color as Servant Leaders: Faith-Based Journeys.”

04/2011General News

 

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