Do the Right Thing Even When No One is Looking

Most Canadians would agree that ethical behaviour is pretty simple — do the right thing even when no one is looking. 

And, if you’re not sure what the right thing is, it has been suggested one could apply the “Front Page of the Newspaper” test.
In other words, simply ask yourself if you would be comfortable seeing your act described on the front page of the newspaper and being read by your family, friends, and associates.

Ironic isn’t it that two formerly respected journalists — Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin —appear to have failed to apply that test to their own expense claims?

To make it even worse, Prime Minister Harper’s now resigned Chief of Staff, Nigel Wright, was implicated in the mess because he wrote a personal cheque for $90,000 to pay back Duffy’s expenses.

And, oh yes, we are supposed to belief that Stephen Harper knew absolutely nothing about it.


No wonder Canadians are cynical about politicians.

As we have seen in recent years, it has become far too commonplace to see a lack of ethics and integrity among our leaders.

Perhaps it’s time for all of us to do more to understand, create awareness, and emphasize the importance of ethics and integrity.

Ethics are typically about an external system of rules and laws, For instance, many organizations and professions have developed a code of ethics and monitor its compliance.

On the other hand, integrity is more about an internal system of principles that guides our behaviour. In that sense, integrity is more likely to be a choice rather than an obligation. It means we do the right thing. These virtues, such as kindness, respect, honesty, wisdom, compassion, trust and objectivity, contribute to our integrity.

So what can we do to ensure our businesses, organizations, and communities reflect a culture of integrity?  Here are five things we can all do.

1. Be a truth teller.  Establishing and maintaining one’s integrity not only means being honest, it is also about refusing to be an ostrich, and to instead work at discovering and facing the real truth and reality of a situation.

2. Be brave. It takes courage to stand up and speak out about what you believe. Of course, that also means you need to know your own core values. Sometimes, I think leadership is mostly about that kind of courage — the courage to challenge the status quo and plant your flag for what you believe.

3. Walk your talk. While it’s easy to talk about integrity, your actions will speak louder than any words. Know that the right thing to do is rarely the easy thing to do and you have to act with integrity even when it’s inconvenient or just plain hard.

4. Ask yourself, and others, the tough questions:  Do I believe this is the right course of action? Would I want others to act the same way? How will I feel about myself after the fact?

5. When you aren’t sure about the right thing — after all, many decisions aren’t black and white — err on the side of fairness.

If by chance you should overlook this list of five things and head in the wrong direction, lead with integrity by apologizing and knowing that sometimes U-turns are the only way to go.

Posted on 05-19-13

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