Ethical Leaders


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Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.-J.C. Watts




A few years ago, I was laid off from a great company as a result of a massive reduction in force.

It hurt.

Recently, I reflected on my leadership role there. I managed a small team of customer success managers. They were great people!

One of my team members had been at the organization for twenty years. She was once a manager, but was moved out of that role and into a sales based position.

This was because she was one of the most knowledgeable people, and knew a lot of the business. Customers loved her. The team respected her. After working with her closely, I saw that she was ready to manage a team again. As such, I worked very closely with her to grow her leadership skills.

I did this even though we were dealing with an impending merger. Layoffs were inevitable. Growing people should never take a back seat.

I knew that I had a target on my back being one of the newest employees and one of the top-paid leaders. I did not operate from a place of fear. I chose to focus on the gems that were on my team and fought to put them in the best position to use their gifts.

This particular team member had passion for people, customers and employees alike. She would not lead with ego, but with compassion.

I would bet on her everyday.

Leadership obstacle & solution

Even though I could see the seeds of great leadership inside her, she had one obstacle to overcome: She was very intimidated by working closely with senior leaders. She didn’t feel like she could reach their bar.

I coached her to understand that no one is better than or higher than or more worthy than another. She had nothing to be afraid of and was more than worthy. I helped her to see them as people with the same problems as the rest of us.

I didn’t think about how her promotion might affect me, or make laying me off any easier. In retrospect, I see that I may have helped the process.

I don’t regret any of it!

The right thing for me to do was to focus on the strengths of others and how that might benefit the larger organization. I had to take myself out of the picture.

I refused to protect myself. I needed to lift others up.

In the end, I am no longer there. She still remains a manager and has been promoted.

I am very thrilled for her. I feel like I had a small part in that. I believed in her. That was not me being a hero. That was me doing the right thing.

Leadership lesson

What I found, is that the right thing is always the right thing to do. Making excuses for doing the wrong thing to save ourselves only hurts our integrity, self-esteem and the people around us.

I am not perfect. I have not always done the right thing, but I am self-aware. I do not repeat the past.

Today, as a result of doing the right thing as often as possible, I am blessed to be living out my talents and sharing my gifts with leaders of all backgrounds. I met some lifelong friends in that organization, and grew my leadership skills in the process.

Who could ask for more?

Your turn

What lessons have you learned from doing the right thing? How have you put yourself on the line to see others grow?

It’s not easy, but it’s right.

Thank you for reading this article. I would love to hear from you. Engage with me on this very important topic. As leaders, we often have to make tough decisions. What is your process for deciding how to do the right thing?


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