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Effective Leaders

Of 462 executives who were asked, "What characteristics are needed to be an effective leader today?" 56 percent ranked ethical behavior as an important characteristic, followed by sound judgment (51%) and being adaptable/flexible (47%). --Source: American Management Association, New York, NY

Unethical behavior, in which people deliberately intend to harm themselves or others, springs from, and is reinforced by, destructive and painful mind states such as fear, greed, anger and jealously. Ethical behavior, on the other hand, enhances the well-being of everyone because it comes from, and reinforces, motives and emotions such as love, joy, generosity and compassion.

Ethical cultures are the result of diligent effort--frequent, scheduled conversations between leaders and employees about what the standards of your company really are according to Laura Hartman, a professor at DePaul University.

A biennial survey of the nonprofit Ethics Resource Center found 25% of nearly 2,000 U.S. employees said they had observed their colleagues or their companies lying to customers, suppliers, workers or the public--up from 19% in 2005. The industries in which people are most likely to bend the truth: hospitality and food (with 34% of employees observing falsehoods), arts, entertainment and recreation (also 34%), and wholesalers (32%).

How ethically vulnerable is your organization?

Just go around and ask people what the core values are that define your company. You may be surprised at the variety of the answers.

As a leader, you have to set the standard yourself, constantly keeping your actions above reproach. Talk through hypothetical scenarios with the staff so that they'll know what to do when they come up against an ethical dilemma and you're not around.

Knowing what is right is absolutely critical to personal and business ethics. Yet, ethics only happens when good beliefs lead to good behaviors. Without the action part, all you have are good intentions.

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Here is an ethical action test for 'rightness' before implementation:

1. Is it legal?

2. Does it comply with my/our rules and guidelines?

3. Is it in sync with my personal and our organizational values?

4. Will I be comfortable and guilt-free if I do it?

5. Does it match my commitments and promised guarantees?

6. Would I do it to my family or friends?

7. Would I be perfectly okay with someone doing it to me?

8. Would the most ethical person I know do it?


What is Leadership?

Most executives are hired based upon their technical skills and experience and fired due to their lack of ethical leadership skills. If you are an executive who is or expects to be in a leadership capacity, you are well advised to seek a leadership coach today.

A leadership coach can help you personally develop from where you are today toward ethical leadership behavior by becoming more self-aware. Moving from an "egocentric" state to a "community-centric and world-centric" state can help you understand what others need and how you can give it to them.

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Building Trust

The percentage of employees who report having trust and confidence in senior management increased to 51 percent in 2004, up from 44 percent in 2002, according to a survey of nearly 13,000 workers. The percentage of employees who believe the information they receive from management also increased, from 27 percent in 2002 to 50 percent in 2004.

Source: Watson, Wyatt Worldwide, Bethesda, MD

Are you putting the Law of Reciprocity to work for you?

Political and marketplace pressures will frequently bump up against spiritual values. Perhaps, the most important of spiritual values is the 'law of love.' Put simply, "Love is Law, Law is Love." This amounts to the same thing as "the gift of giving" without the "hope of reward or pay," or serving others.

This 'law of love' is identified in many ways and cultures, such as:

It's the golden rule of Christianity, "Do unto others as you want them to do unto you."

The silver rule of Confucianism, "Don't do to others as you don't want them to do to you."

In business practice, Wayne Baker's bestseller, "Achieving Success Through Social Capital" (Jossey-Bass), defines this law of love in the workplace as the 'law of reciprocity'.

The law of reciprocity is not what can best be described as "transactional reciprocity." Baker says that, "Many people conceive of their business dealings as spot market exchanges--value given for value received, period. Nothing more, nothing less. This tit-for-tat mode of operation can produce success, but it doesn't invoke the power of reciprocity and so fails to yield extraordinary success."

Baker explains, "The lesson is that we cannot pursue the power of reciprocity. When we try to invoke reciprocity directly, we lose sight of the reason for it: helping others. Paradoxically, it is in helping others without expecting reciprocity in return that we invoke the power of reciprocity. The path to reciprocity is indirect: reciprocity ensues from the social capital built by making contributions to others."

"The deliberate pursuit of reciprocity fails, just like the pursuit of happiness. Acts of contribution, big and small, build your fund of social capital, creating a vast network of reciprocity. And so those who help you may not be those you help. The help you receive may come from distant corners of your network."

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Neuroeconomics Experiment Demonstrates the Law of Reciprocity

Neuroeconomics, the marriage of brain science and economics, answers the question, "Why does anyone trust anyone?" in the following experiment.

Researchers ran an experiment in which they created a two-person game. To start, player 1 got $10. If that player kept the money, player 2 also got $10 and the game ended. But if player 1 chose to let player 2 take a turn, then player 2 faced a choice: take home $40 and leave nothing for player 1, or take $25 and leave $15 for player 1.

About half the time, finds economist Kevin McCabe and colleagues at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, player 1 chooses to let player 2 into the game, foregoing a sure $10. In response, nearly three-quarters of the player 2s give up the $40, rewarding player 1's trust by splitting the money $25 to $15.

The functional magnetic resonance imaging ("fMRI") of the volunteers' brain shows that trust is marked by high activity in two brain regions, the researchers reported. Area 10 seems to be involved in delaying gratification, which tends to increase one's final reward. Area 8 figures out what other minds are thinking, in this case registering that the other player is trying to maximize gain through reciprocity. Some people, as the experiment shows, seem wired to delay gratification and act in a mutually beneficial way.

Robert B. Cialdini, author of "The Psychology of Persuasion" (William Morrow), says, "One of the most potent of the weapons of influence around us is the rule of reciprocation. The rule says that we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us."

For the First Time in Human History, It's Our Choice

Transpersonal psychologist and psychiatrist Roger Walsh, author of "Essential Spirituality" (John Wiley & Sons), tells us that for the first time in human history every single one of our global problems is human-created. Every one is a reflection of our individual and collective choices and behavior. And this means that the state of the world is a reflection of the state of our minds."

"Our world is in grave trouble, we all know this. Our world is in grave, grave trouble, but our world also rests in good hands, because, actually, it rests in yours."

A group of business and thought leaders have created the Open Compliance and Ethics Group Project (OCEG) to establish best practices and standards to help businesses reduce corporate and investor risk. More information is available at or (602) 234-9278.

Is your leadership development derailed?

Do your executives need some help in building ethical leadership capability? Can they express their understanding and insights in contribution and service to others?

As we go into ourselves, we can go more effectively out into the world---and---as we go out into the world, we go deeper into ourselves. For help in this process of self-discovery, get a coach.

Learn more about  Coach John Agno.

Leadership coach John G. Agno knows that sometimes our thoughts aren't crystal clear and we can be diverted from our goals. Agno's job is to coach people to greater awareness, purpose, competency and well-being, which often translates into greater compensation, job satisfaction and better use of our skills and abilities. More business owners, executives and professionals are hiring coaches to help them lead and make better decisions.

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Leadership happens in a series of interactive conversations that pull people toward becoming comfortable with the language of personal responsibility and commitment.

That is why leadership development is not an event. It is a process of participating in respectful conversations where the leader recognizes his or her own feelings and those of others in building safe and trusting relationships.

For human beings, feeling deeply is synonymous with being alive.

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