Are there useful moral lessons in the latest Barr vs. ABC or Trump vs. the world Tweets?
The news cycle is often rife with controversy involving public figures. And sometimes a fall from grace – from Hollywood to politics, the corporate boardroom, etc. – brings closer examination of the root causes. Dr. Christopher Gilbert, an international ethics expert, thinks such events and social media skirmishes reflect a lack of ethics that plague many levels of American society – but that they also provide an opportunity to strengthen our own moral pathway.
“The important issue isn’t in arguing over which schoolyard bully is the most unethical,” says Gilbert, author of There’s No Right Way To Do the Wrong Thing and senior consultant/speaker at NobleEdge Consulting (www.nobleedgeconsulting.com). “The roots of the problem are not only in misplaced, society-influenced priorities but in a widespread belief that ‘good’ people make the good decisions and ‘bad’ people make the unethical ones.
“We need to start a national conversation about what it means to do right in business and in life, despite the constant personal, social, economic, and other cultural and societal pressures to ignore what is right in favor of success. A growing awareness and practice of ethics is in essence also a profound transformation of our character, and it often comes as we navigate the most dramatic or challenging events of our lives.”
How do we overcome the pressures and temptations to flout ethical practices? Gilbert provides three tips to making good ethical decisions while holding ourselves and others accountable.
- Trust “lighthouse moments.” Gilbert believes these can be subtle or indelible experiences that make us decide a course of action and shape our future choices. “Ethics serve as our lighthouses,” Gilbert says, “providing us with a reference point – enlightened guidance along the pathway of our best decisions. They warn of danger as well. Some believe that ethical choices are relative to whom and what you know and when you know it. But this is akin to the idea that ‘ignorance of the law is an excuse.’ Ethics are far more about what we do, sometimes despite what we know.”
- Stay away from the edge. While a few risk the drop over, most drivers are cautious when navigating a mountain curve or a bridge without guardrails. “Our best choices for ourselves and others happen when we navigate dos and don’ts within a predictable pathway bounded by right and wrong,” Gilbert says. “Ethics form our guardrails. Imagine a world of intermittent guardrails that move? Ethics aren’t iffy or gray or relative; they exist under all driving conditions for all drivers. Right choice-making happens best on a pathway guided and protected by ethics that are constant.”
- Keep moral standards universal. So many of the highly-publicized scandals, shootings, and tragedies that could have been avoided, Gilbert says, can be traced to people disregarding our common moral standards. “An impersonal world full of disunity, divisions, and exclusive, tribal-like ‘us versus them’ mentalities breeds an atmosphere that becomes self-perpetuating,” Gilbert says. “If our ethical choices are defined not by a set of universal moral codes owned by everyone, but by standards individuals or groups apply to themselves, there are no wrong choices, because all choices become right.”
“Universal moral principles,” Gilbert says, “provide solid reference points for establishing values, behaviors and ethics that create trust. And, despite popular belief, they are attainable – we already have quite a few.”
Dr. Christopher Gilbert, the author of There’s No Right Way To Do the Wrong Thing, is an international ethics consultant and senior consultant/speaker at NobleEdge Consulting (www.nobleedgeconsulting.com). Having spent much of his career focused on the study of human moral development, Dr. Gilbert has over 30 years of experience in organizational development as a strategic facilitator and leadership and operations consultant. He has served an international clientele, including Fortune 1000 companies and government agencies in the U.S., Canada, Asia and Africa. Dr. Gilbert completed work for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on a sustainable food-security program across four nations of sub-Saharan Africa, and he has been a professor of business ethics who taught at universities on four continents. He earned his doctorate in Organization, Management and Leadership Ethics at Capella University.