Integrity: The principle that never fails
As the world faces a significant amount of volatility, uncertainty, socio-economic issues and events that will one day define our history, a spotlight turns towards the landscape of the moral leader, business integrity, and how we deal with everyday ethical dilemmas. As I reflect on my personal and professional journey and the ethical situations that inundate me daily, there is an emerging need for the current generation like myself to fully understand the dynamics of our moral compass, how this defines our decision-making, and the impact it has on our immediate surroundings and broader society − especially as the future generation of leaders.
Recent history has illustrated increasing examples where the profit motive, economic and financial pressures, and simply the desire to have more have compromised ethical leadership, business ethics and personal values. In the realm of business ethics, whistleblowing has become less of a viable option, as the trade-off between loyalty and truth proves to be a difficult decision for the individuals affected.
However, a huge paradigm of unearthing immoral behaviour has been the watchful eye and wide reach of social media. One could argue that social media has provided a platform for widespread and open debate about ‘right versus wrong’, thereby shaping the definition of integrity and ethics today. On the other hand, social media may be responsible for visible divides between humanity due to different ethical ideologies, moral influences and diverse identities.
Despite its repercussions, unethical behaviour is on the rise, causing harm to the progression of societies, organisations and leadership capital. What does the current ethical landscape mean for today’s CAs(SA) and the future generation of leaders? My reflections are as follows:
- Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching (CS Lewis). I believe in a compounding cycle of integrity: follow your moral compass, do good, and goodwill comes back to you. Successful leaders display a high level of morals and consistency which foster trust, motivation and higher productivity among those they lead.
- Your moral compass is unique – everyone has different moral influences depending on their identity and background. As a CA(SA) it is important to find an organisation with values and ethics that align with your personal values. Ethical decision-making as a professional becomes extremely difficult to implement when personal values conflict with organisational values.
- Contextual decision-making is the ability to analyse situations and make a fit decision with candour, one that you can stand by. Young CAs(SA) in influential positions should not knowingly make decisions that harm others. Always think about who will be helped and who will be harmed by your decision.
In conclusion, integrity is not situation dependent but rather a perpetual and intentional state of mind. Events have shown that unethical behaviours lead to temporary wins while consistency in moral application fosters long-lasting trust, personal and professional success. Indeed, success without integrity is a sure way to failure and integrity is the principle that never fails.