We mistake ethics with just society values, legal processes, statutory compliance and rigid adherence to rule books. But in reality ethics is also about willingly taking questionable decisions, risky positions, doing suspect transactions , and implementing strategic plans that may actually be permissible by both law and general management principles. Usually such actions are influenced by rising expectations, peer pressure, competitive egos, and short-term profiteering. If the end consequences are indeed disastrous, leaders pass the buck on to a changed environment or something usually external. Accountability is tragically missing. They conveniently ignore the repercussions on the large majority of employees, customers and other stakeholders, should the contrary transpire. It is the latter category who are left holding a crying baby and pink slips.

In the boom phase, everyone just focuses on market capitalization and shareholder value. There is such a frantic rush to be on those famous lists published regularly by well-circulated business weeklies. Since it is a human condition that optimism feeds on itself, no one realizes that ballooning over-confidence often leads to a bubble that frequently bursts. Interestingly, this familiar story usually repeats itself. There is no assurance that the calamitous forays of 2007-08 will not repeat itself. Are our leaders prepared to be guarded against such susceptibilities in the future?

As the world recovers, albeit slowly, from a difficult and exacting phase in it’s economic history, probably the worst since the 1930s Great Depression, it is time leaders went back to the drawing board, reinvented themselves, thought long-term and looked at recreating faith in their abilities to lead people and organizations with honesty and ethics.

Integrity remember, never takes a holiday.