P Maillet, Managing Director of Paul Maillet Center for Ethics
P Maillet, Managing Director of Paul Maillet Center for Ethics


Ethics Leadership and the Link to Global Competitiveness

There is no stopping the train as it is already in motion. To complicate matters, the train is being continuously rebuilt as it is travelling.

The global problem is an obvious one: the competition is fierce in the corporate sector. Low quality and dishonesty make the surest road to failure and disaster. This is compounded by the local problem which may be characterized by a lack of motivation, the brain drain, negative attitudes that are not vocalized, all in markets which are repressed by national constraints.

The issues are also obvious. Taking a global view requires no deep thinking to realize that competitiveness is intimately linked to quality and ethics. There is no doubt that given best quality, and best price, people will choose to work with those whom they trust, and with people who are socially responsible. There is no doubt that honest companies have better employee job satisfaction and lower turnover rates. However, knowing is one thing, but acting on this knowledge is quite another.

In a country like Iran, the challenge is to take the best of all possible worlds, the richness of the nation's philosophy and the good values, and design a strategy that is suitable to their corporate culture and the cultures of the customers and societies in which they interact.

As to why we would want to embark on ethics and quality initiatives, there are always economic reasons, such as to improve the bottom line. But maybe this is best approached from the heart. We do this because it is the right thing to do, to create a better and healthier workplace. It is who we are. Combine this with products or services that are useful and of value to the marketplace, and profits will follow.

In a competitive environment we must understand that, people increasingly refuse to tolerate unethical companies. To understand this point, it would be enough to look at the emerging attention given to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the EEE (economic, ethics, environment) bottom line reporting in company annual reports.

To meet this challenge we need a new governance and leadership model. This, of course, is going to require some innovation and courage. A two level approach, a short-term plan and a "300-year" plan, are suggested. We face the immediate problems but also begin to address the long-term cultural issues.

Ethics We must remember that our greatest gift to our grandchildren is clean air, clean water and good values. They are smart enough to look after the rest from there. We complicate the issue by going from the global view to a workplace view. We realize that the workplace is different in global business. Employees are often distributed globally. Supervision is more difficult. The imperative becomes one of managing people and not the work. We must create climates of trust in decision-making in what can be chaotic customer environments. In this environment, flexibility is critical and ethics paramount. We must build capacities in people and not rely so much on rigid processes.

Considering all the forgoing points a resolution is proposed here. We acknowledge that the road to success and competitiveness involves:

  • An awareness of the competencies available and of the business we wish to undertake. This is the knowledge and skills component.
  • An awareness of the global environment in which we will operate. We must understand our customers.
  • An awareness of the quality and of customer expectations and how to exceed them.
  • We will think globally but act locally. We must have the organization's and people's fundamental rights at the lowest corporate levels to compete at the global levels.
  • Quality management must not be addressed in isolation, but as part of a larger future that includes a broader context of best practices, of expanded leadership models and organizational/governance development that include both the rule of law and values. We will pay strict attention to quality of work life, to social and environmental responsibilities; and to emerging developments in organizational ethics.
  • We will commit to a culturally sensitive approach to quality management and ethics. We will engage the new economic globalization on the basis of integrity, respect and responsibility.

On the basis of the above, I believe that success will be assured for the Iranian nation, and that Iran will ultimately assume a leadership position in the global environment and exercise a values influence beyond any economic gains realized.

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