How are you fixed for ethics? Integrity, principle, probity, honesty: concepts that often are overlooked, taken for granted or disregarded in today’s hectic world. ‘Business ethics’ simply isn’t; It deals with values and morals—the way we think things are—and tends to be arbitrary. The real ETHICS we’re talking about is more fundamental and powerful than either business or even legal ethics. This, the real ethics, represents the way things should be.

Ethics. What is it? Well, it’s not the plural of ethic nor is it difficult to define. Think of ethics as truth, and morality as applied truth, better known as honesty.

Can you see how this differs from business ‘ethics?’ Ethics is not debatable. It doesn’t vary with the situation. Nor does it vary with the law. The law is a product of society and can be changed in accordance with society’s wishes. Ethics isn’t even a product. It’s a given, a foundation of humanity (humanity is by nature ethical).

Like truth, ethics either is or isn’t. The way things should be is honest–surely we can agree on that. Truth doesn’t change. The law may change according to the needs of society. Truth can’t.

Can we achieve ethical parity? Of course we can, but first we have to stop kidding ourselves that things are the way they ought to be and that they can’t be much better because ‘that’s just the way it is.’  We start by being honest with ourselves and then move on to being honest with others and asking honesty from them.

Truth is perfect, the ultimate benchmark. Be honest and chances are excellent that you will at the same time be ethical and moral. Starting with truth, we all start at the same place. Knowing where a person is coming from makes it easier to deal with that person, easier to trust. And trust is the basis of any real relationship.

And relationships are the key to better living. Start with truth, build trust and live right. No one can do better, and there’s really no other acceptable alternative.

(This is from an article appearing in Consulting Today [1995] , a publication of The Consultants Bureau. It’s still worth reading.)


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