Integrity, Ethics And Honesty Should Be The Most Important Aspects Of An Organisation

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Laying the foundation of an honest organisation built with strong integrity and ethics is important to set the culture, direction and priorities for any new company.

The lead has to be taken by the leader of a company by setting the right examples and the right standards.

Honesty is black or white - there is no grey
To me, honesty is a simple black-and-white subject. There is neither any grey in honesty nor any shade of white and black as I have heard so many people say. Either you are honest or you are dishonest.

I tell my young colleagues that before they leave home in the morning, when they are alone shaving and looking into the mirror, can they look at themselves directly in the eye and tell themselves, "I did no wrong yesterday and I did not knowingly harm anyone yesterday and I was honest with myself?"

This, I believe, is the only explanation they would ever need to give themselves. What anyone else thinks of them or their actions is of no relevance and does not matter. My advice to my young colleagues is: If people ask you to compromise your own ethical standards or ask you to do something you don't think is correct, hear them out. You don't have to implement their decisions if you disagree. Go with your conscience. What you think is right is what the organisation expects from you. You can't please everyone.

Threshold of conscience
As I progressed through my early working life, I began to understand that honesty had shades of grey and each person had his own threshold of conscience.

I have often argued with colleagues and others whether using a company car to drop children to school or to take your wife shopping or charging a personal expense as official entertainment or converting a business class ticket into two economy class tickets when travelling overseas on company work so that your partner can fly free is right or wrong.

These are examples of when we change our own threshold of conscience to suit our own needs. We accept a position that we would normally not accept for our subordinates. We would also not accept this as correct if we hear someone else has done something similar. Then how can we rationalise this for ourselves?

As long as my own conscience is clear and as long as I know that I am doing what I think is right, I will keep moving forward.

I have recognised that very often, in order to get work done, I have to accept what the normal pattern of working is in our country and I have learnt not to question why most of the times, favours need to be done to get what is yours by right and not because you are asking for something to be done that is incorrect or out of turn.

A senior bureaucrat in a South-east Asian country once told me that there was no corruption in his country. They believe in the philosophy of Co-operation, not Corruption.

"If you are going to do business in my country and make a profit, you need to co-operate and share a part of this profit with us," he said. Quite an interesting perspective although not necessarily something to be emulated anywhere.

Gifting is another area where we can always interpret several shades of grey. In our country, it is almost a culture to give gifts at Diwali and if a gift is not accepted, it is seen as an affront by the person giving the gift. Yet, if the person for whom the gift is meant, makes it abundantly clear that gifts are not welcome, the practice of giving gifts comes to a stop.

In conclusion, the leader sets the standards for integrity and honesty in any organisation or, indeed, in any family. If the leader willingly compromises his ethical standards, it is impossible to expect people down the line or other members of the family to comply with a dual standard.

The author is the chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of the bestselling books, The Corner Office and The Buck Stops Here. Twitter: @gargashutosh
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