Power poisoning + presumption bias + poor speak-up culture = ticking time bomb
We also know from research that we all think we are good people, and when someone questions this, we immediately get angry and defensive. The scientific term for this is “moral identity threat.” This is one of the reasons why people in leadership positions usually don’t get critical feedback on their ethics, because the people around them know very well that this would jeopardize the relationship. But if you never get critical feedback, you can’t think self-critically about the ethical dimension of your actions. No one is ethically perfect, and without outside guidance, it is very difficult to question oneself in this regard.
The result is that people in the companies often already knew about the problems long before the bomb of a corporate scandal “suddenly” goes off. And then everyone wonders, quite startled, why no one said anything.
As with power poisoning, it is not at all easy for individual managers to remain self-critically grounded in the facts and not become defensive in the face of critical questions about their moral qualities.
Here, as well, we need corporate structures that promote the ethical competence of managers, give egomaniacal self-promoters no chance, and build a culture of open dialogue in which raising ethical concerns is normal and encouraged.
In the next part of this ethical leadership series, we will discover why a higher proportion of women in leadership could be a recipe for success for less ethical leadership fails.