Taking responsibility and the importance of having a moral compass

The current furore about journalists from The News of the World hacking in to phone messages has highlighted an issue that I feel very strongly about. That is the issue of personal and business ethics.

How many times have you heard the excuses of senior management or CEOs when someone in their organisation is caught doing something controversial, or even illegal? They claim that they did not know what was going on, that it was nothing to do with them. Well, its possible that they did not know what was going on. There may be hundreds or thousands of employees and, even in the smallest organisation, no one person can  be expected to know exactly what everyone is doing at every moment of the day. But does that mean that those at the top should not be held to account? Absolutely, definitely not!

It is the absolute responsibility of the Chief Executive to set the values and the moral compass of the organisation, and for all senior managers to ensure that every person in that organisation knows exactly where they stand and what is expected of them.

I do not understand why anyone should think any differently, and yet many people in the public sphere (journalists. politicians, big business) do not seem to grasp that simple tenet.

Blame must rest at the top of any organisation as those at the top set the culture; pleading ignorance of employees’ activities is beside the point. And whilst any organisation’s ‘moral compass’ is set by its leaders, all employees must also take responsibility for their own actions.

For a detailed insight into the current scandal, read this great article from Peter Oborne in The Spectator  “The omertà of Britain’s press and politicians on phone-hacking amounts to complicity in crime”  (thanks to  @Aiannucci  for tweeting it) and the New York Times editorial, The Greater Evil (thanks to @idea15webdesign for drawing it to my attention)

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About Fiona

Fiona is a passionate advocate of the Scottish entrepreneurial spirit, especially our students. She was once a scientist and is a keen supporter of the Scottish life sciences community. She is a powerful networker and loves to put people in touch with others who can help and inspire them.
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2 Responses to Taking responsibility and the importance of having a moral compass

  1. Ian Murphy says:

    Nice blog post Fiona. You are quite right that any CEO (or in this case Editor) has a responsibility for setting the values and culture of the organisation, or for accepting teh consequences of their failure to do so. The Spectator article is also excellent in highlighting the failure of British investigative journalism, and the demise of idealism among the current generation of our politicians.
    Furthermore one has to ask whether any editor can credibly claim to have run stories about people’s private lives without asking where the information came from. In cases such as these one has to suspect they received an answer along the lines of “you don’t want to know”, and then, being morally bankrupt, accepted that answer, instead of insisting “actually I have a duty to know”.

    • Fiona says:

      Thanks Ian. Unfortunately the demise of the NotW will not bring an end to this; I think there are still too many people in ‘high places’ who believe that they do not have to live by the same standards as most of the population. ‘Power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely’.

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