Volume 25, Issue 1/4, 2006
Robert J. Spitzer
Getting to the Heart of Business Ethics
Though contemporary ethical problems may be partially mitigated by legislation, increased reporting requirements, audit committees, and other external structures; real long-term improvements will not occur until organizational leaders touch the hearts of individuals and organizational culture. This article addresses three ways in which leaders can get to the heart of ethics: (1) moving individuals and the culture from a dominant ego-comparative identity to a dominant contributive (common good) identity, (2) helping stakeholders to move from a “less than tacit” awareness of principles to a reflective utilization of them; and (3) educating stakeholders in the proper use of precedents. The first point is particularly important because it controls the amount of fear and hubris
in a culture which, in turn, affects openness to ethics, moral courage, and the reflective use of principles and precedents. These techniques for internalizing ethics provide a necessary complement to today’s proliferation of external requirements.