Leading Ethically Through Tough Times

What do you do when your organization is in financial turmoil?


Award-winning CNN anchor and writer Sharon Frame explains what it means to lead ethically, especially during times of crisis or financial turmoil.

“Ethical leadership is how do we influence by doing good to not just me, but to everybody?,” says Sharon. “How do we steer the ship down the course where everybody gets fed properly while we ride this tide?”

Watch the video to hear Sharon share an example of what one CEO did during the 2008 economic downturn in the United States, and why it was the right thing to do.

I have a friend of mine, and a colleague, and a former client. Her name is Mary Parker. And her business suffered greatly during the downturn, the economic downturn. She, like a lot of CEOs, probably looked at the bottom line and said, "How can we stop the hemorrhaging? How can we save money?"

And so she called in her top leaders and said, "We need to look at what we can do to salvage what's going on here." And as opposed to saying, like a lot of CEOs, "Let's cut 10 jobs. Let's cut 100 jobs," she says, "What can we do to maintain our staff because we know many of these staff members are single moms or single dads. They have children who need food, and need shelter, need clothing."

So as opposed to deciding, "Well, we're just going to take the route, and cut the jobs," they decided as a collective group of leaders to say, "Let's cut back one day a week," OK? And then she went further and she said, "Let's just freeze our salaries right now. No bonuses or no increase for anybody while we ride the tide out. And I will stop getting any kind of bonuses until we right this emergency out." To me that's ethical leadership. To me it says that she was concerned about the "we," not the "me." Ethical behavior is rooted in the word "ethos" which means character. And it also is akin to the word "moral."

So as an ethical leader, a leader who concerns themselves with principles, and values, and beliefs. I think as a society we've all come to believe in certain common values, what's right and what's wrong, what's ethical and what's not. Now how do you execute that in a business environment where everybody is struggling? Do you say, "Well, let me cut loose 20 workers"? Or, "Let me see how we can together collectively figure out a way that everybody gets a piece of the pie," as opposed to saying, "It's my ship. I can steer it whether I want to because I'm the boss."

That to me is more draconian. That's more autocratic leadership, and it lends itself to possible me, myself, my four, no more. So to me, ethical leadership is how do we influence by doing good to not just me, but to everybody? How do we steer the ship down the course where everybody gets fed properly while we ride this tide?

Sharon Frame

Sharon Frame is an award-winning CNN anchor and writer, dynamic international speaker and acclaimed author. Sharon combines her 20+ years in TV journalism along with her expertise in public speaking, marketing and sales. She works wit...

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