Are ethics and business compatible?

Yes, but only as compatible as the ethics of those in charge.

I was sitting with a group of undergraduates from Strathclyde Business School before the start of a conference on future leaders. They had recently been discussing whether ethics and business where compatible during one of their seminars. I shared my story of transformation from chemical engineer to leadership coach and suggested that ethics underpins success in life and business. It is not either or. Without a strong ethical foundation nothing can be considered a true success. If we can be considered successful by Forbes list of richest people in the world yet compromise our soul, who are we then?

"No man can become rich without himself enriching others. The man who dies rich dies disgraced." Andrew Carnegie

Leadership is about serving something bigger than yourself. But our self-serving ego gets in the way of that. Behavioural change necessitates a transformation of ego where there is a gradual dissolution of self-interest with an increasing drive for positive social impact. In other words, real service. If we cling to a narrow view of who we, our decisions will fail to consider the wider consequences of our actions.

So, how do we develop people who can make a profound and positive difference in the world using business as a vehicle for change?

Work is a space where lives can be transformed. Business CAN be a be a powerful vehicle for social change if, and only if, those in charge are grounded in something bigger than the ego. In Jungian language this incorruptible aspect of human nature is called the Self. It takes continual effort and commitment to develop a connection with Self and be led by that force rather than the shallower interests of the ego. That is why I have a meditation practice and take at least one 10-day silent retreat every year. And, why I keep a daily dream diary to check out where my own wonky wiring is getting in the way and seek guidance on making good decisions.

Where pay gaps of 250 and higher are now the norm in larger corporations, the game needs to change. Tesco’s CEO £10M salary compared to a checkout operators' hourly rate of £12-15 hour, is just another recent example. We need a new generation of business leaders.

Fundamental change is possible, if we learn to let go of our selfish motives and develop a sincere desire to make a difference in this world in our fleeting time here. But it starts today. With each one of us making a stand for a braver way.

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