of its customers, it is difficult to
get back. Wells Fargo took their
situation seriously. The CEO was
fired and about 700 employees
who intentionally deceived their
customers were fired. Four directors
on their Board were released
for not exercising appropriate
oversight of the situation. Ethics
training was expanded. The values
were reinforced and Wells Fargo
publicly admitted their mistake.
Their new advertising campaign
notes that although Wells Fargo is
an old company, they have been
re-founded in 2018. It seems that
most customers believe that Wells
Fargo has seriously addressed the
Another point to be made is that
although we read about these
corporate ethical failures, we don’t
read about the tens of thousands of
companies and millions of business
leaders who are working hard
every day to make the right ethical
decisions. I believe that the vast
majority of businesses and their
leaders are driven to do what’s right.
So, keep that in mind whenever
you read about those caught doing
wrong–there are a lot more doing
AARON –To add to Bill’s insights,
I would also emphasize that we
live in an age where it’s harder than
ever to get away with bad behavior.
Smartphones with cameras are
everywhere. Social media can
spread news of a scandal in seconds.
When you consider how hard it is
to build a reputation for ethics and
how quickly it can be destroyed,
ethical leadership has never
involved higher stakes!
9. Can a person learn ethical
decision-making skills and
BILL - Definitely. Ethics is not
merely a matter of good intentions.
Ethical behavior can be a result of
thoughtful application of ethical skills.
These ethical skills are especially
necessary for effective leadership. You
need more than a love of nature to
lead people on a journey through the
wilderness. You need the experience
and skills of a wilderness guide. In the
same sense, wanting to be ethical falls
short of actual ability to guide others
through ethically precarious terrain.
AARON – Years of experience in
teaching ethics proves to me that
these are skills and they can be
mastered. I have so many stories
about students who come back years
later to tell me about how they used
skills they learned to navigate some
devilishly tricky ethical territory.
These are not the kind of problems
you resolve with good intentions
BRAD – No question. In fact, one
of the most enjoyable aspects of my
job is meeting individuals who are
truly ethical experts. When I meet
them, they jump out at me like great
athletes to a talented sports scout. Bill
O’Rourke was one of the first ones I
got to know well. It was immediately
apparent to me that he was a highly
skilled ethical leader. Learning from
him has been one of my greatest
professional advantages and personal
10. The IRWA has placed an
emphasis on the subject of
ethics throughout its history.
What is your opinion on the
role a professional association
can have in ethically-shaping
BILL - Professional associations
can play a very important role. The
association is often the face of the
profession. Their communications,
conferences and membership
activities allow the profession
to define itself, to portray the
qualities of its members and to
shape the culture of the profession.
The association can play a role in
reinforcing the values of its members
through reward and recognition
programs, touting the positive
actions and values of its members.
The association can also serve to
police itself by communicating
when the values and mission of the
association are not being followed.
The association and their leaders
help to build pride in its members
that is typically based on strong
values beginning with integrity.
AARON – The truth is that people
just don’t talk enough about ethics
and values at work. This is where
professional associations can fill an
otherwise dangerous vacuum. When
people develop camaraderie and
mutual respect in a profession, they
can also set high ethical standards for
each other. It means something to be
a member of IRWA, and that has a
lot to do with the ethics consistently
reinforced and expected of each other.