What we saw Wednesday at Capitol Hill has shocked and outraged many of us. While Capitol Hill has historically known protest and even violence, never before in American history have protestors broken into the building and attempted to disrupt constitutional proceedings.
One of my questions the next morning was, given what is going on in our country right now, what should business leaders be thinking about in 2021? In the wake of the riots, I think something they ought to reflect on is whether they considered the broader ethical issues at stake in their decision-making during the 2020 election cycle.
My sincere hope is that this moment in our nation’s history will serve as a wake-up call for the business world. I hope that decision makers see with crystal clarity just how high the stakes are and just how much impact their decisions have on our society. I hope they have a visceral sense of the power that is in their hands, for better or for worse. And I hope they are taking the next two weeks before Inauguration Day to reflect and reevaluate.
If you have any kind of influence in the business world, I’d like to pose some questions to help guide your decision making in 2021. You might call it an examination of conscience. These are not just business questions. These are personal reflection questions.
- Have my decisions upheld the common good? Have I pursued my own interests and/or the interests of my company to the harm of my fellow citizens?
- Have I used my time, talents, or wealth to support unethical persons and organizations?
- Have I upheld the dignity of the human person in my decisions?
- Have I treated people justly and with charity?
- Have I exploited human weaknesses for my own benefit or the benefit of my company?
- Have I told lies? Have I supported people who have told lies?
- Have I sought truth and defended it? Have I in any way obscured the truth or caused it to be obscured? Do I verify the truthfulness of my sources before sharing information?
- Have my decisions promoted unity or contributed to division?
- Have I abused the freedoms that the American Constitution protects?
- Have I chosen to remain silent or not to take action in the face of clear injustice?
- Have I broken the law? Have I made decisions not in keeping with the spirit of the law?
- Is ethics top of mind for me? Do I strive to live a life of integrity? Am I willing to take personal responsibility for my mistakes, misdeeds, and omissions?
I think these are questions that not only business leaders, but all of us should reflect on over the next two weeks. I certainly will be.
I’ll leave you with one last thought, which I urge you to consider carefully.
The Founding Fathers envisioned America as a beacon of light and hope to the world, upheld by a virtuous citizenry committed to the common good, justice, and truth.
George Washington said in his farewell address, “It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. […] Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! Is it rendered impossible by its vices? [Emphasis mine]”
I want this to be absolutely clear to every single person reading this post: the fate of a nation depends on the moral character of all who call her home.
I challenge business leaders to do some real soul-searching, consider the role they have played in our nation’s current situation, and exercise wisdom for the future.
America’s light only shines as brightly as the light of her people. With our constitutionally protected freedoms comes responsibility. We each have a responsibility to contribute to the healing of our present divisions.
If we as individuals do not take up the hard task of becoming the virtuous citizens our forefathers hoped we would be, our nation will descend into even greater chaos and our democratic republic will be no more.
Your decisions matter. My decisions matter. Let’s remember that as we move forward.