“Ethical leadership is important in dealing with the issues we are facing as a country.”
This was the message from Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng during a keynote address at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (Gibs) ethics barometer launch in Sandton on Tuesday evening.
Mogoeng says implementing meaningful change will not only benefit business but the country as a whole because ethical leadership is a fundamental part of accountable governance.
“Leaders who won’t care what is said about them even if they are criticised for it because it exactly what we are looking for,” Mogoeng said.
He said there’s no point in discussing issues such as ethical leadership theoretically.
“It is important that we reflect in a practical way to the South African situation, to the challenges that confront us.”
Mogoeng said every business in the country is a corporate citizen with rights and responsibilities.
“Ethical leadership is a critical imperative for business. It enjoins business not only to familiarise itself with our history and the critical aspects of it that remain unaddressed, but also aspects that are lingering and could frustrate our future.”
He added that ethical leadership is important to not only articulate these problems or analyse them, but also to find a peaceful and enduring solution.
“It doesn’t matter whether you choose to call me a politician or not; we live in a country where there is freedom of expression and everybody can criticise whoever they don’t agree with. This thing of being touchy about criticism is not right.
“We come from a background where racism caused black and white people to be at each other’s throats. If as leaders who care about others, leaders with integrity ... we don’t see it as our responsibility to deal with this problem then we don’t care about others because they remain discriminated through subconscious racism or discrimination.
“We need to work aggressively towards crushing this polarising nonsense called racism, using our creativity and our influence as leaders to unite our people.
“When ethical leadership is not embraced in a company and we leaders don’t interrogate prejudices, particularly subconscious prejudices come the time of promotion in a predominately white company, we know who is going to get [the promotion].
“It is always white people, white males in particular, who go up. What people are complaining about in the corporate sector – that the top leadership is [predominantly made up of] white males – is not something that we should condemn one another about. It is something that demands us as leaders committed to ethics to see that something is wrong there,” Mogoeng said.
He added that we must take practical steps to make sure that there is a deliberate programme to progressively work towards the realisation of employment equity, even at the highest levels of employment.
When there is trust, business and society flourish
Gideon Pogrund, who heads Gibs’ Ethics and Governance Think Tank, which is responsible for the ethics barometer, said ethical behaviour builds trust. “When there is trust, business and society flourish. Conversely, a lack of trust between business and its various stakeholders is profoundly dangerous.”
Pogrund said the objective of the ethics barometer was to build trust and help secure a successful, sustainable future for business and the country.
Gibs partnered with Business Leadership SA and 15 leading companies from diverse sectors to establish a comprehensive benchmark of South African business ethics.