Leadership. The very thought of directing someone’s actions and being responsible for them causes people to either shun away from or longingly seek after it. Both sides of the leadership coin have the potential to lure individuals to fall prey to numerous temptations. These temptations may corrupt even the most brilliant commanders, trustworthy generals, and ethical standards of CEOs in today’s fast-paced market place. They are not limited to merely high-level bosses but can influence even simple “button pushers” working an office job.
All people, regardless of social standing, must learn to identify, define, and combat these temptations. Upon achieving these tasks, individuals will be able to resist temptations and become well respected leaders.
What are temptations? Temptations are things which are alluring or enticing and can be either of a positive or a negative nature. For instance, an offer for a great new job may be tempting due to the salary, position, and field of work.
This is obviously a positive temptation. However, the temptation to fabricate some numbers on an annual business report so that you get approval from your boss is clearly unethical and is a negative temptation. Frankly, most temptations are negative in nature. Because of this, the temptations of leadership we will cover are simply things which may lure or entice a leader to behave in an unethical or irresponsible manner.
Beyond this definition of temptations are two separate categories of temptations, both with their unique difficulties to bare. Individual temptations are categorized based off where the temptation comes from, either internally or externally.
External temptations come from sources outside of the individual, such as from peers, subordinates, and superiors. Usually, these types of temptations are easier to spot, and thus easier to avoid. On the other hand, internal temptations come from within us and are based off our elementary human needs. Due to our self-serving bias, which looks to rationalize our own actions, these temptations are notoriously difficult to detect in oneself. A leader must be humble enough to recognize them and seek self-improvement.
Pressure from a peer to behave unethically is one of the most prevalent types of external temptation. For example, a close friend who is a coworker may ask you to falsify a score for them or forget that you saw them do something. Both these actions are unethical. Along with peers, every leader will face temptations from subordinates. However, as a professional, you cannot give in to such temptations from colleagues and subordinates without the loss of respect and ultimately power. This distinguishes the difference between being popular and being respected. Superiors may also present pressures to do tasks which can be temptations. However, to maintain your integrity, you must never let threats or opportunities from superiors coerce you to unethical behavior, but instead remain honest and trustworthy.
There are four distinct individual temptations: setting impossible goals, putting recognition ahead of accomplishment, doing what others want you to do, and threatening or harassing subordinates. These are much more difficult to deal with since they spring from self-interest and ultimately selfishness. Former President Jimmy Carter was a submarine officer in the Navy before taking office. He graduated top of his class from the naval academy and went directly into the Navy’s nuclear warfare school, graduating with top honors. He was, in a sense, the best leader and brightest individual the Navy could produce. Unfortunately, shortly after taking office, President Carter fell prey to leadership temptations and became widely known as a micromanager. Micromanaging comes from a combination of all four internal temptations, joined together by a lack of trust in subordinates. To combat these impulses, a leader must always remain humble, remembering who put them in the position they are now in.
The temptations of leadership are ever-present and must be dealt with daily. An ideal leader maintains a high ethical standard through professional integrity held up by respect and humility. Humility enables leaders to find temptations within themselves while their standards help illuminate temptations from external sources. A leader must always set aside personal feelings and try to view a situation objectively rather than let their personal bias determine their actions which can ruin reputations. If a leader cannot view a situation objectively, it is their responsibility to bring a third party to examine it. Leadership is both a blessing and a curse; nevertheless, if leaders overcome both external and internal temptations, all will respect them.
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