NBC News anchor Brian Williams’ recent suspension and the Jackie Robinson West Little League baseball team being stripped of their 2014 U.S. title put me in a numb and reflective mood.
Frankly, both news stories made me sad. I liked Brian Williams, and I feel especially grieved for the Chicago children who are victims of unethical behavior. Both stories represent achieving the pinnacle of success and a subsequent fall from grace for matters related to character. So while people line up to express their opinions on the political, racial, and economic implications, allow me to reflect on ethics.
Recently, I read the following quote attributed to Reverend Billy Graham in the book America’s Pastor by Grant Wacker:
“When wealth is lost, nothing is lost. When health is lost, something is lost. When character is lost, everything is lost.”
One of the values we espouse at Andesa Services is that “the ends never justify the means. All we do indelibly imprints our final product.” The phrase “means to an end” refers to any action (the means) carried out for the purpose of achieving something else (an end). A simple illustration of this value statement would be the end of achieving good grades, which can be accomplished by several means (e.g., hard work, hours of study, getting a tutor, cheating, threatening a teacher, bribing a teacher, etc. Some of these means are good; some of these means are inherently bad. Thus, the objective of good grades cannot simply justify the means of the behavior to achieve the objective.
Perhaps, as the stakes grow higher, the temptation to apply marginal means to achieve an even greater end increase. Perhaps the “win at all costs” philosophy and achievement-driven society motivates a desire to disguise inappropriate or marginal means as acceptable behavior.
Brian Williams is not the first journalist or leader to get caught lying in the pursuit of additional ratings or fame, nor will he be the last. The Jackie Robinson West team is not the first overzealous group of parents and coaches desiring a better end for their children to the extent that they were willing to bend the rules, nor will they be the last. Both stories, however, can serve as examples for ethical leaders about ends and means, and the decisions we face daily in our interactions with employees, clients, advisors and vendors.
In Andesa’s culture, we would rather be measured and recognized for how we conduct ourselves, as compared solely on the results we achieve. Like it or not, we are all judged by the ends. Adopting a value statement like “the ends never justify the means” hopefully guards against accepting marginal or bad behavior.
Learn more about Andesa President and CEO Ron Scheese, his opinions on corporate ethics, the state of the industry and more.