Many scandals in organizations have some noteworthy features in common. In most instances, the fraudulent acts involved employees who had the cooperation and acceptance of superiors who were upstanding community members, far removed from the prototypical image of a criminal. The involvement of such individuals in unethical and corrupt acts, and the persistence of the acts over time, can be explained in part by the rationalization tactics used by individuals committing unethical acts.
When these upstanding community leaders believe that they are far more ethical than others due to their philanthropic or religious work they try to rationalize their unethical behavior as being necessary for success in an unethical world. They see others’ behavior as more unethical and thereby believe they are far more ethical. That is the point when leaders fail to lead themselves in an ethical way.
A leader who lacks integrity will not endure the test of ethical challenges. It doesn’t matter how intelligent, persuasive, or savvy he is, he will be prone to rationalizing unethical behavior based upon current or future trends. Certain rationalizations have been used probably for centuries. For example;
# “Everybody does it,” then it is implicitly all right for you to do it as well.
# “They’re just as bad” because there is wrongdoing by others that is similar or worse.
# “If it isn’t illegal in law, it’s ethical/correct.” This is a lawyer’s defense.
When leaders are failing to govern themselves, they are governing to fail. i.e, Failing the organization and self.