JS Tip 50: Avoiding Stupid I: From the Ethics and Values Workshops

A recent (and on-going) scandal in Utah’s legislature* raises again the need for leaders with integrity.

Two points:

  1. Leaders don’t do stupid things.
  2. Doing stupid things disqualifies you from being a leader.

How do we avoid “stupid”?

We’ll discuss an external approach this week. We’ll discuss an internal approach next week.

If you have doubts about the wisdom of a specific action, ask the “3-M” questions:

  1. If your action became public, how would the media react? United States Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said “Sunshine is the best antiseptic.” His counsel remains valid. If you’re wrong, others will tell you. You can anticipate some of the feedback and adjust your choices.  
  2. If your action became public, how would the market react? Would people still willingly and enthusiastically buy your product? (“Willingly” and “enthusiastically” raise interesting questions about monopoly and market share, but that’s another discussion.) Would you maintain the public trust and loyalty?  
  3. If your action became public, how would your mother react? The fount of your moral and ethical teaching. The person who taught you to be nice. Would she approve?   

These questions will at least guide you to ethical choices.

Next week, next Friday, we’ll explore an internal approach. We invite your comments and feedback.


*On the last night of the 2010 legislative session, the Utah House Majority Leader stood and confessed to inappropriate behavior—twenty-five years ago—with a fifteen-year-old girl (the leader was twenty-eight at the time). He later paid $150,000 in “restitution” to the grown woman.