Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Integrity in the HOV Lane

In the wake of the financial crisis, where CEOs made selfish decisions that destroyed the lives of many people, the question arises "Didn't they teach ethics in business school?" We look at Bernie Madoff and Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois and easily condemn them while opining that they are not men of integrity.

It would be easy to place the guilt on MBA programs, law schools, universities and other institutions. Others might blame parents and say that they are not doing their job. Still others might cry the lack of religion and long for the day of hell-fire and brimstone. But the toughest place we might have to look is in the mirror. Are we tolerating lack of integrity in ourselves and others and in doing so encouraging greater and greater lapses in integrity until someone finally gets caught.

A quick example might help. This evening, driving back to Trenton from New York City, I was amazed at all the cars that were driving in the HOV Lane, which is supposed to be for vehicles with 3 or more occupants, and was stunned with how many of them had only one person. So I started counting and identified 14 cars in a row with only one passenger. By the way, I know the HOV was not lifted tonight.

So, though it might be easy for us to point fingers at those who showed a lack of integrity and hurt others, my question is where did it start? It started with some small broken law, infraction, bent rule because someone thought no one would get hurt. After a while it gets easier.

If I've learned one thing, it is that greatness begins with the small things, not the big ones. We build from seeds that we and others plant. So, our behaviors now, are our destiny to come. What do we choose?

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