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Tone from the Top

Source |  |  BY:Kenneth Oswin LeanVice President and Business Coach

The phrase “Tone from the Top” is popular with organisations mainly in ethics, compliance and audits. I would like to make an attempt to take it beyond this context.

The tone from the leader be it of a nation, corporation, and department or even of a sports team determines the energy and direction it takes. In the current world, where countries and organisations are transforming rapidly into a new world, rules and ethics are taking tectonic shifts. A lot can be missed by the leaders who are chasing themselves to not miss the bus, but at what cost? The values and norms in such changing environments are strategic choices that the leader needs to make in order to set the tone for the new organisation. The market wars, financial legerdemain, fight for leadership space, etc. is drawing leadership and organisations to juggle with values. The instincts of survival leads one to compromise, break, and stretch and at times manipulate the expected ethics of the game.

In private corridor whispers, in corporate offices and political lounges one gets to hear of how deals are swung in the winner’s favour. This leads one to wonder whether meritocracy has any meaning at all. Isn’t it all pointing to the leadership thought of all parties involved? The introduction of fair play awards in the sports scenario is an obvious indicator of what is missing and is a feeble attempt to reinforce on what is missing. The leader’s tone in form of an action is paramount in transmitting the message to the last man standing. There are strong and willing leaders who adhere to the defined values and norms of the organisations they lead. They find it easy to live through difficult times as their principles and values guide them through this turbulent phase.

I have come across leaders who use silence or selective blindness as a big tool in order to give tacit support to unethical/inappropriate activities. The leadership tone is reflective in the underbelly of an organisation. Take any organisation that is facing an ethical anxiety or challenge. You would find that the leader missed acting on murmurs of misappropriation, lowering standards of business transactions, unfair practices of employee engagement and unprincipled dealings with government authorities. All this leading to a poor image of the organisation.



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