Can a Great Leader “Play to Win” and Still be Ethical?

I once worked with a man who had an interesting way of viewing all potential actions. He asked himself if the action was ethical. He explained himself this way …

“Some will ask if a course being considered is legal. Many things are legal. However, just because there is no law prohibiting an act does not make that act ‘the right thing to do’. The more important questions must be ‘is it the right thing to do … is it the way I would want to be treated … does the course of action improve the lot not only of my business; but, does it benefit or harm the other party?”

This person is a Great Leader. Great Leaders in business recognize that they must “play to win”. They understand that, in the final analysis, the company must show a profit in order to succeed and survive.

Great Leaders also recognize that a reputation is a double-edged sword. Those who always choose to do the right thing … to make certain that deals truly benefit all parties … will have customers who are loyal and return time and time again; plus, those customers bring others with them and recommend that their friends do business with the firm as well.

Conversely, the individual who looks only at the immediate, short-term, picture will say and do anything to “do the deal”. This individual does not care if the customer truly benefits, only that the company does this deal. He or she will get a reputation for caring only about his/her own benefit and customers will look to do business with someone else … someone who is working toward the customer’s benefit.

Great Leaders win in business and in the game of life because they make ethical choices and do the right thing.

Tom Hoisington is a speaker, trainer, and author whose goal is to provide leaders and potential leaders with tools that empower them to build teams that are creative and cost effective along with a clearer understanding of how personality types interact within those teams. He can be contacted at

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