How many children, when thinking about the future say, “When I grow up I want to be a crooked politician?” How many of us wake up each morning and think, “I’m going to do something dishonest and corrupt today?” The truth is that none of us think this way, we all start out with big dreams and good intentions. Even Bernie Madoff, Richard Nixon, the Lehman Brothers executives and Bill Clinton didn’t think these thoughts …… initially. So how, then, do so many people get tangled up in extramarital affairs, dishonesty, theft, embezzlement and so on? The answer is simple: one small step at a time.
The bible has a popular story that illustrates this stepwise process very well; the story of David. 2 Samuel chapter 11 shows each of David’s bad decisions that led to his great fall from grace.
Step 1 (verse 1): He was not where he was supposed to be, as king he should have been at war with his army.
Step 2 (verse 2): When he saw something inappropriate (Bath-sheba) he didn’t turn away from it, he lusted after it.
Step 3 (verses 3-4): Instead of forgetting the incident and moving on, he further compounded the problem by sending for Bath-sheba and committing adultery with her.
Step 4 (verses 6-17): As if things weren’t bad enough already, David sent Bath-sheba’s husband to the front lines of the war with the intention that he should be killed in action (which he was).
This is a very sad story because David had such great potential. He went from being a great spiritual leader and even a prophet to a corrupt and greedy king. He could have stopped the corruption cycle at any one of these steps, but he didn’t.
Any leader in any organization is vulnerable to the corruption cycle. It’s very easy to take the first one or two steps in the wrong direction. However, it’s vital to understand that no matter where you are on the corruption cycle YOU CAN STOP IT. There is no need to compound the problem by taking the next step. Bernie, Richard, and Bill all could have stopped the process at any one of the steps, but they continued on and ruined their careers/marriages/lives. This is kindof a downer of a topic but one that needs to be addressed if we are going to continue to fight corporate corruption and greed. It’s important that we all recognize the corruption cycle and stay far, far away from it in our careers, families and lives.
Comments: What do you think of the corruption cycle? Have you ever seen it before? What are some good ways to fight against it?