How to Become Corrupt: The Corruption Cycle

Leadership Principle

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.

Scriptural Support

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.

So What?

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?

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Swallow Your Pride

Business Principle

the famous poet Will Smith once said (that was a joke) in his infamous song entitled Wild Wild West, “Swallow your pride, don’t let your lip react, you don’t wanna see my hand where my hip be at.” William captures an important leadership principle in this poorly worded and inappropriate (yet catchy) lyric. Great leaders know that pride and selfishness need to be avoided like a plague. Pride is like an infection or a cancer (whichever medical analogy you prefer to use) because it is incredibly contagious and difficult to get rid of. Fueled by gossip and criticism it DESTROYS productivity and effectiveness. This is a tremendous area of opportunity for an enlightened leader. People take their behavioral cues from leadership when it comes to pride vs. humility. If a leader is arrogant and full of himself, so too will the employees be.

John G. Miller addresses this pride vs. humility debate in his new book entitled Outstanding!: 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional. He says that one way for leaders to avoid the cantankerous effects of pride is to regularly ask people for their sincere input. This is relatively easy to do and often done by companies. But the hard part (and the most important part) is following through. If an employee gives you a suggestion – LISTEN! Sometimes we forget that our employees have brains too.

Scriptural Support

One of my favorite stories of the Old Testament is the story about Naaman, a prestigious captain of the Syrian army. 2 Kings chapter 5 talks about how he contracted leprosy and went to the prophet Elisha to be healed. Instead of meeting him face to face Elisha sent out a servant to meet him and deliver the message for him to wash seven times in the River Jordan. Naaman didn’t like that. He threw a fit because the prophet treated him so simply and didn’t perform an ostentatious miracle. It was at this point where Naaman’s servants approached him and said in verse 13:

13 …. if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?

Luckily Naaman was humble enough to listen to his trusted servants and wash in the River Jordan and be healed. When we listen to our employees and follow through with their suggestions we show them that we trust them. Trust is essential for an organization’s success. Plus, more than likely they will give some great suggestions. So let’s follow the wise words of Mr. William Smith and “swallow your pride,” and our organizations will be much better off.

Comments: Have you ever seen an organization full of pride and arrogance? How about an organization that showed humility and really listened to people? Is there a difference?