Ethics looks like what? - Denese Rodgers

I think ethical behavior must be something like housework. It is only really noticed if it is not practiced on a regular basis.

Think about it, you only notice housework when it is not being done. The same seems to apply to ethics. Normal ethical behavior is not really noticed or rewarded, but unethical behavior gets front-page notoriety.

Barbara Kellerman wrote a great book, "Bad Leadership: What It Is, How It Happens, Why It Matters." The book is an awesome study of two dark sides of leadership: Ineffective Leadership and Unethical Leadership.

I know that point of view and culture plays into it, as does the amount of power that a leader currently holds. Saddam Hussein was an evil, corrupt leader, but his steely grip on his power, and his total control of his subjects, protected him from persecution for a long time.

We have a minor dilemma in our organization that involves, of all things, surveys. Now, personally, I would rather have my nifty acrylic nails removed with tin snips than to have to fill out a survey. My problem is that social-service groups adore surveys.

They can crunch up the little blackened circles en masse, consolidate the data across geographic or demographic groups and come up with charts! And bar graphs! And historical trends!

Hooey. Figures lie and liars figure. The yucky thing that nobody wants to admit about a survey is that they can be biased. You can hand pick the folks that you want to fill in the little circles, so that the resultant data says exactly what you want it to say.

You want a survey that says the sky is falling? Have a pile of pessimists fill it out. You want it to say that everything is coming up roses? Get a whole pile of happy people on their daily meds to fill out the form.

Do I believe that surveys can be useful? Sure. First, they either need to be completely transparent or completely anonymous. You either need to know whose opinion is being expressed, or it needs to be random and anonymous. There is some value to either point of view.

Leadership Henry uses surveys to craft and constantly improve its program content, which is good. Some political types use telephone surveys as a method to push ugly rumors about their opponents, which is that dark side I mentioned.

Just think about how questions can be asked. For example, "Do you know the progressive Director of this program?" Versus "Do you know the hebetudinous Director, and that she is on medication?"

Perspective, my friend. Perspective.

Handpicking an audience that practices group-think survey response is flat out unethical. Tilting survey questions is unethical.

The dilemma comes from the unintended negative consequence of telling the truth.

Denese Rodgers is executive director of Connecting Henry, a social-service, networking organization in Henry County.