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Ethics and Value Systems

How do ethics influence the value systems?

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Values and ethics are central to any organization; those operating in the national security arena are no exception. What exactly do we mean by values and ethics in business? Both are extremely broad terms, and we need to focus in on the aspects most relevant for strategic leaders and decision makers. What we will first discuss is the distinctive nature of ethics for public officials and businesses; second, the forces which influence the ethical behavior of individuals in organizations; and third, explore the actions strategic leaders can take to build ethical climates in their organizations.

THE CHARACTER OF VALUES AND ETHICS

Values can be defined as those things that are important to or valued by someone. That someone can be an individual or, collectively, an organization. One place where values are important is in relation to vision. One of the imperatives for organizational vision is that it must be based on and consistent with the organization's core values. In one example of a vision statement we'll look at later, the organization's core values - in this case, integrity, professionalism, caring, teamwork, and stewardship- were deemed important enough to be included with the statement of the organization's vision. Dr. John Johns, in an article entitled "The Ethical Dimensions of National Security," mentions honesty and loyalty as values that are the ingredients of integrity. When values are shared by all members of an organization, they are extraordinarily important tools for making judgments, assessing probable outcomes of contemplated actions, and choosing among alternatives. Perhaps more important, they put all members "on the same sheet of music" with regard to what all members as a body consider important.

The Army, in 1986, had as the theme for the year "values," and listed four organizational values-loyalty, duty, selfless service, and integrity-and four individual values- commitment, competence, candor, and courage. A Department of the Army pamphlet entitled Values: The Bedrock of Our Profession spent some time talking about the importance of values, and included this definition:

Values are what we, as a profession, judge to be right. They are more than words-they are the moral, ethical, and professional attributes of character . . . there are certain core values that must be instilled in members of the U.S. Army-civilian and uniformed soldier alike. These are not the only values that should determine our character, but they are ones that are central to our profession and should guide our lives as we serve our Nation.

Values are the embodiment of what an organization stands for, and should be the basis for the behavior of its members. However, what if members of the organization do not share and have ...

Solution Summary

The solution discusses how ethics and value systems relate.

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