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Teaching ethics

Ethics executive helps organizations determine right versus right.

“Ethics enters in when you have to make a decision that isn’t in the book,” explains Anthony Gray, Institute for Global Ethics. “Executives can come to a clear answer if they have a well-defined question. We teach leaders how to get to the clearly defined question.”

“Ethics enters in when you have to make a decision that isn’t in the book,” explains Anthony Gray, Institute for Global Ethics. “Executives can come to a clear answer if they have a well-defined question. We teach leaders how to get to the clearly defined question.”

Photograph by Sarah Maughan

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From the pages of In Business magazine.

Anthony Gray, president and CEO at the Institute for Global Ethics (IGE), has seen the worst and the best of what life can offer.

Gray, 46, was raised an orphan and ward of the state of Connecticut from infancy through age nine, followed by stints in boys’ homes and group homes, having only met his biological mother twice. “I came from many different families,” he relates.
At the age of 15, he filed a motion to become an emancipated minor and remembers walking out of the courtroom a legal adult, determined to change his destiny.

“I was a precocious child who always had an interest in questions bigger than me,” he shrugs. That curiosity likely saved his life.

Now, Gray is a classically trained ethicist with a degree in moral philosophy from Yale and a law degree from UW–Madison. Prior to joining IGE in 2013, he practiced law on the East Coast and served as the chief ethics and compliance officer for Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., manufacturer of Black Hawk helicopters.

He’d always hoped to return to Madison where he and his wife first met, so as a condition of his employment with IGE, Gray moved the nonprofit’s international headquarters to Madison. Now he oversees four employees and 28 contractors who train professionals to make right-versus-right ethical decisions. The key, he says, is asking the right questions.

IB: Describe what IGE does.
Gray:
We are a think tank and in the culture business. We help leaders translate what are often aspirational goals into operational goals that their employees can use in their everyday business positions. We do ethics training for corporations, schools, nonprofits, and government entities, and we do grant-funded ethics research.

IB: How does a business recognize that they need your services?
Gray:
I’d argue that every organization that cares about its culture could use some assistance in this area. It doesn’t have to come from us.

IB: How do you describe ethics, as it applies to business?
Gray:
First of all, it is not compliance and it is not morals. Compliance is about knowing and following the rules. Ethics is about what you do when there are no rules or you don’t know what they are, or at a minimum, nobody’s looking. They’re related but not the same thing.

IB: Explain.
Gray:
The sweet spot for the institute is what we call right-versus-right ethical dilemmas, when two or more core values, or positives, are juxtaposed, meaning there’s potentially more than one right answer. As a leader you have to choose one, so how do you reason your way to the higher right?

IB: Can you offer an example?
Gray:
Say you work in a small family business and you learn that one of your family members — perhaps even a spouse — has a substance-abuse problem that may have led to that person doing something they shouldn’t have. Do you reveal what this individual has done to management knowing the person will likely get fired, or do you attempt to deal with their illness privately without revealing it to the company you both work for?

There’s loyalty to your family — an unquestioned good — but also loyalty to your company, shareholders, and fiduciary duties. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

(Continued)

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