Ethics - The Leadership Edge

Helps leaders build high-trust, high-performance organisational cultures that influence all stakeholders towards competitive excellence
Kuper, Laurance
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Author: Laurance Kuper
Publisher: Zebra Press
Cape Town, 2006
ISBN: 9781770071032
Soft cover, 16x21 cm, 224 pages


This is not a book about being goody-goody. This is a book about business strategy – the development of sustainable competitive advantage – how companies get out front and stay out there, despite fierce competitors and unexpected shocks.

It deals with the immediate challenges leaders face today: the pressure to innovate, grow, satisfy stakeholders, and elicit cooperation and reliability from hard-nosed business people.
For the first time, this book introduces leaders to the power of ethical trust. Ethical trust gives people a sense of belonging to a meaningful group.

It bonds business players closely together for high-level reliability and collaboration. Ethical trust is stable and resilient. This book reveals a radical competitive side to ethics. Looking at four strategy approaches, it offers leaders sharp insights as to how and why company values elicit competitive behaviour – how values in the ‘hearts and minds’ of players not only guide day-to-day behaviour, but get them to follow strategy consistently and reliably in the face of unforeseen events.

This book will help leaders build high-trust, high-performance organisational cultures that influence all stakeholders towards competitive excellence.

About the Author:

Laurance Kuper is MD of Competitive Strategy, an independent consultancy in business strategy and the organisational behaviour required to back it up. He consults to companies in South Africa, the UK and the USA. He has master’s degrees in management and ethical philosophy, having studied at Wits University, Templeton College, Oxford, and at London Business School with strategy gurus Gary Hamel and Sumantra Goshal.

Laurance previously ran his own advertising agency, which serviced major clients and won over 100 awards for creativity in London, Cannes, New York and South Africa. An external examiner and lecturer at business schools, he has appeared frequently on radio, television and in the national press.


Two Lenses to Look at Ethics I Trust for Quantum Advantage
The Big Catch: Ethics for its Own Sake I The Corporate
Governance Frenzy I Negative vs Positive Motivation
Less Regulation, More Inspiration

Part I Ethics, Trust and Sustainable
Competitive Advantage: The Thinking :

1. What Is an Ethical Company? ;
Behaviour Is Where It's At I Beware Blind Conformity
What Ethical Behaviour Is Not I What Exactly Are Values?
The Most Important Idea in the Book I Three Ways Values
Add Value I Values, Norms and Global Competition

2. Trust-The Bond in Your Business ;
Placing Trust Is a Risky Business I Cordial Hypocrisy
Riskier Not to Trust? I Authentic Trust and Blind Trust
Deception Is the Enemy of Trust I Incentives to Deceive
Desperately Dealing with Deception

3. The Link Between Ethics and Trust-Predictive Trust £
Economic Self-interest and the Ill-Famed Threesome
Self-interest Creates Self-Starters I No Leadership Without
Followership I Take the Money and Run?
Reliability: The Crucial Ability I Mutual Self-interest
Unexpected Change Hits the Fan

4. The Link Between Ethics and Trust-Normative Trust
Resilient Reliability I Normative Obligations: Part of Our Identity
More to Live for than Survival I Ethics at the Business Rock Face
Belonging Boosts Identity I A Backscratchers' Association
Reciprocity and the Power of Belonging to a Meaningful Group

5. Strategy - The Stretch for Sustainable
Competitive Advantage
Four Formats for Strategic Forethought
Core Competence, Innovation, Positioning, Adaptation
The Crocodile on the Desk I Round and Round the Leadership

Part II Ethics, Trust and Sustainable
Competitive Advantage: The Doing

6. How Leaders Serve Customers for SCA
Two Customer Loyalty Studies I Service Recovery Builds
Reciprocal Trust I Pick 'n Pay Shows the Ethical Way
Strange Twist I Customer Reciprocity and Stock
Market Support I Key Lessons for Trust and SCA

7. How the Leader Leverages the Supply Chain
Innovate Strategy, Not Only Product I Taking the Fix out
of Fixed Costs I Too Lean to Be Mean? I Trusting Reciprocity
Raises New Possibilities I The Problem of Argy-Bargy
Ethics Right in the Middle I Structural Trust and Personal Trust

8. How Leaders Advance the Community for SCA
The CEO and Differentiation I Moral Weakness a Worry
Hard Times Pose Moral Hazards I Unsympathetic Groups
A Poll to Rattle Perceptions I Improve Competitive Context
No Bouquets for Ethical Purists

9. How the Leader Influences Culture
Culture Connects with Strategy and Structure I Mind the Gap
The Dark Side of Culture I Weak Leaders Court
Cultural Catastrophe I Culture Change Cop-out?
Three Steps to Crack Culture Change I What About the Flouters?
Knave- and Knight-Centred Strategies

10. How the Leader Works with the Top Team
Real Teams I Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing
Trust Ties the Team Together I Managing the Marginally
Trustworthy I The Ladder of Integrity I The Competitive
Strategy 'Cascade and Feedback' Loop

11. How the Leader Deals with Shareholder Demands
Shareholders vs Stakeholders I Media Pressure
Trapped on a Relentless Treadmill I Discovery's Gore
Has True Grit I High Praise for ApexHi I Ethical Trust a
Telling Factor I The Share Performance Factor

12. The Last Word: 22 Do's and Don'ts for Leaders
Select Bibliography


This is not a book about being a goody-goody. Nor is it about 'building a brighter future for us all' or 'contributing to world peace' or even 'finding our way to a better afterlife'. This book focuses on the immediate challenges of your business today - the constant pressure to stay ahead, grow, and satisfy stakeholders. If you don't meet these challenges, the stark alternative is steady decline and eventual dissolution - death by a thousand cuts. But if you do meet them, the business world has a way of opening up undreamed-of opportunities.

This is a book about business strategy - the development of sustainable competitive advantage - how companies get out front and stay out there, despite fierce competitors and unexpected shocks. This is also a book about organisational behaviour - how companies get their act together to follow through on their strategy choices with excellence. Strategy and organisational behaviour are two sides of the same competitive coin.

The strategy choices you make invariably mean you have to work with other people, both outside and inside the organisation. Whenever you work with people, you face issues of cooperation and reliability. Which is why this book is also about ethics and trust.

Time was when ethical behaviour in business was widespread; one could conduct most transactions on a simple handshake between two people. Now things are different. Established companies, reputable NGOs and governments feature in ethical scandals so frequently that most of us assume it is going on all the time.

We repeatedly hear 'can you believe it?' stories about how well-reputed, supposedly solid organisations renege on promises, turn nasty after deals are signed or display another dark side that could not have been anticipated.

Even if we ourselves have ethical intentions, we know others may not. We tread carefully so as not to become the naive victim, particularly in complex situations where we might not be experts (for example making property investments, buying technology solutions or outsourcing globally). The 'crisis of trust' we read about finds its way into the fabric of our day-to-day business lives.

If we are to place trust wisely in our stimulating yet challenging new competitive society, a closer understanding of trust and its ethical underpinnings will give us quantum advantage, not only in our business ventures but also in our personal lives.

Two Lenses to Look at Ethics:

Ethics in business is usually looked at through two different lenses:

• Normative ethics - the province of philosophers - looks at what ought to be, and develops systems of making decisions about what is right or wrong

• Empirical ethics - the perspective of social scientists - stands back and objectively tries to see what happens; it tries to predict how people and organisations will actually behave, given their differences and the external influences on their behaviour.

While this book looks through both lenses, right upfront I must declare a bias towards the empirical view. As CEO of my own advertising agency for many years, and as strategy consultant to CEOs and top team members for over a decade now, my observations come largely from the field - seeing what actually happens to human behaviour at the rock face of business, especially under the influence of different kinds of leadership.

In both careers, I worked extensively and intimately with a wide variety of businesses both locally and overseas. [...]