Recently actresses Lori Laughlin and Felicity Huffman were in the news. And, unfortunately it was for scandal instead of fame. None of us will ever see ‘Aunt Becki’ the same way, and our fond memories of Lynette Scavo are gone forever.

It’s easy to judge their actions as we watch the news. But the reality is, when the stakes are high, many of us fall short of being our best selves. And when the stakes are high AND the resources are limitless, it becomes even easier to lose sight of our values.

As leaders, we strive to be authentic. We want our teams to trust us, and we want to live and work with integrity. But, as the headlines prove, integrity isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

There are three things we have in common with Felicity and Lori. And as leaders, if we don’t stay on high alert about each of them, we too could fall from grace.

1. Competing Interest. These actresses were facing competing interests. On the one hand, they want to be good role models for their kids, right? They want their kids to see them as ethical people with high moral standards. Not to mention their professional reputations and integrity. Who didn’t love Aunt Becki?

And, they also want what they believe is best for their kids. The best school means more opportunity. At least that’s what we’re told. As moms, they wanted to do everything in their power to help their kids succeed. That was the motive. And, as luck would have it, they had a lot of power to use.

In business we face competing interests every day. A top client wanting us to cut corners, a co-worker wanting us to cover up a mistake. And sometimes the stakes are high. Like when the client is our biggest (or only) client and losing them would mean closing our doors.

2. We Rationalize – ResearchGate defined rationalization as a defense mechanism. It describes it as when an individual attempts to justify, or make tolerable, feelings, behaviors and motives that would otherwise be intolerable.

In other words, we convince ourselves that the ends justify the means. We know we’re good people. We know this isn’t our normal behavior we want this one thing and then we’ll go back to being good again.

We convince ourselves that once they get accepted into this school, I’ll back off. I’ll never do something like this again. Or, I’ll appease this client this one time. I know it’s wrong, but, this one time will be fine. After all, he is my best client.

3. Societal Pressure – Face it, the internet has raised the bar on perfection. A two-minute scroll on LinkedIn or FB can create instant anxiety. Everyone is making billions of dollars, vacationing in paradise, and living the dream. We start to feel like failures. And it can be overwhelming. Sometimes it’s overwhelming enough that we lose sight of our own values. And, it makes taking short cuts more appealing than ever before.

The individuals caught up in the college admissions scam faced these three things. And, they had unlimited resources. Which made it all too easy to rationalize the behavior. I’m not condoning any of it. I’m simply pointing out that they aren’t much different than any of us.

If we want to be authentic leaders, we need to be on alert. We need to write down our core values and post them on our computer screen. We need to remind ourselves of those values every single day. Because if we burry them beneath our daily grind, we too can lose sight of them. We aren’t better than they are because we haven’t done what they did. But, we can be better if we make sure we never do.

And the reality is that the line between good decisions and bad ones is often very blurry.

Cynthia Corsetti is an Executive Coach and Speaker. If you’d like to learn more on how her C.A.R.E. to Engage system can help you create an engaged workforce in your organization, you can email her at: cynthia@cynthiacorsetti.com

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