Whenever a high-profile individual commits a transgression in their personal life, there are inevitably those who leap to their defense with comments like “what they do on their time is none of our business.” This type of reasoning is disturbing.
I graduated from a military academy where we were bound by an honor code: We will not lie, cheat or steal, nor tolerate those who do. Transgressors received punishments up to and including expulsion. I had friends who did not graduate because they committed offences in their off-duty time. Some may argue that soldiers are different because they are “owned” 24/7, but isn’t the same true of elected officials, married couples, and corporate CEOs?
General George S. Patton said, “If you can’t get them to salute when you tell them to salute, or wear the clothes you tell them to wear, how are you going to get them to die for their country?” His point is that if you can not adhere to basic principles on the small, private things, then how are you going to somehow muster up the strength, courage, or ethics to handle the major ones?
The simple answer is you can’t. And that’s why the little things mean as much as the big things. The personal things mean as much as the public things. It’s your actions at all levels, not just your words. You can’t truly be a leader in just certain areas of your life while others are in disarray.
Any time ethics are in your head and not in your heart, there is a chance you’ll just decide to ignore or push them aside whenever you deem fit. When you’ve truly internalized them, they guide every second of your day. It doesn’t mean that we still don’t make mistakes and violate our own principles, it’s just that we recognize that what we do “off camera” is just as important as what we do “on camera” and we are willing to face the music on a much louder level.