Ethics in a Digital World

Data Manipulation

Data is now ubiquitous. Information can now be obtained from each and every part of the world transcending geographical or temporal boundaries and as such, has come under major scrutiny due to increasing use of data as a tool of manipulation to suit different agendas.

In Jeffrey Frankel’s Business Times article, he highlighted the destructive consequence of over-emphasis on the wrong data and statistics. Specifically, Frankel identifies the over-emphasis on the officially recorded infections and deaths per capita as a key motivator for politicians to downplay the true severity of COVID-19. Beyond the usual suspects like former US President Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, numerous other world leaders have also made varying attempts to limit the number of reported infections and deaths— such as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and former Tanzanian President John Magufuli to name a few.

Deception through the means of data manipulation is hardly a new phenomena, yet it remains to be seen if it can ever be resolved. The widespread occurrence of data manipulation during the COVID-19 pandemic serves as a stark reminder that the unethical behaviour from leaders cannot be ignored any longer, in light of the repercussions that stakeholders will have to bear.

Importance of Authentic Leaders

Ethics are the society’s rules and norms, which align with the greater good of the society. In the same vein, your character defines your true self, how you think, feel and act in the absence of external regulation. It consists of mental and ethical qualities that influence the reaction and response to a given situation. In the context of leadership, building and embracing good character separates a Real® Leader from others, as they will opt for the right and ethical alternative.

Real® Leaders, as coined by Dr. Lily Cheng and Dr. Peter Cheng, are able to engage and inspire their constituents to attain higher levels of excellence for the organisation’s success.

With empirical data from over 2 decades of practitioner experience in developing leaders across over 14 countries, they identified and discussed the eight key Essentials of Real® Leadership in their 2012 book titled Real® Leaders: Championing Culture, Sustaining Performance Excellence.

Character is a leadership essential of the Who-ness of Real® Leaders, serving as a “compass” in their decision-making that is inclined to produce a common good for the community at hand. With regards to data sharing and visualisation, the ethical act is to make everything known to all stakeholders involved. If it is a worldwide phenomenon, allow all human beings to be in the know. Similarly, if the event will implicate the entire company and its employees, ensure all employees are kept updated as well.

When all stakeholders are fully informed, leaders will be able to leverage the strengths of all their constituents and better utilise the resources at hand to approach challenges ahead. Not only will this practice develop a stronger company culture amongst the employees, practising transparency (especially when workers have a stake in the situation) will build trusting relationships between the leader and individual team members.

In turn, it creates an inclusive environment, another essential of the Real® Leaders framework. The resultant synergy throughout the entire organisation will contribute towards enhanced efficacy in performance, all things being equal. Moreover, with the ultimate goal of helping shape the world into a better place in mind, it will be prudent to be transparent in data sharing instead of disguising or manipulating data to suit a certain agenda, be it political or religious in nature.

Now, take a moment to ask yourself— How can I be more transparent with my employees regarding the ongoing behind the scene?

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