Expose Yourself---as a Genuine Professional
By Mark Wendell
My mother said it’s so! She said that if I needed to do something bad, I should let her know first and she would do it for me…that she wanted me to remain pure…that I was never to do anything to harm anyone, anytime, anywhere. And many years later, this ideal has stuck with me.
Like me, my mother was not a perfect specimen. She was however, a remarkably wise and compassionate woman. She taught me that behaving as a genuine professional is a mindset, a spirit, a determination of personal destiny to do the right thing, while applying nuts-n-bolts professional knowledge and rules that govern my particular profession. She taught me that behaving as a genuine professional is like sitting at her kitchen table and telling it like it is and behaving with a magnanimous spirit: honestly, patiently, forgivingly, respectfully, compassionately, generously, courageously, and ethically.
She imprinted onto my mindset three guiding principles to live by: Governance must be your mindset if you are to focus on decision making on your mother’s behalf to protect her and guide her best interests. Stewardship must prevail to direct your professional manner of prudent processes and principals to consider her needs first, last, and always above and before your own interests. An admirable leadership paradigm must predominate your mindset and oversight of her affairs that are based upon inspiration, integrity, confidence, and an overwhelming sense of trust. Governance, Stewardship, and Leadership—the confluence of my behaviors involving these three ideals is at the very core of the multifaceted role of a genuine professional fiduciary.
Let’s sidestep the title of fiduciary and the legal jargon associated with a particular profession and substitute another heartfelt-empathetic word that perhaps has more personal meaning to most of us: ethos. Ancient Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle promoted the notion that you can tell a lot about the guiding beliefs of a person or organization by the distinguishing behaviors, sentiment, moral nature, and decision making doctrine of a person, group or institution—their ethos. Ronald Reagan had a humorous way to convey his idea of personal ethos: “You can tell a lot about a fellow’s character by his way of eating jellybeans.”
Some would use the words ‘ethos’ and ‘ethics’ interchangeably, and both are based upon moral behavior, however ethos is broader than only a set of guiding principles. Ethos includes actions of an individual or organization demonstrating judgment and discernment processes that clarify and amplify their ability to judge wisely and objectively. The word ethos is deeply connected to the word character, for an individual or an organization. It is who you are, not what you say you are that counts. It is your literal word and handshake, not your legal contract that counts. It is not about the size of your wallet, home, office, or even your flashy-witty advertisement, but rather it is about the consistent demonstrated quality characteristics of your personal or your organization’s character - or ethos - that is important.
The fact that a professional can demonstrate conformance to a code of ethics does not imply that the professional has an honorable ethos, is capable of managing a sound decision-making process and has the self discipline to adhere to an exemplary ethos to self-monitor for course correction and self-improvement as an ethotic genuine professional. In the spirit of moral and ethical decision making, for your mother or an organization, we will say that the most profound definition of ethos is expressed in how a person or organization demonstrates the integration of governance, stewardship, and leadership that is above and beyond the legal goal of possessing the outward persona and title of fiduciary.