The Bathsheba Syndrome

Recently, I read an interesting article entitled ‘The Bathsheba Syndrome: the ethical failure of successful leaders,’ by Dean Ludwig and Clinton Longenecker.

- Advertisement -

Ethics plays a crucial role in fresh produce markets because market agents represent farmers on the trading floor. Market managers also carry a serious ethical responsibility because they provide the facility for trading to take place.

The Old Testament tells of how King David of Israel plunged into the depths of deceit and unethical decision-making because he could not control his desire to have something (a relationship with Bathsheba) that he knew was wrong to have.

This scenario is all too frequently played out thousands of years later in the top echelons of business and politics. Most of today’s business leaders have risen to the top through hard work, dedication, and ‘keeping their noses clean’. Why then, do some ‘lose it’ at the pinnacle of their careers? I can think of one or two successful market agents, as well as market managers, who simply ‘went off the rails’ in this way. What triggered their behaviour and the willingness to risk breaking the trust of their farmers?

- Advertisement -

Ludwig and Longenecker identify four potential by-products of success that may cause some leaders to fall into ethical violation:

  • Personal and organisational success leading to complacency and loss of focus;
  • Privileged access to information, people or objects;
  • Unrestrained control of organisational resources;
  • A belief in one’s ability to manipulate or control outcomes.

Trust relationship
Even leaders with a highly developed moral sense can be tempted by ‘opportunities’ resulting from the convergence of these four dynamics. I am satisfied that most of our market agency leaders do ‘the right thing’ because of their acute appreciation of the trust relationship with their farmers.

For the very few who do stray, not only will they have to face the law, but they will lose that most precious of all business assets – a sound trust relationship.