Moral Compass: Apple CEO Tim Cook v. Indiana Governor Mike Pence

TEXT: This morning, in an op-ed in The Washington Post, Tim Cook who is the CEO of Apple wrote the following: Our message, to people around the country and around the world, is this: Apple is open. Open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or whom they love. We will never tolerate discrimination… America must be a land of opportunity for everyone. This isn’t a political issue. It isn’t a religious issue. This is about how we treat each other as human beings. Opposing discrimination takes courage. With the lives and dignity of so many people at stake, it’s time for all of us to be courageous.

Tim Cook wrote this message in response to the actions of the Mike Pence, the Governor of Indiana, who on Friday signed into law a bill that will allow its citizens to deny service to anyone if an individual feels that to provide service would be offensive to his or her religious beliefs. The law is aimed at discriminating against gays and lesbians. Of that there is no doubt. How do we know that? Because during the debate on the law, when an amendment was proposed that would have expressly prohibited the law from permitting discrimination, the amendment was defeated. Additionally, while the Governor claims that he would have vetoed the law had he thought that it would be used to permit discrimination, when he was invited to expressly state that it would not be used to discriminate against gays and lesbians, he refused. And he was invited to do so 8 times in the span of 8 minutes yesterday morning. He refused. Instead, when he was asked if he would support changing the law to assure that it would not be used to discriminate against gays and lesbians, he stated, “I would not push for that. That is not on my agenda.”

Let’s talk moral compass.

A moral compass, mine, yours, Tim Cook’s, Mike Pence’s, are the principles that inform our choices, our behaviors, and our actions. Our moral compass is on display every day simply by way of how we interact with one another and by way of the choices we make that affect the lives of the people in our communities. Each one of us helps to shape our world and the world for the people we care about simply by way of our everyday actions and our choices. As time goes on, we will be living in a world that is shaped by the strength of our moral compass.

Some people find themselves in positions that allow them to exert a greater influence on the world around them, again through their choices and their actions, and as a result exert a greater share of influence on shaping the world we will all be living in as time goes on.

What kind of world do you want to live in?

A Tim Cook world vision: A world that is open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or whom they love. A world where we will never tolerate discrimination.

Or a Mike Pence world. A world in which the opportunity to change the laws that permit discrimination are not on the agenda.

I’ll choose a Tim Cook world vision: One in which we treat each other as human beings. It’s one in which opposing discrimination takes courage.

With the lives and dignity of so many people at stake, it’s time for all of us to be courageous.


Send Governor Mike Pence your message.

Tweet him at @GovPenceIN

Support the initiative to pressure the legislature to change the law by sending a message #BoycottIndiana

Action Reveals Values: Starbuck’s CEO Schultz Stands Up for the Company’s Value of “Embracing Diversity” (Video)

At Starbucks’ annual shareholders meeting in Seattle, Wash. last Wednesday, CEO Howard Schultz told off an investor who tried to argue that the company’s support for same-gender marriage is bad for business.

The shareholder Tom Strobhar, founder of an anti-gay marriage group, claimed that as a result of the National Organization for Marriage’s boycott of the coffee company, “in the first full quarter after this boycott was announced, our sales and our earnings — shall we say politely — were a bit disappointing.”

Watch as Schultz replies bluntly that Starbucks’s endorsement of marriage equality is not about making money, but about the principle of embracing diversity. Then, he goes on to disabuse the shareholder of the claim that financial returns were disappointing.

Schultz finishes, “if you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38 percent you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares of Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much,” Schultz said, to applause from the audience.


Words to Inspire: Neil Armstrong

The single observation I would offer for your consideration is that some things are beyond your control. You can lose your health to illness or accident, you can lose your wealth to all manner of unpredictable sources.  What is not easily stolen from you without your cooperation is your principles and your values. They are your most precious possessions and, if carefully selected and nurtured, will well serve you and your fellow man.  Society’s future will depend on a continuous improvement program on the human character. 

— Neil Armstrong, USC Commencement Address, May 13, 2005

We Must Stop Bullying. It Starts Here. And It Starts Now.

On Sunday, April 22, in response to the tragic suicide of a 14-year-old boy who had been relentlessly hasassed and bullied after coming out as gay, the Sioux City Journal faced down those who would say that bullying is simply a part of life and declared, “those people are wrong, and must be shouted down.”

We must make it clear in our actions and our words that bullying will not be tolerated. Those of us in public life must be ever mindful of the words we choose, especially in the contentious political debates that have defined out times. More importantly, we must not be afraid to act.

The Journal published the following full page opinion piece on the front page of the paper to stand up to bullies, to those who condone their behavior and to their apologists.

“Siouxland lost a young life to a senseless, shameful tragedy last week. By all accounts, Kenneth Weishuhn was a kind-hearted, fun-loving teenage boy, always looking to make others smile. But when the South O’Brien High School 14-year-old told friends he was gay, the harassment and bullying began. It didn’t let up until he took his own life.

Sadly, Kenneth’s story is far from unique. Boys and girls across Iowa and beyond are targeted every day. In this case sexual orientation appears to have played a role, but we have learned a bully needs no reason to strike. No sense can be made of these actions.

Now our community and region must face this stark reality: We are all to blame. We have not done enough. Not nearly enough.

This is not a failure of one group of kids, one school, one town, one county or one geographic area. Rather, it exposes a fundamental flaw in our society, one that has deep-seated roots. Until now, it has been too difficult, inconvenient — maybe even painful — to address. But we can’t keep looking away.”

Read the full editorial >>

Peter’s Perspective: Letter to Mrs. Obama on the President’s Decision Not to Protect LGBT Federal Contractors

Dear Mrs. Obama,

Please have a stern talk with your husband about the importance of living by one’s values. He seems to be losing sight. Two days ago, he signaled that he will not issue an Executive Order that would protect men and women who work for Federal contractors from either being discriminated against in hiring or being fired because they are gay or lesbian.

For all of your husband’s talk about fairness, this decision flies in the face of fairness and continues to support discriminatory practices that are perpetrated on good men and women, good American citizens. For all your husband’s talk about the greatness of our nation based on enabling every American citizen who works hard and plays by the rules to get a fair deal, the President’s refusal to issue the Executive Order to make that “talk” true for millions clearly signals that “talk” is all it is. His pretext that he prefers the legislative process is hollow since we all know that there is no chance that this Congress will send the ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) to his desk.

Does he have the humility to walk this one back and the courage to walk his talk? I can only believe that if your daughters were older, and were one to come out as a lesbian, the President would issue an Executive Order barring discrimination in a heartbeat. Perhaps he might want to put himself in the shoes of the millions of parents whose kids are gay, and who want only that their kids get a fair deal.


Peter’s Perspective: The Main Thing is to Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

Consider this bit of wisdom: The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing! 

Now let’s put it to use: If the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing, what’s the main thing?

If the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing, what are the main principles that will guide your actions?

Answer that riddle, and you will know how to act, in good winds and bad, when the choice is easy and, more important, when the choice is hard.

When you know who you are and who you commit to be, your choice of actions flows more easily and spontaneously, without a need for prolonged deliberation or strategizing or weighing the pros and cons.

Knowing who you are and who you commit to be is a discipline. It will equip you with a set of rules that allow you to engage in any game that your personal and professional lives offer up.

Knowing who you are and who you commit to be is a discipline that is tremendously liberating. The discipline imposed by the rules can free you of the chronic need to weigh, wonder, consider or calculate how to act or how to play, a need that accompanies an absence of rules.

Whatever actions you live by and play by, they become your signature. Now, we all routinely offer our handwritten signature in ways small to large, routine to rare, from signing a credit card slip for coffee to signing a tax return. Yet, much more often, we offer our signature through our actions, ranging from regularly pausing to offer a genuine hello and thank you to the coffeehouse barista to responding honestly in situations where we fear that the truth might be to our disadvantage or detriment. Small or large, pedestrian to profound, your actions are your signature.

When I take the time to look closely enough around me, I see plenty of individuals who effortlessly demonstrate character — I say effortlessly, because they know who they are to such a degree that they act on principle as a matter of course.

I see them when someone:

  • returns too much change given at the register.
  • picks up trash left on the beach by someone else.
  • takes in a stray dog, tracks down the owner and returns her safely home.
  • buys at a locally owned store, even if prices might be slightly higher than at the chain store.

I also see individuals who act from their core when it could be so much more effortless for them to do otherwise. 

I see them in the man, woman or young person who take it upon themselves to:

  • stand up against bullying — including the bullying of gay and lesbian teenagers.
  • stand up against the disrespect and sexual abuse of women.
  • advocate on behalf of dignity, equality or fairness.

Now, back to you and to the questions: What set of principles are you prepared to embrace privately, and share publicly? What is the signature by which you will be known? These are your main things. And, after all, the main thing is to keep these main things the main thing!

Excerpted from The Citizen Leader

The Defying Choice

The Defying Choice

In this fourth and final post of the series, let’s look at what happens if someone in a position of influence or power — someone higher in the chain of command — tells you to do something that runs contrary to your guiding principles (and cloaks that demand in the cloth of cultural values).

Here’s an example — an encounter that upset me at the time, and still upsets me now as I write about it. I was working with two individuals, both of them intelligent professionals in the high-tech field, who had recently been confronted with the dilemma of having to choose between personal integrity and professional loyalty. One insisted that while our examination of personal integrity and its connection to public credibility was all fine and good, it just was not the “real world.” He went on to explain that in his short tenure at his company, he had learned that it was best not to contradict the boss, but instead to simply do as he was told. The second person chimed in that she felt the same way. She followed that by sharing that her boss had told her to misrepresent test results so that a project could proceed uninterrupted, and rationalized his demand by saying they would fix the shortcomings later. She believed that she needed to acquiesce so as to show loyalty, and that not to do so would be seen as a liability to her career. She felt pressured by a seeming cultural norm for loyalty to compromise her core. At the time, she was only in her mid-20s.

Regrettably, all too often I witness this insidious insistence on loyalty (or other cultural imperatives such as conformity, shareholder value, victory, security and the like, any of which can suffocate personal principles). I regularly read and hear about its showing up in business and government in stories portraying individuals who have drifted away from their core to pursue power, profit, prestige, position, pleasure or personal gain. I observe it in the behaviors and words of individuals whose playbook for their real world parallels the philosophy that “Principle is okay, up to a certain point, but principle doesn’t do any good if you lose.”[1]

To acquiesce to a show of loyalty (or conformity, shareholder value, victory, security, and so on) at the expense of your core values causes injury to your character — an injury that can be a lasting liability to your career and your conscience.

I take heart in the words of Thomas Jefferson: “…in matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock…”

And I find courage in the wisdom of Mohandas Gandhi: “A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please or, worse, to avoid trouble.”

It takes real courage to defy someone, especially if that someone else is in a position to deny you something you desire. We are right back to dilemma. Or are we? By making the choice to defy someone else’s demand that you damn your own character, you safeguard the only thing that you can truly call yours — your integrity.

It’s up to you. In the end, you are the final arbiter of your actions. 

[1] Campaign advice given by former Vice President Dick Cheney to associates when he was White House chief of staff.

   Source: Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush, by John W. Dean.

Excerpted from The Citizen Leader

Living with Integrity in Your Community (II): The Defining Choice

The Defining Choice

This is the third post that explores the options that we might consider when we find ourselves in a situation that pits our personal guiding principle against the shared values of one of our communities. This situation can (and probably will at some point in your life) bring you to a tipping point where you can and must consciously choose to define (or perhaps redefine) both yourself and your life.

Let me illustrate. Ten years ago, I was part of a small team of consultants and facilitators conducting leadership development seminars for clients throughout the country and all over the world. This required a ton of travel — another airport, another plane, another hotel, another dinner alone. And while it was up to each of us to choose whether to take on yet another client, culturally our explicit principles of teamwork and client delight translated into an implicit understanding that we would only sparingly say no. Each time I acquiesced to that cultural value, each time I said yes even though I really wanted to say no, I was choosing to be away from home. That choice chronically bumped up against my personal value that I would make healthy choices for mind, body and spirit (which included choosing to spend time with friends and to focus on forming a primary relationship). While I cared greatly for the other members of my team, and I was devoted to doing great work for our clients, I also deeply wanted to strengthen my friendships and settle with a partner (both of which required face-time at home). I had lived with the dilemma for many years.

It was mid-September when this chronic dilemma grabbed hold of me hard and offered me yet another choice between the competing values. I had just returned to work from having taken a two-month unpaid leave of absence into which I had tried to cram what I hoped would be a sufficient amount of face-time with friends to satisfy my longings to strengthen my relationships, and maybe even create new ones. I had also hoped that my sabbatical would help me establish a healthier balance between my personal principle to make healthy choices for my body, mind and spirit and the workplace values of teamwork and client delight. Yet, in the first few days after my return, I was asked to take on client engagements that would require nine back-to-back weeks of travel.

So, while I might have taken a break, my dilemma hadn’t budged, and it met me square-on upon my return. What to do?

I could go back to saying yes, even though I really wanted to say no, or I could choose to be the person I was striving to be. (Have you heard Einstein’s observation that insanity is defined as doing the same thing the same way you’ve always done it, and expecting to get different results?) Well, I chose to do things differently this time around. I made a choice in favor of making healthy choices for my mind, body and spirit. I ultimately decided to resign. More to the point, I decided to make the saner choice: to remove myself from a culture whose values caused me too frequently to minimize my own. I have never regretted that decision, never.

Excerpted from The Citizen Leader

Living with Integrity in Your Community (II): The Dilemma

The Dilemma

My Uncle Anthony grew up in Brooklyn, New York, among a community of immigrant parents and first-generation American kids, an environment much influenced by a culture of family.

Many individuals with whom I have worked over the years profess to pattern their behaviors and choices after an adherence to family. When I’ve asked them to explain, they have shared stories that show vastly different definitions of what family looks like in action. Among those differences:

For some it means spending time with family — that is, regularly making choices that permit them to be with members of their family.

For others it means providing for family ­— in other words, engaging in activities that provide for the maintenance and welfare of the family.

Of course, there is no correct or right or singular definition of family, just as there is no singular definition of many, if not most, principles or values. What is important, though, is that with regard to the handful of principles that you attach to, you make the effort to develop definitions that resonate with you and that inform you in your interactions with the world around you.

I cannot promise that it will be easy to settle on a clear definition. Deciphering and deciding from among many differing interpretations will pose its challenges, if not its dilemmas, just as the concept of family does. Nor can I promise you that it will be easy living by a definition once you have settled on it. Much to the contrary, you can expect to run up against community or cultural or workplace values that conflict with your own and that seem to force you to choose between competing concerns. This is the nature of dilemma: having to make a choice from among one or several alternatives, each of which presents some upside and some downside. For example, let’s say that you hold to spending time with family as a personal value. Meanwhile, suppose that teamwork is one of the principles in your work community. It is almost predictable that occasionally the two will clash, both competing for your presence and your time — both laying claim to your choices. We see and feel much confusion, even consternation, about how to balance the two in contemporary culture.

Suffice it to say that you will encounter dilemmas along the way. There is no ideal path to follow as you navigate through. Your choices will be individual and situational. My hope is that they will be well considered and consistent with who you strive to be. This will be especially important — and an even stronger imperative — when:

–      dilemma pits personal principles against community values in ways that simply do not or cannot accommodate a balancing act, or

–      dilemma pits personal principles against personal desires (or wants) in a way that, by definition, one must give way to the other.

Excerpted from The Citizen Leader

Living with Integrity in Your Community (II): The Slam Dunk

Living with integrity in your community, that is, acting from your core — adhering to your own set of principles — is most challenging when one or more of your community’s values offends, prompts or, worse, insists that you violate your own values.

How do you handle it when one (or more) of the shared values of your community seems to be at odds with your guiding principles?

I do not ask this question lightly. Once again, “What do you do when your guiding principles seem to stand at odds with the shared values of your community?” I do not presume to believe that the answer is easy, either. Yet, the question is one that people struggle with every day.

Over the course of this next week, let me offer a few approaches from among a spectrum of possible responses. I draw these from my personal and professional life:

The Slam Dunk,

The Dilemma,

The Defining Choice

The Defying Choice.

Whichever your approach, it is up to you.


The Slam Dunk

At 97 years old, my Uncle Anthony didn’t hesitate for a moment to share the principles that had guided him through eight decades of his adult life. Picture this: his caregiver, Joy, had just gently combed his hair, and I remarked how fortunate he was to have someone so nice looking after him. He added, “Yes, and she is so very pretty too.” I jokingly replied, “Careful, Anthony — Joy is married.” Without missing a beat, he cracked, “But she has a younger sister.” I tried to be witty and cracked back, “Keep it legal, pal.” It was just our usual good-humored banter. Yet, on this occasion, without any prompting from me, Anthony paused, and with great presence continued, “I always have. That’s how I’ve lived my life.” I couldn’t resist, so I asked him to say more about what was going through his mind. What he said in the next moment has become a memory that I will treasure for a long time. With ease and with a solid sense of self, my uncle said, quite simply, “I have lived by three principles my whole life: I never tell a lie. I always pay my taxes on time. And I never get in trouble with the law.” 

Simple, clear, incisive. And each one a clear and true reflection of the man.

I never tell a lie. I never knew Uncle Anthony to say anything that he knew to be untrue. Oh sure, in our conversations, he had said things that were wrong or misinformed. We all do. But I had never known him to knowingly misrepresent.

I always pay my taxes on time. I have every confidence that he did. Yet, there was much more to this simple idea, much more that reflected a larger principle at play. Anthony knew what his obligations were to the people in his various and often overlapping communities, and he accepted and met those obligations head-on and without begrudging them. When he made a promise, he kept it. When he made a commitment, he followed through. When he assumed responsibility out of his own initiative, he persevered.

I never get in trouble with the law. And, to my knowledge, he never did — not even a speeding ticket. Yet once again, his words only touched the surface of a broader value that all who knew him witnessed regularly and routinely. Anthony had a solid, personal sense of what right action was, and what it was not. No one was going to tell him differently. Yes, there were those who disagreed with him. I certainly did, on occasion. Regardless, he relied on an internal gyroscope to stay true to his sense of right action every day. Whether in his professional life as an accountant, at home in a marriage of 52 years, in his community as a volunteer on the finance committees of his sports club and condo association or as the patriarch of an extended family of nephews and nieces (three generations’ worth!), my uncle played by a succinct set of rules. If challenged to act differently by the influences or the winds swirling around him, however tempting or menacing those winds might be, for Anthony Alduino, the answer to What do I do? was a slam dunk: Anthony did it his way.

Excerpted from The Citizen Leader