“Know when you’re willing to take off your badge.” This is a variation on ethics adage told to me by a well respected leader.  It means we all need to know where our line is. What principles will you stand on —- even if you risk losing your job, hanging up your hard hat, taking off your badge?

USCG Commandant Admiral Zukunft recently illustrated this adage and showed us what leadership looks like. Following tweets from the President regarding military policy, Zukunft publicly announced, “I will not turn my back…I will not break faith” with transgender people serving in the US Coast Guard.  Zukunft did more than just make a statement. He personally reached out to each transgender service member and stood up a “tiger team” to work the issue.

Before you stop reading because of the sensitivity of the issue, Zukunft’s statements suggest this isn’t about politics or transgender issues. He told at least one service member, “We have invested in you and you have invested in the Coast Guard.”  The Commandant’s position seems to be about fairness and loyalty, which happen to be two of the values outlined in the PRSA Code of Ethics.

It’s important for all of us to know what values and ethical principles we stand on.  What would it take for you to take off your badge for good? When was the last time you talked about ethics with a colleague? Stories like this Coast Guard example can prompt us to discuss ethical issues and reflect on how our PRSA Code of Ethics applies.  I encourage you to start the conversation today.

Michelle Egan, APR, Fellow PRSA

“Ethics, Strengthening Our Core” is the theme for PRSA’s 2017 Ethics Awareness Month in September. Activities include webinars, PR tactics article, Twitter chats (#PREthics), new materials for the classroom and blog posts. Learn more.