Certification Does Not Guarantee Ethical Leadership

Within the business coaching industry and some other “unregulated” industries, there is a continued movement towards certification.  The premise is “certification” will improve the industry because of certain knowledge standards have been maintained.  Unfortunately there is a very large problem with this premise because certification does not guarantee ethical leadership.


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We have seen certified industries such as financial, medical and legal all experience the impact of unethical leadership. These industries are highly regulated and individuals are supposed to demonstrate a high level of knowledge, expertise along with ethical leadership.  Yet, even though people may respond with the correct ethical answers, living an ethical life is much more difficult.

Having a Master’s of Science within education, I have the extensive knowledge of how people learn (educational psychology) and the skills to write practical training programs that deliver a positive return on investment. My knowledge base is far more extensive than many “certified coaches.”

Then add in my now 18 plus years of delivering sustainable results within my  own executive coaching, business coaching and organizational development (workplace culture/employee engagement) practice, I truly do not believe certification would add that much to my expertise.  If I were to embrace certification, it would be for my own benefit not to showcase how much more qualified I am than someone else.

I truly wonder how many “certified coaches” begin their day by reading their “core values” or business ethics statement. Each day I read mine.  These are my own non-negotiable ethical leadership behaviors I will demonstrate 24/7.  I developed these from crafting my strategic business plan many years ago.

As noted in yesterday’s blog Is What You Do Priceless?, I recently came across a “certified coach” within the Dallas/Ft. Worth Texas area who was claiming the work of two other noted psychologists from the 1970s as his own.  He was not the first one I have witnessed demonstrating the lack of ethical leadership nor will he be the last one.

Then there are the “certified coaches” who continually steal the published works of others, thinking they will not be caught. I belong to informal group of sales coaches and consultants who regularly monitor their online postings.  When a member finds his or her work plagiarized the group will “bombard” the guilty person with comments. Usually, the post is quickly removed. This just happened yesterday when an unethical sales trainer had without permission plagiarized the works of five members of this group. Due to the quick actions by this group, he removed his blog.

This may sound somewhat jaded, but coaching certification only guarantees money for those who offer certification. Coaching certification does not guarantee a higher income for the now “certified coach” nor does it make him or her more ethical.  If coaching certification really was a true money maker, the majority of business coaches would be earning far more dollars.

Also I have a sincere problem with universities being the official designated coaching certification centers. Given their dismal graduation rates for 4 year full time college students, coaching certification is about making more money and not improving the industry.

No certification does not guarantee ethical leadership.  Some human beings will always take the easy road to make money and the easy road in many instances means engaging in questionable, unethical behaviors. No amount of certification will change those behaviors.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leadership in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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