The Social Sins and Leadership’s Role

Karl Bimshas
5 min readMar 5, 2024
The Social Sins and Leadership’s Role by Karl Bimshas

The “Seven Social Sins,” seen as detrimental to the well-being of society and individuals, originated in the 1920s and was popularized by Mohandas Gandhi. These structural or systemic sins are behaviors or attitudes contributing to societal injustices, inequality, and oppression. They are not committed by individuals alone but embedded within social structures, institutions, and cultural norms. Examples include racism, sexism, poverty, exploitation of workers, environmental degradation, and systemic corruption. They require collective awareness, action, and societal change to address effectively.

However, since individuals comprise culture, what about their impact on a smaller scale within our teams and organizations? Leaders play a crucial role in preventing and addressing these issues. Let’s explore how each social sin can manifest in leadership and how effective leaders can combat it.

Wealth without Work refers to acquiring wealth through unethical means or without contributing anything productive to society. It can involve exploitation, inheritance of unearned wealth, or simply not working for your income. This could manifest as taking credit for the work of others, delegating tasks without providing proper guidance or resources or expecting unrealistic output without acknowledging employee effort.

  • Lousy Leadership allows for exploitation and unjust accumulation of wealth without contributing to society’s well-being, often through unethical business practices or corruption.
  • Effective Leadership encourages fair wages, promotes entrepreneurship, ensures wealth generation through legitimate means, and contributes to the common good. Additionally, effective leaders prioritize policies that support job creation and economic opportunities for all members of society.

Pleasure without Conscience involves indulging in activities that bring pleasure without considering the potential consequences or harm they may cause to oneself or others. This includes overindulgence in anything from food and drinks to drugs and harmful relationships. It might also involve chronic absenteeism, prioritizing personal needs over team needs, or neglecting responsibilities due to distractions or personal pursuits.

  • Lousy Leadership encourages a culture of hedonism and selfishness, where individuals pursue pleasure at the expense of others’ well-being or without regard for ethical considerations.
  • Effective Leadership promotes empathy, compassion, and ethical behavior, encouraging individuals to consider the consequences of their actions on others and the broader community.

Knowledge without Character refers to gaining knowledge without using it for good or applying it ethically. This includes using knowledge for personal gain, manipulation, or harm, leaders who hoard knowledge instead of sharing it, withholding information to maintain power, or using their expertise to manipulate or exploit team members.

  • Lousy Leadership allows for the misuse of knowledge for personal gain or to manipulate others without consideration for ethical principles or the greater good.
  • Effective Leadership encourages the development of intellectual and moral virtues, creating a culture of integrity, honesty, and responsibility in pursuing and applying knowledge. Effective leaders lead by example, demonstrate ethical behavior, and promote a culture of accountability and transparency within their organizations.

Commerce without Morality means conducting business practices that are unethical or harmful to society or the environment. Examples include exploiting workers, misleading advertising or environmental damage, prioritizing profit over employee well-being, cutting corners on safety or ethical practices, or engaging in deceptive marketing tactics.

  • Lousy Leadership permits unethical business practices, prioritizing profit over ethical considerations.
  • Effective Leadership upholds ethical standards in business operations, ensuring fair treatment of employees, sustainable practices, and transparency in dealings with customers and stakeholders. Effective leaders also advocate for policies that regulate and hold businesses accountable for their social and environmental impact.

Science without Humanity refers to using scientific advancements without considering the ethical implications or potential harm to humanity or the environment, such as conducting unethical experiments or neglecting the human cost of progress. This might also manifest as a leader who prioritizes efficiency and productivity above the well-being of their team, neglecting the human element of work and creating a stressful or dehumanizing work environment.

  • Lousy Leadership allows the pursuit of scientific advancements without consideration for their potential ethical implications or consequences for human welfare.
  • Effective Leadership promotes responsible scientific research and innovation that prioritizes human dignity, well-being, and ethical considerations. Effective leaders also advocate for the equitable distribution of scientific knowledge and technologies to benefit all members of society and address pressing humanitarian challenges.

Religion without Sacrifice refers to practicing religion in a self-serving way, lacking genuine compassion and commitment to helping others or using religion for personal gain, power, or discrimination. You see this in leaders who prioritize their success over their team’s success, lack empathy and compassion for team members facing challenges, or hold personal gain over the organization’s needs.

  • Lousy Leadership promotes a superficial or self-serving interpretation of religious teachings, emphasizing rituals or dogma without a genuine commitment to service, compassion, and sacrifice.
  • Effective Leadership encourages adherence to the core values of compassion, empathy, and service embedded within religious teachings. It inspires individuals to live out these principles through sacrifice and service to others. Effective leaders lead by example, embodying humility, selflessness, and dedication to the well-being of their communities.

Politics without Principle refers to engaging in politics based on self-interest, manipulation, or personal gain rather than principles and serving the greater good. This can manifest as corruption, lying, and putting personal interests above the needs of the people, a leader who uses manipulation or intimidation tactics to control team members, engages in favoritism or nepotism or prioritizes self-preservation over making difficult but ethical decisions.

  • Lousy Leadership engages in opportunistic or corrupt practices, prioritizing personal or partisan interests over ethical principles, public welfare, or the common good.
  • Effective Leadership upholds principles of integrity, honesty, and accountability in political decision-making, prioritizing the constituents’ needs and interests over personal gain or party loyalty. Effective political leaders facilitate dialogue, cooperation, and compromise to address societal challenges and advance greater well-being.

The Leader’s Responsibility:

Leaders significantly impact the culture of their teams and organizations. They are responsible for creating and enforcing policies and practices that prioritize fairness, justice, and sustainability. They must also ensure that they hear and value diverse voices and make decisions that consider the well-being of all stakeholders. Embodying these principles and leading with integrity creates a more equitable, compassionate, and ethical environment.

Take a moment to reflect on your leadership style. Are there areas where you can improve? Challenge ingrained norms and actively work towards creating positive change within your sphere of influence.

Small steps can make a big difference. We can all contribute to a better future by taking responsibility and leading by example.



Karl Bimshas

Boston-bred and California-chilled Leadership Adviser | Writer | Podcast Host who helps busy professionals who want to manage better and lead well.