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What is Ethical Leadership?

Leaders are expected to ‘get it right’, although it’s not always easy to determine what the right course of action is in all situations. Many leaders make the wrong choices, some resulting in highly damaging consequences. 

There are organisations who appear to constantly be getting things wrong, ending up in the news for all the wrong reasons. Then there are others who are managed by ethical leaders who inspire their team members to follow suit.  These are the leaders who continually appear to make the right decisions and take the right action at the right time.


So, what constitutes ethical leadership?

Ethical leaders are values led. They appear to define their standards and establish a strategy for putting them into practice.  They ensure their ethics come first, integrity is paramount.  This is evident in the way they interact with their teams and in their approach to difficult situations and decisions.  This results in an environment, or culture, of mutual respect and a team that cares enough to practice these ethics.

Those who lead with integrity set a positive example.  Leaders need to remember that all eyes are on them, those around them model their behaviours so, demonstrating moralistic behaviour encourages great behaviours.  Being able to demonstrate such behaviour depends on the degree to which leaders fully understand both their own and the organisations values.

For example, ‘3M has been recognised by Ethisphere Institute as a World’s Most Ethical Company for a 5th Consecutive Year.’ This is because the company ‘recognises that corporate integrity, character and transparency impact the public trust of companies, and maintains an unwavering commitment to ethics.’ Their code of conduct is their biggest competitive advantage and the reason they’ve attained an unparalleled reputation. Their leaders have created a working environment in which compliance and ethical business conduct are the norm and instill this commitment to ethics throughout the organisation.

Ethical leaders establish a code of conduct and articulate this clearly to all employees.  They enforce these codes in the workplace and demonstrate how they expect their team members to act. They consistently exhibit behaviour that will earn respect from their employees as well as inspire them to perform at their best and remain deeply committed to the company’s performance and success.  They are continually setting a positive example.  To gain the confidence of their employees they are willing to listen and provide a private space to discuss issues anonymously.  
Ethical leaders uphold both their personal and the organisational values. They give serious consideration to the standards of conduct that are both important to them and the company.  They consider which other leaders they admire and model their behaviour.

To cultivate trust, ethical leaders establish an open-door policy and ensure their employees understand that their suggestions and ideas are always welcomed and valued. They ensure that company information is readily available to all and they demonstrate transparency in decision making, maintaining an openness in all communication.

Finally, ethical leaders create a ‘no excuses’ setting in which all are expected to comply with the ethical guidelines at all times.  No one is exempt from complying, and those who do overstep the mark are held accountable. Everyone is responsible for being ethical, not just the leaders.  
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Posted on Tue, May 01, 2018 in Leadership Organisational Development
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