Ethical Leadership

Aspects of Ethical Leadership All Business Leaders Should Know

The COVID-19 pandemic unexpectedly tested the systems and structures of all businesses and organizations worldwide as they experienced the inevitable need to create resilient and sustainable organizational plans and strategies.

And because of it, people across the globe couldn’t help but compare and contrast the more effective leaders with the less effective ones. These recent trends have shown the importance of effective leaders and have served as a wake-up call on why we need to have ethical leaders within our organizations.

So what is ethical leadership, and how exactly does one get to be considered an ethical leader?

What Is Ethical Leadership?

What Is Ethical Leadership?

As an experienced executive, you know that training and workshops often emphasize the crucial difference between being a boss and being a leader. Instead of ordering people around, you were taught why it’s better to guide people; instead of managing and acting like a boss, as a leader, you were taught how to inspire people. As an ethical leader, you have to exert the right amount of effort to inspire, guide, and nurture your employees to motivate them to improve themselves.

You’ll have to demonstrate your leadership qualities and conduct yourself both inside and outside the boundaries of your workplace. According to the Harvard Business Review, ethical leaders will stand by what is right and just, even if this may not benefit the business. By setting the right example, your integrity and leadership skills will speak for themselves. You have to show good values not only through your words but also through your actions.

Characteristics of Ethical Leadership

Ethical leaders know what is right and how to always do the right thing. It may not be easy at first, but you shouldn’t be afraid to act based on what you truly believe is "right" — even if it’s not popular, convenient, or profitable. 

Here are characteristics of ethical leaderships that all leaders should adopt:

  • Honesty and Justice: Followers will always trust an honest and dependable leader. Being honest means you are willing to be transparent about facts, even if it’s against popular beliefs. Additionally, an ethical leader should always be fair and just to everyone by treating all team members equally despite gender, ethnicity, nationality, or other factors like personal biases and favoritism.
  • Respect for Others and Humanity: An ethical leader knows how to respect all the members of their team. At the same time, they know how to be compassionate to each of them. Not only will you need to practice listening attentively and valuing their contributions to the group, but you also need to be humane and genuine in these aspects.
  • Values in Decision-Making: In ethical leadership, cross-check your decisions with your organization’s overall core values. It means each of your actions and decisions needs to meet this criterion before you even start to implement them.
  • Leadership by Example: With ethical leadership, you have to lead your employees by example. Set the same standards for yourself as the high expectations you set for your team members. As an ethical leader, you need to walk the talk and practice what you preach.
Principles of Ethical Leadership

Principles of Ethical Leadership

You cannot implement and change your leadership style with the snap of a finger. Nor will it be beneficial for your organization to enact instant changes. Here are fundamental principles of ethical leadership you have to cultivate and gradually adapt to ensure effective implementation among your team members:

  • Ethics and Corporate Integrity: By creating a culture of corporate integrity, you teach your employees to become ethical in all their decisions whenever they perform their duties and responsibilities. Remind them to always act with integrity and behave according to your organization’s values and moral principles.
  • Empathy and Communication: At the core of ethical leadership are the values of service and empathy. Listen attentively every time a team member asks for your advice. And with genuine interest, you also have to learn how to understand and empathize with each team member’s challenges while taking the steps that should help and support them. 
  • Corporate Social Responsibility: A company’s contributions will often affect various aspects of society. When it comes to ethical leadership, you have to learn how to measure and control your organization’s impact on society by assessing your company’s overall effect on the economy, environment, and greater community.

Before you implement these changes into your organization’s systems and structure, go back to your primary purpose and ask yourself the following questions: What is ethical leadership, and how do I implement this leadership style? What are the characteristics of ethical leadership that I can apply in our company? And lastly, what are the principles of ethical leadership which can guide us through this transition?

Now that most companies are still reeling from the pandemic, working with a team that is anchored on their organization's core values and moral principles can ultimately lead a business organization towards success. 

Train Your Leaders on Ethics & Leadership

A Better Leader's training program provides comprehensive and interactive training on Ethics & Leadership (plus much more!). If you're looking to integrate a more ethical value system into your organization's culture, our training will do just that. In this lesson we discuss the following:

  • 6 steps your leaders can take toward more ethical behavior
  • Finish with a 4 question quiz to determine if a decision is ethical or not
Leadership Development Training Drift Chat
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About the Author Walter Orechwa

Walter is Director of IRI's Digital Workplace Solutions Group, and the founder of A Better Leader. Walter provides expert advice, highly effective employee communication resources and ongoing learning opportunities for Human Resources and Labor Relations professionals.