US Business News

What is Ethical Leadership

Ethical Leadership
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Dr. Amin Sanaia, DSL, MHA

Ethical leadership is a type of leadership in which the leader demonstrates conduct for the common good, which is appropriate and acceptable in every aspect of their life. It can also be defined as a kind of leadership that demonstrates and promotes normatively appropriate conduct through interpersonal relations and personal actions. This kind of leadership helps in creating a positive work culture, fostering loyalty, improving brand image and reputation, and increasing productivity. 

To put it into perspective, ethical leadership means that individuals in leadership behave according to a set of values and principles that are recognized by the majority as a basis for the common good. They include respect, integrity, fairness, trust, honesty, and transparency. Being an ethical leader is more than just being morally upright or having strong values. It is about demonstrating thoughtful and appropriate conduct inside the workplace, respecting ethical values and beliefs, and being motivated by the rights and dignity of others. As an ethical leader, you ensure that ethical values are aligned throughout the organization, avoid bias, promote open communication, and be willing to admit mistakes and accept responsibility. 

In an organizational setting, ethical leadership involves putting people in leadership or management positions who will promote and be an example of appropriate and ethical conduct in their relations and actions in the workplace. This kind of leadership is defined by three major traits:

  1. Be the Example – Leading by example is a noble quality of every ethical leader. Their actions tend to speak louder than words. Since people are more likely to judge an individual based on actions than words, the actions of an ethical leader inspire others to be ethical. By demonstrating the use of honest, ethical, and unselfish behavior, ethical leader earns the respect of their peers who naturally become their followers. 
  2. Effective Communication – Ethical leaders are good communicators and easily approachable. They are able to communicate with different members of the team, allowing for open communication. Followers can easily raise concerns, ask questions, or discuss issues with the leader opening. This quality allows ethical leaders to build camaraderie with their team and create quality relationships built on trust, integrity, fairness, compassion, openness, and respect.
  3. Champion the Importance of Ethics – An ethical leader focuses on the overall importance of ethics in an organization, including ethical standards and conduct. As a champion for ethics, such leaders teach peers about ethics and how to address ethical issues. 

Why Ethical Leadership is Important

Ethical leaders play an important role in organizations. They establish a positive environment with productive relations among the individual, team, and the organization as a whole. By nurturing relationships at these levels, ethical leaders promote positive outcomes. For instance, practicing positive communication can influence followers’ attitude and their job productivity. When the entire management team is involved in ethical leadership, they can improve the morale of the entire group leading to better performance scores. Individuals are also more likely to adopt a culture of respect for one another, improving the overall well-being of the company. 

Ethical leadership touches almost every aspect of the organization, including the employees, customers, investors, and the company as a whole. Such a leader can help investors feel that the organization is trustworthy and worth investing in. On the other hand, the customer will be more likely to become loyal when they see an ethical leader at the helm of the organization. Similarly, vendors and partners feel that they can trust and work well with an organization led by an ethical person. 

From a collective perspective, ethical leaders inspire those around them to behave ethically. They set an example and the direction for ethical behavior. Other members of the organization observe such behavior and act similarly. By adopting this kind of behavior, ethical leaders positively influence their followers and present them with a set of actions to adopt for the greater good. On a more personal level, an ethical leader is deemed to be credible and with high regard. This further booth self-esteem, leading to the optimal outcome and the opportunity to achieve full potential. 

Ethical leadership has both short-term and long-term impacts on the performance of the organization. In the short term, the leader can help in boosting employees’ morale and help them feel excited about their work and the management. This further increases collaboration and positivity within the organization, making everyone feel happy to be part of the organization. In the long term, such a leader can prevent company scandals, ethical issues, and ethical dilemmas. They can also help the organization in gaining more customers and partnerships, which improves the bottom line. 

Core Values of Ethical Leadership

Ethical leadership is a culmination of moral values that makes a person. An example of such a leader is a manager who manages several employees in an organization, showing respect to all of them equally. The leader listens to different views and opinions of the surbodinates, supports their beliefs and interests, and encourages them to always act in fairness. Such a leader also promotes honesty, being considerate of others, and leading by example. 

The goal of ethical leadership is to ensure an all-inclusive future that allows people to be the best versions of themselves and perform to their full potential. As a champion of ethics and moral behavior, the core values of an ethical leader can be well understood using the acronym, FATHER:

  • Fairness – Ethical leaders are fair in the way they interact and associated with others. By being fair to others, they also expected to be treated fairly in return. Fairness also means non-tolerance of favoritism and ensuring that the situation is the same for everyone. This may include treating everyone equally, even when it comes to discipline. If two people commit the same error, then an ethical leader will punish them in the same way.
  • Accountability – Ethical leaders are accountable for their decisions and mistakes. They accept the fact that humans are prone to making errors and own such mistakes whenever they happen. Instead of blaming others or moving away from their mistakes, such leaders take accountability and choose to resolve the issues. 
  • Trust – Trust is a key component for running a great team and achieving success. An ethical leader trusts their team to get the work done and perform exemplary. Whether is leading a high-performing team in an organization, a football team, or the military, ethical leaders empower everyone to trust in themselves and those they work with.
  • Honesty – An honest leader is more trustworthy, easy to approach, and tends to be appreciated by others. Such a leader is upfront, truthful, and transparent in all activities. By being honest, an ethical leader creates an environment for open communication and discussion on important issues. This further feed directly into the trust, encouraging followers to be honest too. It also challenges followers to be more open as well, especially during challenging situations. 
  • Equality – Equality forms the basis of human survival and happiness. Simply put, no one wants to be treated unequally or discriminated against. Everyone wants to be given an equal share and be treated the same way as others. When a leader is discriminatory, it shows that they are not well-rounded or moral. An ethical leader provides a level playing field for everyone and fosters an attitude of looking at issues with the same level of respect around team members.
  • Respect – Respect is at the core of being an ethical person. While the leader may not agree with the other person, being respectful shows regard for their feelings, wishes, and rights. Being respectful also means the ability to consider the thoughts and ideas of others, and why there are differences in points of view and thoughts. The leader acknowledges others, their feeling, ideas, and principles, allowing for a cordial relationship with others despite the differences. 

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