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How can I be an Ethical Leader?

How Can I be an Ethical Leader?

How Can I be an Ethical Leader?

Leadership is a crucial aspect of any organization and it plays a vital role in determining the success or failure of a business. Good leadership has an ethical dimension and it is essential for leaders to possess a strong moral compass to guide their decision making. Unfortunately, when leadership is unethical, bad decisions are made and people, including employees and customers, suffer. It is for this reason that ethical leadership training is so important.

What is ethics?

Ethics is a branch of philosophy, not psychology. Ethics teaches people how they should act, especially in their relationships with others. Because there are many different philosophies, there are many ethical systems from which to choose. Most leadership training is based upon psychological models, such as:

  1. Maslow's hierarchy of needs,
  2. Mintzberg's leadership roles,
  3. Theory X and Theory Y.

These models focus on understanding the psychological needs and motivation of leaders and how they may respond under certain circumstances. Whilst these models can be useful, they do not fully capture the complexity of leadership.

In reality, leadership is more philosophical than psychological. Philosophy studies: logic and reason, ethics and morals, politics and economics, art and aesthetics.

These philosophic factors are far more important to leadership than psychological factors. Leaders who are illogical and unreasonable, unethical and immoral, politically and economically illiterate, and artistically and aesthetically naïve will inevitably fail.

In order to be ethical, we must decide which values we should hold; and then we live by them; every day, in every way.

Religious ethics.

Many ethical principles are derived from religious philosophies. For example, as a child, I was taught the 10 commandments, which were taken from the Christian Bible. But ALL religions come complete with an ethics. Indeed, ethics is one of the main reasons children are taught religion.

Non-religious ethics.

We don't need to be religious to be ethical: Secular ethics are often as good as religious ethics. Secular Humanists have their own ethics, which boil down to, "Treat people the same way you would like to be treated".

What qualities does an ethical leader have?

Ethical leaders are rational and logical, so that they can make good decisions based upon a rational evaluation of all the available evidence.

Ethical leaders treat people with respect and justice.

Ethical leaders are politically and economically competent, so they can navigate the social dimension of business with ease.

Ethical leaders are artistically and aesthetically stylish so they can build an attractive brand for the business.

In addition, ethical leaders should be:

  1. Honest.
  2. Have Integrity.
  3. Hard Working.
  4. Peaceable.
  5. Co-operative.

1. Honesty.

Honesty has two aspects:

  • Honesty in terms of speech: Leaders should tell the truth.
  • Honesty in terms of property: Leaders should never steal or defraud.

2. Integrity.

Integrity means "Always acting in accordance with ones professed beliefs":

Leaders should act in accordance with their own statements.

Some people say one thing, but do the opposite.

They lack integrity.

For leaders who have integrity, their "word is their bond".

3. Hard Working.

For humans to survive, at least some people must work hard.

Laziness is a vice, since if everybody was lazy, then the human race would starve to death.

All lazy people count on non-lazy-people to "pick up the slack" that their idleness creates.

In that sense, lazy people are parasitic.

Leaders have a strong "work ethic".

4. Peaceable.

For us to survive, we need to have peace. If there were no peace, then there would be no survival.

Aggressive, warlike leaders lead their followers to destruction.

Ethical leaders (eg Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King) believe in living by peaceable thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.

Ethical leaders are interested in peace, not war.

5. Co-operation.

When we act as individuals, we are not a particularly impressive species. Compared to other animals, we are not particularly big, we cannot fly, we have no claws, we cannot run fast, we cannot swim well. But when humans cooperate, and work together, then we can do amazing things.

Leaders should inspire cooperation.

Cooperation is a virtue and an ethical good.

Leadership Training

In conclusion, ethical leadership is essential for the success of any organization. It is important for leadership training to focus on the philosophical principles that underpin good leadership rather than just psychological models. Ethical leadership training should focus on teaching leaders how to think critically and make ethical decisions. It should also teach them how to navigate the complex political and economic landscape of business and how to build a strong and attractive brand.

By training leaders to be rational and logical, ethical and moral, politically and economically excellent, and artistically and aesthetically stylish, organizations will have leaders who are better equipped to navigate the complexities of business and lead their organizations to success. If you are interested in becoming a better Leader/Manager, please attend our Leadership and Management Training Course.

About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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