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How to be an ethical leader in 6 steps

Do you want to find out how to be an ethical leader in 6 steps?  Do you want to be a leader who inspires your team to make ethical choices or be the one in the news for your bad ethical failures?

How to be an ethical leader

Ethical Leader

How does one be an ethical leader when surrounded by a lack of organized standards of behaviour and training, a lack of accountability and not enough positive role models?  When you find yourself surrounded by individual leaders ignoring organizational values and industry codes, lacking self-control and following the crowd, how do you stand out from it?


Will you put your ethics before the bottom line?  Doing this will make your team loyal and ethical in return.


Steps to take to be ethical

These are 6 steps you can take to define the ethical standards for yourself and your organization and how to put these into practice.


  1. Know Your Personal Values

What standards of behaviour are really important to your company?  What specific values do you admire in certain leaders? Do you identify with those values?  Would you still live by those values, even if they put you at a competitive disadvantage?

You need to answer these questions and decide if you follow your own personal values as well as your organizational values.  Good leaders do.


  1. Define Your Organization’s Values

As a leader, people will look to you to set an example in ethical leadership.  To do this you must know your organization’s values, so that you can incorporate and live them in your day-to-day business.

Ethical companies uphold the highest standards and are aligned with their core values.  They have clear rules about the behaviour expected of its people that are specified in the organization’s mission and vision statement.

You need to communicate these rules clearly to your team members.  When people understand why ethical behaviour matters, they will more likely behave accordingly.


  1. Define the behaviour

Once you have defined your organizational and personal values, you can create the right environment for your team and your organization.

Being a good role model is the best way to do this.  The people in your organization will ‘follow your lead’, and do as you do.  By being a good role model you set an example for others to follow.

If one of your values is honesty, ensure that you demonstrate this by being transparent with everyone around you. And if your company values free speech, make a point of allowing your team members to openly communicate their ideas.

Once you have defined the good behaviour, let your people know the consequences of behaviour that doesn’t follow the corporate values, or behaviour that breaks the rules. This is to remind people of the standards of behaviour that is expected of them.

Rewarding, or appreciating people who consistently act according to the company values is important too.


  1. Identify Ethical Dilemmas

Some ethical dilemmas you face in the workplace are not totally obvious, such as if a colleague is dishonest about the performance of a project.  How do you identify unethical behaviour in your organization?

Some situations seem to attract ethical dilemmas such as promotion, hiring, firing, purchasing and bonuses.  You need to be aware of your actions and behaviour when in these situations.

If a situation makes you uncomfortable, or goes against one of your core values or beliefs, stop and think things through rationally before proceeding.  Listen to your conscience, it will tell you when something is wrong.


  1. Address Ethical Dilemmas

Now that you have recognized the ethical dilemma, you have to decide what to do about it.  This is the difficult part.

There are various ways to respond to an ethical dilemma:

  • Prepare in advance. Consider how you would handle an ethical dilemma, and be prepared to do so in reality.  If you had to respond immediately, be ready to do so.  Getting team members to recognize and prepare for ethical dilemmas of their own can also be helpful.
  • Take the time to investigate and assess whether someone has behaved unethically before taking action.
  • Revisit your decision before you act. Before you do anything ask yourself how you would feel if your actions were made public. Would you be proud of what you did? If not, reconsider your decision.
  • Get advice. The most senior leaders take advice in difficult situations, so get input from others to help you assess a situation more rationally.  This can help you reach a better-quality decision.
  1. Be Courageous

Ethical Leader - courageTrust yourself and your instincts in uncomfortable situations.  You will find yourself having to act on decisions that you know are right, but they will have unpleasant consequences.  If you calm your anxiety and look logically at the situation, your instincts will often guide you in the right direction.


Doing the right thing

To be an ethical leader means doing the right thing.  This means that you need to make hard decisions and even be unpopular with those who follow you.

You need to set an example for those you lead.  Having values defined for your organization will help you keep on track.  These values and your instincts will lead you through the ethical dilemmas you will face.

Lead and inspire those around you by being honest and always do what is right.






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