Leadership Ethics

When we look at leadership ethics in leaders, it can be quite difficult to find the line which shows if something is ethical or not. The value of ethical leaders is found in their intentions to lead 'well' and these values can frankly be, under-valued in modern leadership.

There are two main areas of which you can judge a leaders ethical value...

  1. There actions and behavior of the leader in all circumstances.
  2. The personality and character of the leader.

These two observations will often give you a perspective on the ethical characteristics of a leader. But where do you cross the line? What is acceptable and what isn't?

Leadership Story: The importance of this is under-rated, but found in the longevity of leadership and the ability of consistency throughout organizations. I knew a really great and charismatic leader who was in a high up position in an organization where ethical values were highly rated. Unfortunately he broke one of the values and was immediately removed from his position.

This was a severe situation as something he'd done previous to his employment was held against him (rightly so) but what we do will always find us out. Character is vitally important and integrity follows us as leaders throughout our lives. You can see it best in the US presidential elections when things from the candidates past always come back to haunt them. It's sad that we can't be more forgiving as a human race but everything we do says something about us.

Characteristics of Ethical Leadership

Here we will provide you with a broad list of ethical leadership characteristics for you to apply to your particular situation. Obviously in one article we can't go through every ethical leadership scenario.

  • Servanthood - You will always find ethical leaders serving others. Although this may not be as obvious as you'd like to imagine, even top level executives in many instances should be working by serving others. When you look at servant leadership you'll find that leaders who do serve others respectfully actually gain a lot in response from employees and key stakeholders. This is an important ethical framework to work in or work towards.
  • Integrity and Honesty - These are two huge areas of leadership ethics. Unfortunately most leaders will fail on these two points for a very specific reason. Most leaders feel so isolated they will often feel pressured to the point of breaking and will fail on both of these fronts. When it comes to honesty leaders will go in with great intentions but even the best leaders fail a little sometimes to be truly honest to all people involved, especially when it comes to negative aspects of life.
  • Creating Community - This may not seem like an ethical issue to begin with, but it will surprise you. Human beings are created for community in a way that is completely ingrained on the human mind. If a leader is cultivating positive-life giving community in a place then they are failing in this ethical area. A great community of people within a team environment shows how great a leader is.
  • Emotional maturity - Another less likely leadership characteristic, emotional maturity is a must when it comes to being an ethical leader. If you aren't emotionally mature then you will fall on your face with all the other points we've outlined here. It is ethically necessary as a leader to make sure you are emotionally mature to cope with the rigors and strains of leadership. 
  • Good intentions - this is a great place to end our list. It would surprise you to know that many leaders don't have good intentions in many situations. Good leadership ethics will always do what they feel is right on an ethical scale. This doesn't meant that the best thing always happens or that leaders don't make mistakes, it just means they are trying wholeheartedly to bring the best out of situations and decisions.

If you're looking for more information on leadership please check out our leadership traits section or alternatively if you're looking for more information on defining leadership and leadership ethics have a look at those sections.

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