An ethical leader is honest, trustworthy and considerate to others. They act as a role model for their team and encourage open communication and transparency. People are more likely to follow an ethical leader; they develop teams who are loyal and committed to serving the organisation’s purpose.

Are you an ethical leader?

Ethical leaders cultivate a working environment in which people feel safe and free to communicate their ideas. Effective leaders take ethics into account when making decisions and when setting boundaries and policies. They live by their values, respecting others and create cultures of openness and transparency. Some might devise a corporate code of ethics and conduct and inspire others to adhere to these guidelines. But whether or not there is an explicit code of ethics, the leader’s behaviour will demonstrate his or her ethical stance and will set the tone for what is acceptable behaviour in the organisation.

The consequences of failing to practice ethical leadership

Unethical behaviour results in a loss of respect for, and confidence in, the leader. A lack of ethics destroys trust, and a lack of trust undermines commitment and performance. An organisation which becomes known for its unethical approach risks losing credibility, employees and customers.

Strategies for becoming a more ethical leader:

1. Show interest in others

Ethical leaders take the time to learn more about their team members and take a genuine interest in their wellbeing and development. They provide and welcome regular positive and constructive feedback. They ensure that they are putting the talents and strengths of each individual to best use and that they are helping others to reach their full potential. Ethical leaders ensure that everyone understands the value of their role and contribution.

2. Own up to your mistakes

Ethical leaders accept responsibility for their mistakes and do not pass blame for errors they have made. Leaders are human too, and they make mistakes. The most important thing is how leaders deal with the situation. Ethical leaders admit their failures, apologise and ensure the mistake is not repeated. This is how they earn the trust and respect of their team and customers. Honesty and integrity build trust and connection.

3. Reward and celebrate ethical behaviour

Be proactive not only about ensuring everyone abides by the ethical code of practice, but also by rewarding and celebrating ethical conduct. Leaders must be clear about what ethical conduct looks like and the benefits of practicing it in the workplace. Take the time to reward and celebrate ethical behaviour and demonstrate the positive impact it has on team morale, engagement and results.

4. Empower others

Ethical leaders demonstrate belief and confidence in their team and empower them to step up and take responsibility. By releasing control leaders encourage higher levels of competence, creativity and innovation. If your team understand that you have their best interests at heart, they will be more committed and motivated to behave ethically themselves and to help realise the vision.

Ethical leaders lead by example and keep their promises and commitments. In turn they gain the respect of their team and customers and see higher levels of performance and engagement.

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