Ethical Leadership Starts With Us

Ethics and leadership are closely aligned and in my opinion, difficult if not impossible to separate. You can’t have strong, positive leadership without ethics. And you can’t have a robust, ethical culture without strong leadership that endorse and lives ethical values.

If ethics and leadership are entwined how do you become an ethical leader? And how do we build ethical organizations?

You may not face ethical dilemmas every day but you must develop the skill set to handle those dilemmas over time.

A Man (or woman) must have a code.There are the high level ethics and values that we all must comply with (think the annual ethics training many of you have to take at work) but there is also a secondary set of values- think of these as part of YOUR DNA.

These values are not the companies values – they are yours – you take them with you everywhere – work, school, home, church, the neighborhood – because they are part of your core, your DNA. These are your guiding lights in when it feels like all other guides have left.

Know Yourself

When you are moving so fast that you struggle to breath – those kinds of situations can lead to shortcuts, which can lead to ethical lapses. If you are asked to do something or sign off on something, take a second to listen to your body and your mind; Is your spidey sense telling you that something is off? Listen to it!

Ethical leaders model the behavior and ethical organizations support ethical behavior

Sometimes leadership is as simple as molding the behavior you want to see. If you want arrogant,  entitled individuals who flout the rules act that way. If you want individuals who are considerate, helpful and ethical act that way. It’s not enough to say how you want others to act, you have to demonstrate that yourself.

Ethical leadership speaks up and is supported.This is one of the hardest parts of ethical leadership – actually speaking up.  What truly matters is speaking up in support of ethical behavior when un-ethical behavior looks like an attractive end to a troublesome problem.

Ethical organizations support those who speak up

If you work in HR you’re probably pretty familiar with whistleblower laws and protections. Those are important for people that speak up about questionable behavior. Its nice that we have a law that protects these individuals but ethical organizations take additional steps to support those that speak out:

  • Training for managers on how to support and protect potential whistleblowers
  • Multiple methods for employees to report potential fraud (web, phone, snail-mail, HR, etc)
  • Training HR pros to recognize when someone is being targeted

Ethical leadership happens when you employ individuals with self-awareness to develop and maintain their own values andwhen the organization supports all forms of ethical leadership – training, mentoring and support for those that speak out.