How to be an Ethical Leader
There is an evident difference between a leader and a boss, and the way they make those below them feel. Do they abuse their power to intimidate workers, or do they lead by example? The latter is key to managing a healthy, happy team.
“In today’s transparent social media driven world, senior executives, especially those with a high profile, will be tested and called to task over their morals and ethics in how they do business,” said Shane Green, author of “Culture Hacker” (Wiley, 2017). “This used to be more focused on business practices but is now shifting focus on their leadership practices as well. Businesses and their leaders are under a microscope. How they act and interact with those around them professionally will have a significant impact on their ability to attract new talent and ultimately their bottom lines.”
Ethical leadership should be implemented by every person in a management position. This style of leading fosters an environment of trust and respect with workers and executives. If you want your company to reap the same benefits, follow these tips to becoming an ethical leader.
Define and align your morals
Consider the values you had growing up – treat others how you want to be treated, always say “thank you,” show support to those struggling, etc. But as you grow, and as society progresses, conventions change, often causing values to shift.
“This is the biggest challenge ethics face in our culture and at work, and the biggest challenge ethical leadership faces,” said Matthew Kelly, founder and CEO of FLOYD Consulting and author of “The Culture Solution” (Blue Sparrow Books, 2019). “What used to be universally accepted as good and true, right and just, is now up for considerable debate. This environment of relativism makes it very difficult for values-based leaders.”
Kelly added that to find success in ethical leadership, you should demonstrate how adhering to specific values benefits the mission of the organization.
“Culture is not a collection of personal preferences,” he said. “Mission is king. When that ceases to be true, an organization has begun its journey toward the mediocre middle.”
Ask yourself what matters to you as an individual and then align that with your priorities as a leader. Defining your morals not only expresses your authenticity, but it also encourages your team to do the same, creating a shared vision for all workers.
Hire those with similar ethics
While your ethics don’t need to be the same as your workers’, you should be able to establish common ground with them. This often starts with the hiring process and is maintained through a vision statement.
“I do not believe that every person is a fit for every company, and that is okay,” said Green. “Companies need to do a better job ensuring they find people who are aligned with their values rather than just hiring for experience. People of every race and sexual orientation have different values, so I believe that you can still create a very diverse, respectful work culture and team that is aligned around certain ideals.”
In fact, Kelly believes it’s valuable to hire employees who have different experiences and perspectives because they each offer their own solutions to challenges.
“But when it comes to values, I think having and hiring people who share your values is critical,” Kelly added. “Nobody wants to work for somebody who doesn’t share their values … Without mutual respect, it is very difficult to form a dynamic team, and most people find it very difficult to respect someone who doesn’t share their values.”
Promote open communication
Every employee is different, even if they share similarities. With each decision you make, be transparent and encourage feedback from your team. This helps you become a better leader and helps your workers feel more confident sharing their ideas or concerns.
“I believe that one of the important responsibilities for the modern company is to create an environment where open communication is encouraged and that, more importantly, people are listened to,” said Green. “We are seeing a lot of employees calling on their companies to change policies, drop customers or take a stand on current issues. Companies cannot bend to every employee’s demand, but what they do need to start executing is to create forums where employees can raise their viewpoints, feel they are listened to and receive follow-up explaining why certain things can or cannot happen.”
Beware of bias
As humans, many of us were instilled with subconscious beliefs that might be outdated or offensive today. No leader wants to admit to their flaws, but not practising self-awareness can lead to detrimental consequences.
“Everyone has a bias, but for the longest time, you were not called out on them because they were never really challenged,” said Green. “Now that the workforce is more diverse, whether, with race or sexual orientation/preferences, some unexposed biases are being called out. Managers need to … look at themselves and be honest that they do in fact have biases that may impinge on another person feeling comfortable at work.”
If you are an open-minded leader, you will build and maintain better relationships with your workers.