Leaders should be a key source of ethics in their organizations, promoting ethical practices and guidance for the employees.There are four things leaders should consider to foster ethical leadership: integration of ethics into leadership styles, cross-cultural influences on leadership, decision making in ethical leadership and employees role in ethical leadership. This list is not exhaustive but this are basic steps leaders can take.
- Integration of ethics into leadership styles: This is the leader asking themselves what kind of leader I’m I, Do I inspire others? Do I have a vision? I’m I striving to empower and improve? Carrying out a self- evaluation on your leadership is the first step to ethical leadership.
- Cross-cultural influences on leadership: The world is growing diverse and leading multi-culturally is not easy, different cultures hold different value systems and beliefs. However, there are shared premises of all human behavior that may act as tenets and guide against unethical practices in leadership. This are attributes that describe ethical leadership across cultures and include: character, integrity, people orientation and accountability.
- Decision making and ethical leadership: Making decisions based on rational choices is the underlying idea to fostering ethical decision making. However, being rational is mucked by numerous challenges that arise as a result of being human. The key here is to be aware of the weakness ‘man know thy self’. Being aware of ethnocentrism, inaccurate theories about the world and honesty when making decisions helps in building ethical leadership.
- Employees role in ethical leadership: Two scholars asked a very crucial question “what if leaders don’t behave ethically- who is responsible then?” This is when it becomes important to empower employees and build them up to be creative thinkers and making them able to actively respond to unethical leaders without fear.
It is important to note that unethical practices are not something rampant in most organizations. Most organizations to the contrary, have strong ethical cultures and policies to prevent unethical practices perhaps due to organizational beliefs or laws that protect against such conduct. However, bad news is easy to sell especially in today’s capitalistic society characterized by heavy competition. One wrong decision by a few leaders/employees can have a multi-national company with thousands employees dragged into unethical scandals, but this may not be the true representation of the situation. Of course there are some few exemptions of outright unethical companies whose vision, mission and goal is just profit at whatever cost, but this unethical journey does not last long thanks to laws, regulations and awareness in the business industry.
Leaders have a huge and tough role to play in establishing an ethical culture in an organization. Apart from developing formal documents and policies on ethical conduct, they must display ethical leadership in their leadership style, relations with others, daily behavior, conduct and decisions. They must send out strong messages on the importance of leadership and establish clear reward and punishment systems to hold employees accountable. Their focus must be on promoting ethical leadership instead of the avoidance of unethical leadership. Over and above these they must ensure that they have an empowered workforce that can actively respond towards unethical practices within the organization. Additionally, the organizational climate should be one that eludes ethical practices and behavior, it is not an easy task but such are issues that deal with ethics and morals.
In the words of Martin Luther King, the time is always right to do what is right.
The above text is a summary and extract from the paper Ethical Leadership: Beyond What Meets the Eyes for complete article click here