Effective leadership is an extremely important component of any successful organization. Leaders must be a visionary and an example and must guide the company to achieve organizational goals. There are a wide variety of leadership styles, but ethical leadership has evolved as one of the more prominent and effective styles.

Many of today’s most admired leaders follow this leadership model. In this article you’ll discover the definition and history of ethical leadership, personalities that generally use this style of leadership, tips for becoming a more ethical leader, and ways this leadership style can positively impact your business.

What Is Ethical Leadership?

Ethical leadership is deeply rooted in psychology and the belief that good leaders would never ask their subordinates to do anything that does not align with the company’s view of ethical and moral behavior. Similarly, ethical leaders would not ask subordinates to do anything that they would not be willing to do themselves. Ethical leaders are motivated by respect for others and generally gain credibility by engaging in behavior that others deem as unselfish and morally and ethically appropriate. These behaviors can include anything from honesty, follow-through, and treating others with respect and kindness. In addition, ethical leaders will talk frequently about the importance of ethics in the workplace. The combo of talk and action is very effective in gaining the compliance and respect of followers.

Who Uses Ethical Leadership?

Some of today’s most admired leaders led through ethical leadership. Generally, this leadership style is used by more introverted, yet people-oriented personalities. These leaders typically have a high level of emotional intelligence and are able to easily empathize and coach others. Empathy and emotional intelligence are extremely important qualities for an ethical leader. They tend to gain respect through their service-oriented attitude and willingness to help others. This form of leadership is most commonly seen in the military, religious institutions, and politics to name a few.

Five Tips for Becoming a More Ethical Leader

Ethical leadership is a very admired leadership style. Every leader could benefit from using this style a little more when guiding a team or group. If you’d like to exercise more ethical leadership in your current role, there are a few things you’ll want to establish within your group:

1. Clearly Define Expectations

The first thing you’ll want to do is clearly outline what is considered ethical within the confines of your group. Your team will want and expect some direction when it comes to being a team player. The definition of ethics will vary between different organizations and industries, but it is important that you take the time define what ethical behavior means to you. This way, your group will understand the expectations up front and will use these as a road map for practicing more ethical behavior.

2. Act Appropriately

Once you’ve defined the parameters of ethical behavior, you have to be extremely careful that you as the leader don’t fall short of the expectations. You can’t ask your employees or subordinates to follow a code of ethics if you aren’t willing to behave ethically yourself. Your followers will be silently watching the way you handle situations, so you’ll want to be as committed as possible to acting in an ethical manner.

3. Incorporate Ethical Messaging

Another way to become a more ethical leader is to promote and encourage ethical conversations and messaging throughout the workplace. Consider displaying posters, purchasing coffee mugs, or simply sending a weekly email reminder on the importance of ethics and respect. These little messages remind employees of the values they all share and might have a positive impact on overall behavior and team morale.

4. Create a System of Rewards

You can reinforce ethical behavior by rewarding employees who go above and beyond to do the right thing. This can be challenging for many leaders because the more common form of reward is according to performance. Some may reward high sales performance or the completion of a big project. However, a person looking to practice ethical leadership might instead reward someone who brought in food for the team, or admitted to a wrong-doing.

5. Develop Others

Last but not least, ethical leaders will take a vested interest in their subordinates. Ethical leaders continuously look for ways to improve morale and develop their people. This means taking time to meet one-on-one with each team member and finding ways to challenge them and help them develop new skills. In larger organizations, it may be difficult to meet individually with each person. Still, your team should know that you are available and willing to help as needed. Consider creating an open door policy and inviting your subordinates to chat regularly about their needs. This simple act demonstrates concern and will have a huge impact on your workforce.

code of conduct written in blocks

Ways Ethical Leadership Can Help Your Business

Ethical leadership, studies prove, has several positive impacts on business. For one, the relationship between leader and subordinate suffers great improvement when ethical leadership is the company’s policy. The subordinate has much more trust and satisfaction on the job. To business leaders this can greatly impact the bottom line as it reduces the likelihood of turnover expenses. In addition, research suggests that employees who are content or happy with company leadership are more likely to engage than counterparts who do not have a trust in leadership. Similarly, employees who actively engage in processes are much more productive, creative, and loyal to the company.

Ethical leadership has also shown better ethical behavior in the workplace. Employees who work with an ethical leader are more likely to report problems. They will put forth more effort, and fix or resolve an issue. Employees who feel comfortable reporting issues can help stop a problem before it escalate. As a result, this may save the company huge headaches in the long run.

Overall, ethical leadership is highly effective in the workplace. Leaders who choose this style will reap the rewards of a work environment under the sign of trust. Companies will also find their staff do their job better, being more productive and happy.

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