Decades of leadership and business scandals have led many to be skeptical that anyone can be an ethical leader. Indeed, some suspect the main objective of leaders is to simply increase production and profits — sometimes using any tactics.
But this view has been changing. Research has shown that the ethics of a workplace can be directly linked to bottom-line company performance. As a result, more and more people are taking it upon themselves to ensure standards of moral and ethical conduct in their offices, starting with themselves.
What does it mean to be an ethical leader?
— Be a role model of integrity. Integrity has been seen as the single most important leadership attribute across many cultures and countries. This means being credible and doing what you say you will do.
An effective leader honors commitments and expects subordinates and business partners to do so as well. He or she maintains loyalty, apologizes when necessary, and takes responsibility. Ethical leaders make the right choices for the long-term benefit. They understand that it all starts with them, and that if they don't project the values they wish to promote in others, employees will see them as a hypocrite and possibly ignore their ethical guidelines.
As Albert Schweitzer noted, "Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing." And as Warren Buffett once said, "In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And, if they don't have the first, the other two will kill you."
— Set ethical standards for the company. This is a critical first step in creating an ethical organization. These standards must be clear so that all employees understand what is meant. Employees must know how they should behave toward one another, customers and business partners. They also need to know what is unacceptable in the workplace.