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The Importance of Ethical Leadership

When I talk to managers, I get the feeling they are important. When I talk to leaders, I get the feeling I am important. – Alexander den Heijer.

This sentence sums up the definition of a true leader.

Leaders must inspire those around them to behave ethically. They are there to set an example and improve the people around them. When they set a good example and behave ethically, they are noticed and emulated. In this way, ethical leaders can positively influence others, presenting them with a set of actions they too can adopt for the common good. Ethical leadership is essential at a time when corruption is a major issue, in both, industry and politics.

Indeed, ethical leadership is essential for credibility and reputation. Becoming a leader is a long-term goal. Unethical behavior can automatically discredit the leader and greatly damage their personal and corporate reputation. Additionally, unethical behavior more often than not undermines self-esteem, making it impossible to achieve optimal results and reveal one’s full potential.

What is Ethical Leadership?

The best way to do is to be. – Lao Tzu

Leaders play a crucial role in business and politics because they have been chosen to guide others.

Ethical leadership encompasses many aspects, but six criteria are fundamental:

  1. Honesty – Honesty makes ethical leaders worthy of the trust that others place in them. This means that leaders are committed to playing the competitive game by the rules, and to communicating honestly with others.
  2. Fairness – Being fair means treating everyone equally, offering opportunities without favoritism, and condemning inappropriate behavior and manipulation, as well as any other action likely to harm others. 3.
  3. Respect – Ethical leaders respect those around them, whatever their position or identity. This means listening to every stakeholder, promoting inclusion, and appreciating diversity.
  4. Integrity – Integrity is demonstrated when values, words, and actions are aligned and consistent. We must also act accordingly to demonstrate integrity.
  5. Responsibility – Being responsible means assuming a role and taking action. It means exercising the power and fulfilling the duties implicit in them, always responding in difficult situations.
  6. Transparency – Transparency primarily concerns communication with all stakeholders. It means establishing an open dialogue, accepting opinions, and providing others with the information they need to do their jobs. It is not just a vertical pattern.

The Consequences of an Ethical Leader Can Only Be Beneficial

The benefits of an ethical leader are many, such as:

  • They know their intrinsic values. Knowing oneself well is the first trait that ethical leaders must possess. By being clear about their values and principles, they can make them manifest to others, take a stand, and negotiate from a position of strength.
  • They behave ethically over the long term. Reputations are built on repetition. The trust others place in them can disappear very quickly if they deviate in their behavior, even if they have acted well in the past. Leaders must send continuous signals to show others that they can be trusted.
  • They do not tolerate deviations from the code of ethics. If someone acts against the ethical code and the leader does not take corrective action, this could indicate that the ethical code matters little. Ethical leaders are no exception in this respect. In doing so, they establish consistency and credibility, and avoid confusion and doubt about accepted behavior.
  • They dare to tackle problems, even at the risk of losing popularity. They stand by their convictions. Ethical leaders know that omitting certain details can have serious consequences.
  • They observe situations carefully to identify potential problems. When in doubt or faced with a dilemma, ethical leaders share their concerns, even if this means slowing down or redoubling their efforts.
  • They admit mistakes, take responsibility for them, and communicate their corrective plan if necessary. If things go wrong, ethical leaders do not try to minimize events. On the contrary, they take responsibility for the mistake, find ways to solve the problem, and communicate all possible corrective plans to stakeholders. This shows that they care about the situation and are doing everything in their power to resolve it.
  • They are prepared to take full responsibility. As Napoleon Hill once said, “A good leader must be prepared to take responsibility for the mistakes and weaknesses of his followers. If he tries to shift responsibility to others, he will not remain a leader. If one of his followers makes a mistake and proves incompetent, the leader must consider that he himself has failed”. Lack of responsibility in organizations leads to inefficiency, confusion, inaction, and wasted time and resources. Ethical leaders take responsibility and shape the present and future through their actions and statements.
  • They are always present and speak on behalf of their teams. Ethical leaders respond in good times and bad. They support their teams and stand up for others when necessary. They are the first to be there on stormy days. They guide and help their teams overcome difficulties. They know they are there to serve the interests of their teams and their organization before their own.
  • They act fairly. Leaders face many decisions and negotiations. Their behavior clearly favors longterm gains over short-term ones. They encourage meritocracy and fair treatment of everyone, regardless of status, ethnicity, age, or any other factor of potential discrimination.
  • They do what they say. Finally, ethical leaders act with integrity. They practice what they preach. Their values, discourse, and actions are aligned and visible to all. If one day they fail to live up to the same expectations they have of others, they risk losing their credibility and reputation. Leading by example is a conscious choice that requires constant attention, but the results are unequaled.

The Effects of Ethical Leadership

Ethical leadership benefits organizations in many ways:

  • A stronger sense of belonging. When a company’s and an individual’s values are aligned and ethical principles are embraced, everyone’s well-being benefits. This creates a positive context that reinforces and encourages ethical behavior, creating a virtuous circle in which everyone feels comfortable with the benchmarks and is in a position to give their best.
  • Better customer relations. Customers feel they have made a good decision to work with your company when they perceive and see ethical leadership and cultural values. This encourages them to continue doing business with you while promoting your reputation for playing fair in the marketplace.
  • Respect for communities and society. Organizations run by ethical leaders set a good example for others and are respected and valued in return. It is such organizations that people want to work for, do business with, and that others want to be alike.
  • Support in times of crisis. The world is changing fast, and companies can face many challenges. But the public wants to see ethical leaders and the organizations they work for succeed. Having leaders who behave ethically and act with kindness and respect can be the key to getting through difficult times.
  • Loyal employees. When leaders are fair and equitable, team members have one less reason to go elsewhere. Ethical leaders provide an optimal working environment for employees by inspiring, developing, and establishing a culture of trust and respect. This leads to significant benefits, such as reduced turnover, improved productivity, and loyalty.
  • A greater sense of morality. A strong emphasis on values and ethics creates a positive working environment with a better atmosphere among people who understand each other well. When the roots are strong, the stresses and strains of daily work are reduced.
  • Greater market stability. Organizations run by ethical leaders are less likely to find themselves in a state of crisis overnight due to internal factors. Investors generally recognize and appreciate this.
  • Superior motivation. When every team member knows that the company is working ethically and for the common good, they want to contribute to achieving the company’s mission.


In conclusion, the distinction between a manager and a true leader lies fundamentally in the ethical resonance of their conduct and the empowerment they bestow upon others.

A leader, rather than merely directing, nurtures a landscape of self-worth, fostering a culture where individuals feel valued and integral to the common vision. In the face of prevailing corruption in various spheres of our society, ethical leadership stands as a beacon of hope, steering collective consciousness toward moral rectitude and shared prosperity.

As we navigate complex landscapes, both in industry and politics, the transformative power of ethical leadership cannot be overemphasized. The true leader, thus, emerges as a guardian of moral integrity, guided by the principled beacon of righteous conduct, and instilling a profound sense of self-worth in others, thereby, not only safeguarding the sanctity of leadership but inspiring a chain reaction of virtuous behavior.

Leaders who adhere to a moral compass cultivate environments ripe for growth, self-expression, and the realization of one’s fullest potential. Upholding ethical conduct ensures the long-term viability of leadership roles, protecting both personal and organizational reputations from the detrimental repercussions of moral collapse.

As we stand at the juncture of forging paths grounded in ethical leadership, let us remember that a true leader enriches, uplifts, and illuminates, fostering a world where everyone feels not just led, but important, seen, heard, and valued.

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