What is Ethical Leadership?

A leader is talking to her team


What is Ethical Leadership and How Can it Help Your Career?

Workplace culture is constantly evolving. The pandemic has placed workplaces under incredible strain by simultaneously accelerating the pace of change and shining a light on organisational culture. The result? Increasing demand for leaders who are ethical, accountable and effective. 

But what is ethical leadership? The concepts of ethics and leadership are closely intertwined, covering everything from external ethical business practices to how you treat your peers and staff. The most straightforward definition of ethical leadership is leaders who act with integrity and consistency following a set of moral values as a priority.

Adopting an ethical leadership style has an abundance of benefits, both financial and cultural. Forbes reports that ethical leadership can be a boon to business, while research published in the Journal of Business Ethics found that professionals with “moral intelligence” can help spread positive values through organisations and communities.

Learn the key ethical leader characteristics

The burgeoning field of ethical leadership theory has identified several key characteristics of ethical leaders. Becoming an ethical leader is an essential part of committing to corporate social responsibility. Continue reading as we explore some ethical leadership examples by unpacking their defining traits.

1. Assess unconscious biases

You may have every intention of being fair and equitable in the workplace, but all humans have blind spots known as unconscious biases that can negatively impact business goals and relationships. Unconscious biases can lead to lack of equal opportunity for promotions as well as a non-inclusive workplace culture. In contrast, taking the time to unpack your biases and how they play out in workplace systems supports a cohesive team culture. 

2. Practice empathy

Put simply, empathy is the ability to see things from someone else’s perspective. Leadership will sometimes require you to make tough decisions and convince others that you’ve chosen the right path. The chances of success for both of those objectives increases when you’re thinking through the lens of the motivations and struggles of those around you. 

3. Put values into practice

Many leaders claim to have moral values, but the true difference between ethical and unethical leadership is proven through talk becoming action. True ethical leaders live by their values 100% of the time, even when matters become complicated. Real leaders will act with true integrity even when they think no one is looking, recognised by peers and superiors.

4. Acknowledge mistakes

No one enjoys admitting they made a mistake. However, missteps are an inevitable part of growth, particularly as you take on more responsibility in the workplace.

Sweeping mistakes under the rug tends to lead to larger negative consequences over time, so it’s important to set an example for your team by being transparent when you make a mistake of your own. By doing this, you’ll help create a culture of openness and accountability and gain respect from your colleagues. 

5. Trust your colleagues and staff

Being trusting and trustworthy is integral to respectful working relationships between leader and team. By placing trust in your team members’ capabilities, you also encourage them to step up and own their responsibilities and projects. This means they’re more likely to do their best work and you can step back into a supportive role and avoid micro-managing. 

Upgrade your ethical leadership skills

When it comes to upskilling in business post-pandemic, Griffith University’s Online MBA has an unrivalled focus on ethical leadership. Students in the MBA develop advanced leadership skills through courses such as Marketing for a Better World, Finance for Responsible Value Creation and Developing Values Based Leadership.

Griffith’s 100% online MBA is ranked number 1 in the world for sustainable and ethical business education in the Corporate Knights Better World MBA rankings 2020 and 2021. The flexible online model gives you the freedom to upgrade your skills around your existing work commitments.

Book a call today to speak with one of our expert learning advisors about how the Griffith online MBA can help you make your next career move as an ethical leader.

Career Development During the Pandemic
Previous article
A Guide to Soft Skills VS Hard Skills
Next article