How To Be An Ethical Leader

Ethical behavior in the simplest form is knowing what is right and how to act upon that knowledge. In our current competitive business world ethics are often pushed aside or brushed under the rug entirely. There is a vast difference between being simply a boss and being an ethical leader. As a manager your actions directly affect your employees and according to Linda Thornton, author of Seven Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership, having a team that acts ethically in the workplace starts at the top. Ethical leadership has a positive impact on corporate culture and managers who understand this are more likely to attract and retain top talent and clients. How can you practice ethical behavior and lead by example?


Read further for three tips on how to be an ethical leader:

1: Implement clear codes of conduct.

Having a clearly defined and reinforced code of conduct will help employees navigate any grey areas in the ethical continuum. Set the right cultural tone for your organization from the start. Do not shy away from practicing ethical behavior in training modules and employee reviews and performance metrics. Click here to read examples of codes of conduct form successful companies.


2: Practice thorough and open communication.

According to a recent study, 8 out of 10 people stated that miscommunication frequently happens at work. From the start you should be as transparent as possible when communicating with your team. Communicate the values and integrity you strive to foster within your organization. Be open and honest with what behavior is expected and what type of behaviors are unacceptable. Create an environment where employees can feel comfortable and protected coming to management with any ideas, issues or to report any potential unethical behavior. Have an open door policy but be sure that conversations are kept completely confidential. In doing so, you’ll become a trustworthy leader and your team will feel more confident in communicating with you and co-workers.


3: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees they will take care of the client.” – Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group

Setting your employees up for success will have a trickle effect in the performance metrics of your organization. It is important to recognize how ethics influence your employees as well as your clients. Try to make a commitment in pushing your organization to go beyond complying with laws and regulations. Adopting environmentally friendly and people centered ways of doing business are good examples of how your organization can actively engage in more ethical practices that can positively impact your employees.


Ethics can be in the eye of the beholder, so if you become uncomfortable with the way things are being run with in your organization, you have the power to change it. When employees notice their leaders exhibiting trustworthy behavior and actions they are more likely to emulate the same principled behavior. Lead your team by example and put these tips into practice to foster an environment of trust and respect for overall happier, healthier employees who will follow suit.