Business ethics is concerned with the collective values, morals, and beliefs of individuals and organizations. Business leaders must uphold and exemplify a company’s ethical values, as well as embody the heart and soul of the organization. These leaders do more than manage employees. Ethical leaders take the initiative, inspire others through their words and actions, and set high standards. Ethical leaders guide and nurture others rather than direct them. Even their social media personas reflect both their own values and the company’s. Leaders shape a company’s culture and mission.
Every turn presents an ethical quandary. And not just in the obvious industries like banking and finance. It is also not limited to common violations such as manipulating statistics, concealing assets or liabilities, or misusing company funds. It can also take on more subtle forms. Although these subtle forms may go unreported, they are usually not overlooked, especially when committed by managers and leaders. Accepting gifts from vendors, stealing company property, team member favoritism, or harmless jokes that contribute to a negative culture are all examples of this.
Unethical behavior by business leaders can permanently stain companies and cultures. Their rash decisions erode profits, tarnish brand names, and harm relationships with customers, employees, and investors. Yet, ethical business leadership is essential today because its positive effects can be felt in various areas, from hiring and accounting practices to product development and customer data management.
An example of ethics
Assume you’re on the phone with your most important customer and your boss, and the customer is highly dissatisfied. Your product experienced an outage that significantly impacted their business, and they want to ensure that it does not happen again. Your boss assures them that this is a one-time occurrence that will not be repeated. When you hang up, you remind your boss that this problem is becoming more common among customers and that a solution is still in the works. “Yes,” your boss says, “but they don’t need to know that right before their contract renewal.”
Do you want to work for someone like that? Or conduct business with someone like that? They purposefully put their customer in a bad situation to obtain credit for a contract renewal. This not only strains your relationship with your customer but also shows everyone on your team that this behavior is acceptable. As others imitate your behavior, your company’s reputation suffers, customers leave, and finding new customers becomes difficult.
Furthermore, companies with ethical leaders and practices perform better. Learning and implementing leadership skills to do the right thing can benefit current and aspiring business leaders. But how do we learn these valuable skills?
Contrary to popular belief, these skills can be taught, and we aren’t all born leaders. Courses like a master of engineering management online program can help you develop and nurture these essential skills. Engineers often focus their early careers on mastering their job’s technical aspects and responsibilities. However, following the development of a practical skill set and a strong work ethic, some engineers feel ready for more responsibility, more variety in their daily tasks, and a stronger desire to contribute to their company’s ability to achieve its strategic goals. One way to do this is to become a manager. A Master of Science Engineering Management Online degree program provides the holistic leadership and communication skills required to manage a high-technology, cross-disciplinary team. But what other skills are needed to be an effective, ethical leader?
The skill and the will
There are numerous reasons to be a moral leader. First, leaders can inspire those around them to act ethically collectively. Others will observe and work similarly if you set an example and provide guidance for ethical behavior. As a result, ethical leaders can positively influence many others by presenting them with actions they can take for the greater good.
Being a moral leader is critical for credibility and reputation on a personal level. It takes a long time to become a leader. Behaving unethically can knock a leader out of the A-league and severely harm their personal or company brand. Furthermore, unethical behavior frequently lowers one’s self-esteem, resulting in a suboptimal outcome. Ethical leadership encompasses many aspects, but it ultimately boils down to these ten key components.
Consider your upbringing: treat others how you want to be treated, always say thank you, help those in need, and so on. However, as you grow and society advances, conventions change, causing values to shift. This is the most difficult challenge that ethics faces in our culture and at work, as well as the most difficult challenge that ethical leadership faces. What was once universally accepted as good, true, correct, and just is now the subject of heated debate? Values-based leaders face significant challenges in this relativistic environment. Ask yourself what is important to you as an individual, and then align that with your company’s priorities. Defining your values expresses your authenticity while encouraging your team to do the same.
While your values do not have to be the same as those of your employees, you should be able to find common ground with them. This frequently begins with the hiring process and is sustained by a vision statement. I do not believe everyone is a good fit for every company, which is fine with me. However, companies must do a better job finding people who share their values rather than simply hiring for the experience. Hiring employees with diverse backgrounds and perspectives is advantageous because they bring unique solutions to problems. When it comes to values, however, I believe that having and hiring people who share your values is critical. Nobody wants to work for someone whose values they do not share.
Fairness is a fundamental ethical leadership characteristic. Fairness is concerned with how humans interact with one another and expect to be treated. We hope to be treated fairly and treat others fairly in return. Favoritism has no place in fairness when the situation is the same for everyone, and fairness is also related to how you discipline someone. If two people commit the same mistake, they must be punished equally.
Being held accountable for poor decisions and mistakes is a positive trait and an essential characteristic of ethical leadership. Some of us make mistakes and move on quickly, while others blame someone or even the gods. Taking responsibility for an error, on the other hand, demonstrates that you are a strong, well-rounded leader whom others want to follow.
In the workplace, a lack of responsibility leads to confusion and inaction. As an ethical leader, you must always accept responsibility for your mistakes and admit your flaws in front of your coworkers. Full responsibility also necessitates taking charge in difficult situations and implementing a plan to safeguard the organization’s current and future integrity. If a team member makes a significant error, it is your responsibility and, as a result, in your best interests to improve the competency of the employees you manage.
Leading by example
Ethical leaders should uphold the same standards as those who work for them. Ethical leaders assist their employees with daily tasks so they have a thorough understanding of what their coworkers do and the challenges that can arise from their work. These leaders can then guide employees as they go about their daily tasks. Ethical leaders also demonstrate how to be honest and moral in their work, setting an excellent example for other employees. Employees are more willing to make ethical decisions in their work when they see their leaders making decisions with integrity and honesty in mind.
Good leaders must be able to evolve and adapt to the inevitable changes in the business world. Adaptability is critical for success as businesses grow, are bought out, merge, and so on. Good organizational leaders are ready to face the changes that are on their way. This encourages employees to be adaptable and evolve with the times. Leaders can help steer the ship in a positive and ethical direction, whatever the future holds for a company.
Great leaders create an environment in which everyone feels included. Not only is progress made through collaboration, but each team member feels valued and appreciated for their skills. An ethical leader, rather than focusing solely on competition, ensures that their team feels supported and uplifted by those around them. I used to believe that a boss and a leader were the same. Now I understand that a true leader does not isolate themselves from the rest of the group. On the contrary, they are eager to work alongside their team to solve problems.
Building genuine connections with those around you is part of being an ethical leader. A leader’s role includes using their platform to inspire and assist others. Ethical leaders inspire others to emulate them by displaying qualities such as kindness, empathy, vulnerability, and honesty. Leadership entails serving as a role model and exhibiting characteristics that foster a comfortable, welcoming environment.
With leadership roles comes increased pressure and stress. Employees will likely feel stressed and demotivated if this pressure results in frequent outbursts. As an ethical leader, it is critical to deal with stressful situations productively and positively to put those around you at ease. Find ways to manage the stress that does not burden other team members and encourage employees to openly discuss their anxiety or concerns with you.
People are distrustful of those who frequently lie or omit facts. That is why an ethical leader must always be transparent and fair regardless of the consequences. Almost always, your team members would rather hear an unpopular truth than a likable lie. Consistent honesty fosters trust between a leader and a team and encourages open discussions about job performance, personal struggles, and workplace challenges.
Even though you are a leader and technically higher in the chain of command, your team members should never feel this way. To demonstrate respect for your employees or followers, you should always listen carefully, value their contributions, and not dismiss their concerns or comments. As an ethical leader, your goal should be to make each team member feel like you are all on the same page and working toward the same goals. Your team will be more fluid and successful if you succeed.
So, now you know what is needed to become an ethical leader. Next, let’s look at the benefits of becoming a moral leader for yourself and your organization.
The effect of ethical leading
Word spreads quickly in many industries. If you build a reputation for yourself that includes keeping your word, making the right decisions, and always putting ethics ahead of monetary gains, your business will grow. People will begin to trust your word and turn to your company for answers. Ethical leadership benefits organizations in a variety of ways. Here are a few to give you food for thought.
When the company and individual values are aligned and ethical principles are adopted, everyone’s general well-being will increase. This leads to a positive atmosphere, which reinforces and fosters ethical behaviors, creating a virtuous loop where everyone will feel at home and in the right condition to give their best.
There are legal guidelines that govern the various decisions that your company can make daily. A typical example is a sexual harassment policy in place at work as a result of laws governing such behavior. By implementing an ethical leadership style, you are creating a system in which the organization complies with all local, state, and federal laws to ensure the safest possible working environment.
Ethical leaders are always conscientious. They are cautious and thorough in all their decisions. These leaders take their positions seriously, wanting their direct reports and themselves to succeed as often as possible. Simultaneously, there is a focus on empowerment to ensure that the organization and its employees can continue to grow. When a leader has a strong moral identity, the emphasis on conscientiousness can be passed on to others.
Ethical leaders create an environment where employees can feel a stronger connection and emotional attachment to their work environment or the company. Strong emotional bonds are formed due to the daily social exchange between the leader and the staff. As a result, a chain reaction of positive attitudes and behaviors occurs throughout the workplace. Ethical leaders make their employees feel respected, fairly treated, supported, and emotionally committed.
One surefire way to achieve growth and success is to conduct business ethically. One of the benefits of ethical leadership is that it attracts potential investors and valuable prospects. In addition, setting a clear standard for ethical business practices will instill trust in potential investors.
Consumerism has evolved in such a way that it emphasizes a company’s values and ethics as well as the goods and services it offers. A company’s overall morality has the power to make or break its brand identity. If you demonstrate ethical leadership characteristics in everything you do, word will spread that you are a well-intentioned company working to improve our world somehow.
Solid leadership results in an ethical organization. It instills accountability, responsibility, and trust in its processes, systems, and people. Ethical leadership starts with top management walking the walk and modeling appropriate behavior through their actions, which influences others to do the right thing. Winning teams have more faith in their teammates and look forward to working together on the path of righteousness. On the other hand, groups that have experienced failure tend to harbor mistrust and look for the next best opportunity elsewhere.
Organizations that have failed to develop ethical leaders have also been subjected to negative media and bad PR. There are numerous examples of unethical leaders who prioritized personal gain and engaged in criminal behavior, putting themselves and the associated brand in hot water. On the other hand, organizations with ethical leaders and employees have a competitive advantage with their internal employees. Employees have a positive attitude toward their employers and are more likely to stay with the same company for extended periods.
Leaders must deal with pressures from all sides. What issues you address first will reflect your company’s priorities. Whether or not your employees are a part of that conversation, the consequences of those decisions will be felt down the road. Small decisions made at the top about what to prioritize filter down and influence culture. Make sure that your choices are steering your teams in the right direction.
There are various types of leaders and leadership styles. Simple ethical leadership is perhaps the most fundamental and essential style. This entails doing good for employees. It involves being fair and honest and feeling and displaying a genuine concern for their well-being. Ethical leadership’s advantages are job satisfaction, emotional commitment, and protection against job burnout.