If there ever existed a topic up for debate, ethical leadership would more than likely fall within the top tenth percentile of prominence. The word “Leadership” itself commands many definitions and numerous interpretations. So when a topic as esoteric as ethics is thrown in the mix to compound the conversation, things can become a little bit complex.
‘Ethics’ itself is an inherently slippery term: it is recognized universally among all civilized cultures, however those very same cultures view its definition and application through very different sight. As opinions vary so widely over an international scale, we shall focus our short discussion on ethical leadership as it is recognized in the Western world.
Ethical leadership in the workplace can be broadly defined as leading a group of individuals keeping the best goals of the company in mind, while at the same time, respecting the personal rights and feelings of those individuals. Now if this sounds, upon first reading, like a difficult task, that’s because it is. The balance between peak production and profits, and employee comfort and satisfaction is a precarious beam. A good and ethical leader needs to be able to maximise one, while accommodating the other.
Occupying the middle ground between ownership and production, ethical leadership can indeed balance the two sides with some deft handling of people skills and communication.
- Have sales personnel practice a company wide policy of being as honest with the customer as they can be, without jeopardizing the account. If staff is already swamped and production is maxed out, don’t pile needless strain on an already hardworking system by promising the customer delivery of their product in five days when everyone knows damn well that it will actually take two weeks. Be realistic in setting delivery dates. A company will have a much more dissatisfied customer on their hands if their order is days late, rather than being initially quoted with some extra time.
- Be consistently honest with employees in production. Besides correcting mistakes, take time and use positive feedback to let them know when things have gone well. If in the case of an order that just has to go regardless of production being at capacity, leadership needs to let people know that their extra effort has not gone unnoticed. When a team sees that their leaders deal with them in a consistently honest manner, and know that management recognizes going the extra mile, when push comes to shove, people will be much more accepting of added workload for the same reward.
- Be honest with upper management and ownership. Keep them apprised of the positive production of your employees. When something does go wrong, attempt to support them in their absence, instead of demeaning them in front of owners.
If ethical leadership represents ethical owners (the two tend to go hand-in-hand), then the chances of recruiting ethical employees is considerably amplified. When a leader is acting as a fulcrum in balancing the profits of a company with the needs of its employees, they can be greatly assisted with patience and understanding by both ownership and those employees. Ethical leadership in the workplace has the power to bring an entire company from the Senior President to the newest employee, together to function as a team. When those team members themselves are committed to operating in a cooperative and ethical manner, then chances of success for the company as a united entity is greatly enhanced.