We’ve seen some high profile ethical failures in the press in recent years. These missteps in ethics highlight that it can be difficult for some leaders among us to best determine what is right and what is wrong. All choices we make have consequences and the wrong ones can land us in some pretty serious trouble.
What seems to be more rare these days are stories about the numerous leaders that manage to be ethical. Ethical leaders seem to be rare birds these days. While headlines seem to gravitate to unethical leaders and standards, there are leaders who raise the bar. There are such leaders who do not fall prey to the whims of unethical behaviors. These leaders do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons. These leaders put their ethics before the bottom line and as result of this conduct; they have the respect and dedication of their teams and organizations who would do anything to support their visions and missions.
So how do these leaders do this? And how can you follow their lead?
An ethical leader inspires others to live and breathe their principles – such as honesty and integrity. Their values are inspired others from the top executives all the way down to the warehouse all day and every day. A leader who leads in this manner demands their staff to do things like keep promises, have personal accountability, and respect others in the organization and their customers. They expect every leader in the organization know this and they work by these rules.
If you expect others to follow you as a leader, ask yourself these questions:
- What standards of behavior are really important to my organization?
- What specific values do I admire in certain leaders? Do I identify with those values?
- Would I still live by those values, even if they put me at a competitive disadvantage?
Set the Tone
Now that you know have your address your principles, you can begin to set the tone and create the right environment for your team and your organization. Once Again, leading by example is the best way to do this. It’s what you do, not what you say, that demonstrates to your team what you care about. So, if you values honesty above all else, then make sure you demonstrate that by being honest with everyone around you.
Next on your list, you want to establish consequences for team members who don’t follow along. For example, if you allow someone to not meet deadlines, that won’t set a good example for the rest of the team. You need consistent consequences and not play favorites. You also need good consequences as well. You need to reward those who do follow your values and principles. Set up a reward system for team members who consistently act according to the company values.
How Do You Recognize Ethical Dilemmas?
Here’s the scenario: You’re in a meeting with and you realize that someone on your team has “fudge” the numbers on their report? As you listen, you realize that they are exaggerating the team’s performance to the Board of Directors on the quarterly numbers…what do you do? They’ve been a team player, an outstanding performer and to top it off a personal friend. With all that aside, he’s really putting on a show for the BOD. Do you support him in the meeting or do you tell the truth to the BOD?
Most of the time, these “ethical dilemmas” are not so easy to spot. It’s the ones that fly under radar that are harder to see.
So, how do you recognize these dilemmas?
Identify “trigger” situations. There are certain situations that seem to attract ethical dilemmas like a magnet. A short list includes areas like purchasing, hiring, firing, promotions for example. There can also be other unexpected situations. One area we where can all relate is mistakes. We all make them. Will you admit it or cover it up? When we can recognize these triggers, we can put into action our ethical code of leadership and stand tall on our ability to know how to react in the right way at the right time.