Ethical leaders allow their leadership to stem from their relationship with their people. They create maximum impact and influence by respecting and carrying everyone along, entrenching sound moral values and principles within themselves and their organisations, as they influence others towards a common goal.

Ethics weighs upon its heart the kinds of values and morals an individual or society finds desirable or appropriate. It also gives greater visibility to the virtuosness of individuals and their motives. Ethics beats up for a system of rules and principles that guide us in making decisions about what is “right or wrong” and “good or bad” in a particular situation. It keeps on hand a basis for understanding what it means to be a moral decent human being. With regard to leadership, it concerns itself with the nature of leaders’ behaviour and their virtuosness. In a given circumstance, the choices and responses of leaders are informed and directed by their ethics. During the late 1990s, many Americans felt that the President of the United States, Bill Clinton, failed his ethical responsibility to do the right thing – to tell the truth. This assessment was informed by Bill Clinton’s misrepresenting under oath an affair he had maintained with a White House intern.


Leadership is partly centered on ethics because leaders help to establish and reinforce organisational values. A leader’s actions are morally correct and rich in ethics of caring if they express care for their subordinates. An ethics of caring is crucial for building trust and cooperative relationships in organisations. A leader can become more effective by embracing the principles of ethical leadership set out hereunder.

Acknowledging the unconditional worthiness of others and recognizing that every one is deserving of respect is part of the idea that drives ethical leadership. This means to respect the desires and aspirations of others and not to treat others as mere means or vehicles to an end. The needs of others to own autonomously established personal goals must be reckoned with in harmony with the organisational goals. Ethical leaders respect their subordinates and allow them the liberty of nurturing their own creative wants and desires. To integrate the needs, values and purposes of their subordinates with their own, ethical leaders approach others with a sense of unconditional worth, and value the unique personal strengths and talents of others. Pursuant to the same objective, they lend credence to the ideas of others, confirm them as human beings, and at times, defer to their subordinates. By listening closely to their subordinates, being empathic and tolerant of opposing points of view, ethical leaders show respect to their people. Showing respect to others boosts others’ sense of adequacy and competence. This results in increased productivity.

By placing their followers’ welfare foremost in their plans, ethical leaders demonstrate their innate desire to serve and their altruistic ideals. The ethical leaders’ altruistic service behaviour calls into being mentoring, empowerment behaviours and team building. The responsibility to make decisions beneficial to the welfare of others and to be of service to them holds with ethical leaders. Moral or ethical leadership is founded on attending to others. As servants of the vision within an organisation, ethical leaders nurture a vision that is greater than themselves. Shunning egoistic or self-centered interests, they integrate their vision with those of their subordinates in the organisation.

Ethical leaders stand for fairness and justice. To treat all of their people in an equal manner, first and foremost, is their way of aspiring to be a better and a more effective leader. They proffer clear, reasonable and moral explanations in situations where there is a preferential treatment. If a leader’s values is grounded in fairness and justice, those ideals will become glaring in the manner with which the leader uses to distribute resources, rewards or punishments to the people. Ethical leaders do not play favourites. A level playing ground devoid of favouritism promotes cooperation amongst groups of people.

To be an ethical leader is to be honest. Dishonesty in a leader breeds mistrust. Dishonest leaders are undependable and unreliable from the perspective of their followers. When others no longer trust and believe in a leader, his or her impact is severely diminished. A relationship suffers when one of the party feels that the other is trying to manipulate the relationship selfishly. Being honest not only means telling the truth but it also has to do with being open to others and representing reality without deceitful embellishments as much as possible. Striking a balance between being open and candid while at the same time ascertaining what is appropriate to disclose is the challenge that ethical leaders deal with effectively. For ethical leaders, being honest means honouring their promises, avoiding untoward embellishments, honouring their obligations, being accountable, and honouring the dignity and humanity of others. Ethical leaders set up the right framework for rewarding honest behaviour within their organisation.

Ethical leaders create a community by marrying their purposes with those of their subordinates. The broad vision or goal that results from this amalgamation is greater than that of any individual including the leader. The ethical dimension of leadership refers to the process that the leader employs to influence others to reach a common or communal goal. A common goal implies an agreement in direction between the leader and the followers. This concern for the common good, a factor that hallmarks true ethical leaders, motivates them not to impose their will on others. Ethical leadership stems from the leader-follower relationship and cannot be controlled by the leader. All to common good, an ethical leader pays heed to the purposes of every one involved in an organisation and the interests of the community. Establishing higher and broader moral purposes to ensure that individual and group goals are bound up in the common good and public interest are at the core of ethical leadership.

A concern for the common good in the broadest sense of it characterise ethical leaders.




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