Ethical Leadership

But it’s not all negative. Studies have found practical, positive benefits too. For example, one experiment at Cornell University found that “ethical leadership was positively and significantly related to employee performance.”

Another study published in ScienceDirect showed that ethical leadership made employees less likely to leave. Given the high cost of employee turnover, this is a significant benefit.

As we’ll see in the next section, ethical leadership is about creating a culture in which people do the right thing. So there are many benefits that flow from that, from small things like employees

being less likely to steal the stationery to much larger things like treating customers in the right way and making decisions for the long-term benefit of a wide variety of stakeholders instead of for short-term personal gain.

Characteristics of Ethical Leaders

1.    Justice

An ethical leader is always fair and just. They have no favorites, and treat everyone equally. Under an ethical leader, no employee has any reason to fear biased treatment on the basis of gender, ethnicity, nationality, or any other factor.

2.    Respect others

One of the most important traits of ethical leadership is the respect that is given to followers. An ethical leader shows respect all members of the team by listening to them attentively, valuing their contributions, being compassionate, and being generous while considering opposing viewpoints.

3.    Honesty

It goes without saying that anyone who is ethical will also be honest and loyal. Honesty is particularly important to be an effective ethical leader, because followers trust honest and dependable leaders. Ethical leaders convey facts transparently, no matter how unpopular they may be.

4.    Humane

Being humane is one of the most revealing traits of a leader who is ethical and moral. Ethical leaders place importance in being kind, and act in a manner that is always beneficial to the team.

5.    Focus on teambuilding

Ethical leaders foster a sense of community and team spirit within the organization. When an ethical leader strives to achieve goals, it is not just personal goals that they’re concerned about. They make genuine efforts to achieve goals that benefit the entire organization – not just themselves.

6.    Value driven decision-making

In ethical leadership, all decisions are first checked to ensure that they are in accordance with the overall organizational values. Only those decisions that meet this criterion are implemented.

7.     Encourages initiative

Under an ethical leader, employees thrive and flourish. Employees are rewarded for coming up with innovative ideas, and are encouraged to do what it takes to improve the way things are done. Employees are praised for taking the first step rather than waiting for somebody else to do it for them.

8.    Leadership by example

Ethical leadership is not just about talking the talk, this type of leader also walks the walk. The high expectations that an ethical leader has of employees are also applicable on the individual level. Leaders expect others to do the right thing by leading from example.

9.    Values awareness

An ethical leader will regularly discuss the high values and expectations that they place on themselves, other employees, and the organization. By regularly communicating and discussing values, they ensure that there is consistent understanding across the organization.

  1. No tolerance for ethical violations

An ethical leader expects employees to do the right thing at all times, not just when it is convenient for them. Don’t expect a leader of such high values to overlook or tolerate ethical violations.


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Organizational Behavior by Icfai Business School is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.