June 15, 2021
Company Culture 22 June 2020
How to Succeed: 8 Tips to Be an Ethical Leader
Lidia Staron

Talent scarcity is real. According to a 2018 survey by an international recruitment firm Cielo, 70% of HR, business and procurement leaders are worried about the shortage of talented recruits. And it’s not because there’s a shortage of people around the globe. The problem is there are not enough people with the right skills and abilities.

And there are many reasons for this phenomenon! With the fast-paced world of business and technology, organizations will need new skills and less demand for traditional skill sets. Add the growing demand of employees for alternative work arrangements.  

With today’s challenges in finding and retaining highly skilled employees, business leaders, from CEOs to HR and recruitment managers, need to find ways to improve how they can contribute to establishing a productive and positive environment for their staff. One way to do that is by practicing ethical leadership.


What Makes an Ethical Leader?

Ethical leadership is one of the many leadership styles that benefit modern organizations. It revolves around the concept of considering ethics when making decisions. Of course, it is sometimes difficult to define what is “right”, but ethical leaders know how to do the correct thing. They are not afraid to do what they truly believe to be right.

Ethical leaders are known for being fair and just, respectful of others, honest, committed to developing a sense of community and team spirit, and making decisions based on value. More importantly, they lead by example, are kind, encourage initiative, and do not tolerate ethical violations. 

Linda Chester, founder of The Health Hour defines ethical leaders as the following,

"Ethical leaders reflect a good image of the business and in turn, attract and retain the best talents. They cultivate an honest work environment where employees can report unethical behavior without fear of punishment. They encourage employees to communicate freely and openly, without restricting their thought processes and ideas. More importantly, they take these ideas into consideration when making decisions or plans for the company or their organization."

Here are 8 tips on how to be an ethical leader:

 1. Define and align your morals.

When a leader becomes part of an organization, there is a set of norms that make up the organizational culture. When someone takes over, employees may need to become accustomed to changes made to the company vision and mission. Who you are as an individual is a huge factor in the way you lead your employees. 

Some good core values of ethical leaders are honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, fairness, concern for others, accountability and reputation. It is important for any leader to define what their core values are and align them with their priorities as a leader by demonstrating these values through behavior, actions, and decisions.


2. Be a champion of ethics.

To be an ethical leader, you have to master ethics. Focus on its overall importance and how it contributes to effective people management. High ethical standards and a sound moral concept are the trends in business these days. It is only through mastering your craft that you can really become an effective ethical leader.

Take classes on ethical leadership or join training programs. More importantly, practice what you learn and apply your lessons in your everyday activities and decisions as a leader.


3. Listen to your people.

Conflict resolution is a daily challenge among executives and managers. When ignored, it can disrupt the momentum of any leader, employee, team or the whole organization itself. But managing conflict can be a tricky thing. 

Some employees may be too afraid to speak, especially if it involves someone with a higher role in the company. Ethical leaders are concerned about everyone’s welfare in the workplace, so they give staff and employees a safe environment to report unethical behavior. Privacy is important and should be observed all throughout the process of resolving conflicts. 

Some leaders avoid reprimanding employees for their unethical behavior because they care too much about their image or reputation. This can create trust issues with employees and keep them from being proactive with their concerns.


4. Pursue to be better.

Being a good leader is not enough. In this fast-changing world of organizations, there is a constant pressure to be a better leader. In the field of recruitment, for example, the trends have changed. 

As pointed out earlier, finding and retaining top talents have become a major challenge. With the ever-stiffening competition in the market, organizations are forced to think outside the box and try different approaches to reach their goals. Thus, there is a need for leaders to constantly update themselves with the latest trends, knowledge, and skills. 

And there is no better way to do this than to keep learning through continued education. Find scholarships to upgrade your education and training as a leader. It is worth the effort and sacrifices.


5. Have a clear code of conduct.

Having a clear code of conduct helps employees understand every aspect of the ethical continuum that your organization implements. There has to be regular leadership training and explicit discussions about common ethical issues. Consider including ethical behavior in employee performance metrics and reviews.

Managing people with different skill sets, backgrounds, personalities, and morals is never easy. Your code of conduct will be your foundation to refer back to when you address issues that may come up in a rapidly changing and highly competitive business environment.


6. Make the workplace a safe environment for your employees.

The trust of your employees is paramount to your success as a leader. One study shows that people who trust their managers tend to be more productive and satisfied at work. Unethical leadership is one that violates moral standards and imposes processes and structures that cause unethical conduct among employees whereas ethical leadership is one that fosters trust and respect between managers and their staff.  

Conduct yourself in a way that employees will help develop trust in the workplace. Building employee trust in you means you can depend on them to work their hardest as well (The law of reciprocity in action!) It builds on employee engagement, advocacy, and most importantly, their loyalty to the company.

Examples of unethical leadership behavior are abusive supervision, toxic and tyrannical leadership, and supervisor undermining. All these actions significantly pull down the morale of employees, causing them to distrust their leaders and eventually, leave the organization.

 7. Lead by example.

This is a noble quality of a great leader. Claiming that you are an ethical leader but not really showing it in terms of your actions and behaviors makes no sense. Employees are more likely to judge their superiors based on their actions. By demonstrating ethical, honest and unselfish behavior at all times, earning the trust, appreciation and confidence of your employees becomes easier.

One way to be ethical and win employee trust is to promote open communication. Strive to be transparent and encourage feedback from your employees. Spend more time with one-on-ones. Conduct entry interviews. Ask for their input. And give your employees autonomy in their jobs.

8. Be Consistent

Yaniv Masjedi, CMO at Nextiva states that,

"Ethics requires consistency. For a leader to be ethical they must apply the same principles universally, without bias. Any bias, especially favoritism or nepotism is going to be an instant red flag to the team. They need to see the same rules applied universally. Applying the same rules doesn't mean being equally harsh to everyone, it means being equally tolerant of the whole team."

Being consistent will allow your teams to trust you because they know they are being treated respectfully without bias. They will look up to you as a leader because they know that you treat everyone the same with that respect. 



Ethical leadership is what modern organizations need today. In a nutshell, ethical leadership is all about knowing and doing what is right. Ethical mistakes within an organization can lead to a host of problems, from boycotts to lawsuits, and scandals that can greatly ruin a company’s reputation. 

Ethical leaders set an organization up for success by establishing a positive environment where everyone adheres to the company’s moral standards and give high regard to respect, transparency, and proper values. Ultimately, this results in a healthy and productive relationship between employees, teams, and the overall organization.

Lidia D. Staron is a passionate, creative writer and marketing manager at OpenLoans.com. As a financial advisor and financial planner, she knows that life is full of major events and crossroads. She enjoys helping people navigate through important financial decisions while avoiding common mistakes.