8 Characteristics of an Ethical Leader

Unfortunately, not all leaders are good leaders; rather, it takes certain qualities to make a leader likable, trustworthy, and inspirational. Whether they're an organizational or government leader, it's their responsibility to make the right decisions for a group of people.

While that can be stressful, an ethical leader will have the necessary character traits to make the decision and lead their team in the right direction. Below we will review the definition of ethical leadership, the characteristics that make an ethical leader, and how you can strive to be an ethical leader yourself.

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What is Ethical Leadership?

An ethical leader is one that always makes the decisions they believe are right—no matter if it's unpopular or inconvenient. To make the right decision, an ethical leader must have a solid set of values and attributes that they can rely on when things get tough. An ethical leader needs to be:

1. Fair

An ethical leader cannot play favorites, as they're always a symbol of justice. For your team to follow you and agree with your decisions, they need to know that you considered all options equally and kept each member of the team in mind. Employees and team members should not be concerned that you're making decisions based on any biases like gender, race, or age.

2. Honest

People are unable to trust those who frequently lie or omit the facts. That's why an ethical leader must always be transparent and fair, no matter the consequences. In almost every situation, your team members would rather be told an unpopular truth than a likable lie. Consistent honesty builds trust between a leader and a team and promotes open conversations on topics like job performance, personal struggles, and challenges at work.

3. Respectful

Although you're a leader and are technically higher in the chain of command, your team members should never feel that way. To show respect to your employees or followers, you should always attentively listen, value their contributions, and not dismiss their concerns or comments. Your goal as an ethical leader should be to make each member of your team feel as if you're all on the same page and have the same objectives. If you succeed, your team will be more fluid and successful.

4. Value-Driven

While every individual has their own set of individual beliefs and values, an ethical leader needs to make decisions based on the values of the organization. Although this can seem contradictory to an honest, moral leader, most ethical leaders will only partner with companies and organizations they believe in. This ensures that in all decision making, they're comfortable following the organization's values and rules. Ethical leaders will only implement policies that adhere to their (and their organization's) values.

5. Encourages Initiative

Unethical leaders use employees to inflate their egos and make themselves look good to outside parties. Ethical leaders, on the other hand, work tirelessly to make their employees the stars and motivate them to thrive. Ethical leaders encourage their employees to flourish by providing incentives for innovative ideas and suggestions. They will also inspire their team members to improve processes, communication, and collaboration.

6. Leads by Example

Not only should an ethical leader talk the talk, but they need to walk the walk. Employees and team members will mimic the actions of their leader, so an ethical leader will ensure they're leading by example. A leader cannot expect their employees to make the right decisions if they don't point them in the right direction—after all, actions speak louder than words!

7. Focuses on Their Team

A team can complete work a lot more quickly than an individual can, which is why ethical leaders encourage and promote team building. An ethical leader will spend time fostering a sense of community and team spirit within their followers. They will also work to help their employees achieve their goals. An ethical leader understands that their team's goals will benefit an organization more than their individual goals, and they work to make sure the team achieves its goals.

8. Kindness

Last but not least, an ethical leader is kind. At the end of the day, employees and team members are human, not machines. An ethical leader understands this and treats their followers kindly and humanely. When employees feel respected and cherished, they will work harder to achieve company goals, which will benefit all parties involved.

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Learn More About Ethical Leadership

Whether you're an ethical leader or are looking to become one, our Business Ethics Courses will ensure you learn how to be a successful ethical leader. Not only does the course take a more in-depth look at the characteristics we mentioned above, but it also describes the benefits of ethical leadership and summarizes the tools ethical leaders should use. Sign up for the course today!

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