My definition of “ethical leadership” is one that I have synthesized over time, and I am sure draws heavily from various resources I’ve read, experiences I’ve had and stories I’ve heard from colleagues, clients and friends. Here is how I define Ethical Leadership:
Knowing your core values and having the courage to act on them on behalf of the common good.
There is much I could unpack from that single sentence, but it boils down to this: Living your core values is the the ultimate strategic leadership practice. What could be more strategic than aligning your work, actions and decisions with your highest principles? So what core values do you hold? In my opinion these are some of the most important ones for leaders, and people in general:
- Dependability and reliability
It’s important to establish for yourself your fundamental beliefs that will drive everything you do in both your professional and personal lives. I strongly advise you to take a few minutes out of your day to think about values and how you apply them to your leadership. Try this leadership activity to go through the process:
Reflect on your core values
What matters most to you and defines how you walk through life? How do you want people to describe you now and remember you when you are gone? If you don’t have a list of core values yet, there’s no time like the present. Go ahead and outline the core values you hold dear.
Identify at least two ways that you can live them today
Look at your schedule or to-do list, and decide right now how you will complete those activities by living your core values. Honestly, there are probably 22 ways you could do that, but two is a good starting point to make this a more conscious activity.
This simple, but powerful, practice will help you reconnect to the most important strategic actions you can take. In five minutes or less, you can build more effective leadership skills (and habits).
Make this a consistent practice
It’s not a one-time activity. To truly live your core values, especially when faced with challenges at work, you must make a consistent, concerted effort to do so. It’s all to easy to let stress or fear or exhaustion (or simply the drive to get ahead) push you in the wrong direction. Once you make unethical decisions, it’s very hard, sometimes impossible, to get back on track and regain the trust of your employees, colleagues, customers or supervisor.
This activity reminds you to always act ethically, no matter the circumstances.
What core values do you hold? How do you live them everyday at work?