Ethics is doing the right things that are required to be done. Ethical leadership is doing the right things that are not required to be done.
Ethical behavior is considered a surefire precursor to effective leadership and success in business. It means behaving in compliance with society’s laws and accepted mores; which basically boils down to not lying, cheating and stealing.
Possessing solid ethics is not all that challenging or rare. Publicized “perp walks” to the contrary, the business world is filled with thousands of ethical individuals working hard to be effective leaders nd successful in business. That is good, but for the individual who desires to stand out from the crowd and distinguish themselves as an exceptional leader – in all ways – it is not enough to simply comply with the minimum rules of ethics. Ethical leadership requires an effort to do more than other ethical individuals in positions of leadership. The way to do this is to turn ethics from a negative – don’t do this – admonition into actions that create a positive connotation by adopting a pro-active approach to ethics.
Here is what I mean.
Traditionally, being an ethical leader entails doing the right things that are required to be done. However, when it comes to ethical leadership it means going beyond the standards of others and consistently doing the right things that are not required to be done. True ethical leadership is simply doing more than what should be done by doing what can be done.
For example, there is no requirement to give a single-parent extra paid time off to be with a sick child, but it is the right thing to do and a leader who does so is doing more than what is ethically required and this translates into ethical leadership.
Adopting this elevated level of ethical leadership is neither complicated nor a secret. Leaders who exhibit traits of ethical leadership operate in a constant, consistent, respectful, parallel and open manner. Basic ethics does not require that they act this way, but they do, because they understand it is what will distinguish them from other leaders. Those who practice ethical leadership also realize that reciprocal respect, loyalty and commitment will be willingly offered by those working under this philosophy of leadership and, in the long run, it offers them the greatest chance for success.
Companies led by those who have embraced the concept of ethical leadership go well beyond the standard of ethics that an employer is required or expected to offer an employee. This activity is not limited to salary and benefits, but reaches to the very heart of that relationship. The end result is an environment in which people are highly motivated to work and contribute to the success of the leader and organization.
It is no coincidence that companies functioning under the aegis of ethical leadership consistently perform better than those that don’t. That does not mean competing companies are managed by leaders without ethics, but only that those with ethical leadership characteristics are able to outperform the competition on every level.
The world is crowded and competitive. If you want to be more than just part of the crowd trying to compete, you have to stand out and be different. Adopting a philosophy of ethical leadership – not just doing the right things that are required to be done, but also doing the right things that are not required to be done – will set you apart and put you on the path to being recognized as an exceptional leader.
When you get right down to it, it is the most ethical thing to do.