Leading the Conversation About Ethical Leadership
April 17, 2013 5 Comments
By Linda Fisher Thornton
Dialogue is a powerful tool for developing ethical organizations. Workplace issues are complex and opinions vary about what ethical leadership means. This combination creates a kind of “murky uncertainty” that keeps leaders from giving us their best, most ethical performance.
To move beyond this “murky uncertainty,” we need to take the time to talk about what ethical behavior means. Use the twelve questions in the discussion guide below to start building a shared understanding of your organization’s definition of ethical leadership behavior.
LEADING THE CONVERSATION IN OUR ORGANIZATIONS
Here are some questions that may help you define ethical issues and appropriate leader behaviors in the context of your organizational values:
- What are the specific ethical behaviors that are required of all organizational leaders?
- What are the consequences if they don’t behave ethically?
- What are the situations that people encounter that could lead them into a grey area?
- How should those grey areas be handled?
- What does it look like when leaders perform according to the organization’s stated values?
- What does it look like when they don’t?
- How should people make decisions when they encounter difficult situations?
- Where might our leaders fall into grey areas while implementing our goals and values?
- What are areas where we will not tolerate compromise?
- What are areas of flexibility?
- Where do we need to clarify our mission and values, to make it clear that we are an ethical organization, and ethics is not negotiable?
- How can we more effectively recruit, recognize, and retain ethical leaders?
Linda Fisher Thornton, “Leadership Ethics Training: Why is it So Hard to Get it Right?” reprinted in Training and Development: The Best of Leadership Development, American Society for Training and Development. (March, 2010)
Without a clear picture of what ethical behavior means in our organizations, we’re unlikely to achieve it. While the conversation may take some time, it will take less time than dealing with the problems that happen when leaders work in “murky uncertainty.”
Let’s get the conversation started.
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