By Linda Fisher Thornton
As leaders, we are not working in isolation. What we do sets the tone for what employees do. Because we are leading them, they will tend to follow and learn from our choices. What kinds of choices do we need to make to ensure that employees make ethical choices in their daily work? What does it look like when we effectively model ethical leadership?
“We model ethical leadership and behavior. We realize that we can only bring out the best in those we lead when we embrace continuous learning. We know that our role is to listen, learn and improve, serving as a role model for what ethical behavior looks like. We learn just as much as we teach. We listen deeply to others, not sharing our own thinking without regard to theirs. We model ethical leadership, with our thoughts, words and deeds in full alignment. We are open to learning and model the ethical behavior we ask of others.”
Modeling Ethical Leadership and Behavior
How important is it to model ethical behavior? Think about the combined impact when everyone you lead follows your example. If your example is positive, then you get abundant ethical behavior. If your example is negative, then you get abundant unethical behavior.
It is simultaneously a burden and an opportunity for us as leaders to model ethical behavior. It is a burden in that we must work hard to ensure that we are modeling the highest ethics. It is an opportunity in that modeling ethical behavior brings out the best in us and those we lead.
A leader’s ethical shortcomings are magnified throughout the organization. However, consider that the same is true for ethical improvements. What could happen if you intentionally worked to improve the ethics of your day-to-day choices? The ripple effect that your improvement would generate would improve the ethics of many others. That’s the magnified impact of ethical modeling.
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