Ethical Leaders Care



Ethical Leadership Involves Much More Than Avoiding  Risk

Ethical leadership is about much more than making good decisions and abiding by laws and regulations. One of the elements of ethical leadership that may be overlooked when we view ethics using a “legal lens” is supporting and developing the potential of the people we lead.

While many leadership ethics programs focus on the risk side of ethics – compliance with laws and regulations, avoiding lawsuits, etc., there is an equally important side of ethics that involves care.

The Importance of Caring Leadership

Caring for others is an important element of ethical leadership that is gaining attention.

“Originally conceived as most appropriate to the private and intimate spheres of life, care ethics has branched out as a political theory and social movement aimed at broader understanding of, and public support for, care-giving activities in their breadth and variety.”

“Care Ethics” Page in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy at Arizona State University, online at

Caring is Part of Ethical Leadership

Care ethics focuses on the fact that we are all connected and have a responsibility to care for one another. We need to care because leadership is at its core about relationships.

A care ethic de-emphasizes the idea of the independent individual and instead stresses that persons exist in a web of relationships.

Care Theory, Western Kentucky University online at

We do “exist in a web of relationships.” We are more connected now than ever due to fast information exchange and a better understanding of our global economic and social systems. When we apply the care ethic, we act as if how we handle situations and how we treat people is just as important as following laws and making ethical decisions.

Leadership is about relationships. When we lead with care, we honor those relationships. Using ethics of care helps us think differently about any potential workplace conflicts, reminding us to use relationship-based means instead of only legal means for resolving touchy issues.

“A care ethic also seems to favor adopting procedures from Conflict Resolution and Dispute Mediation as alternative ways to approach an apparent ethical conflict.”

Online Guide to Ethics and Moral Philosophy at Carnegie Mellon University, online at

Leading With Care

Using ethics of care changes how we think and act as leaders. It helps us remember that each person is important and that treating each other with care is part of our shared human experience. Caring shows that we know that people are more than task-doers and that leading is more than tactical, more than obligatory, more than just a job.

Questions for Reflection

1. How well do we demonstrate as leaders that we care for others?

2. In what settings are we not currently demonstrating ethics of care?

3. How will we help our leaders know what caring leadership looks like?

4. How will we incorporate the concept of care ethics into our leadership development?

For Further Reading

The Moral Psychology of Business: Care and Compassion in the Corporation by Robert Solomon, Business Ethics Quarterly v.8 no3 (July 1998)

Care Ethics Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Caring in Education by Nel Noddings

Leadership and the Ethics of Care by Joanne Ciulla

 Ethics of Care Online Guide to Ethics and Morality at Carnegie Mellon University, online at



For more, see new book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses 
© 2011 Leading in Context LLC 

Shared Ethical Values: Global Consensus?

Are we Approaching a Consensus About Global Ethics? 

Rushworth Kidder in Trust: A Primer on Current Thinking says that “the work of the Institute for Global Ethics suggests that there are indeed core global values that transcend individual cultures.”

As we struggle day-to-day with what ethics means in business, groups of concerned leaders around the world are studying common ethical values that could clarify ethical behavior and unite us in a common global code of ethics.

Global Values Transcend Boundaries

The Institute for Global Ethics conducted a survey to discover whether or not there are universally shared global values:

“The 272 survey respondents–representing 40 countries and more than 50 faith communities–identified a core of values centering strongly on truth, compassion, and responsibility. This core appears to be largely unaffected by the respondents’ gender, nationality, native language, or religious affiliation.”

Global Values, Moral Boundaries: A Pilot Survey  (download requires registering) The Institute for Global Ethics,

A Global Understanding of  Business Ethics

There are two resources readily available that present ethical values in a global context and provide guidance for ethical corporate behavior.  The Caux Roundtable Principles for Responsible Business and Principles for Responsible Globalization provide benchmarks for ethical corporate behavior and are available free online. Responsible businesses are reviewing them and discussing ways to abide by the principles.

 “The CRT Principles for Business are a worldwide vision for ethical and responsible corporate behavior and serve as a foundation for action for business leaders worldwide. As a statement of aspirations, the CRT Principles aim to express a world standard against which business behavior can be measured.” Caux Round Table Principles for Business at

The CRT Principles of Globalization include new principles for Governments, in addition to the Principles for Business. Just as the Principles for Business, these Principles of Government derive from two ethical ideals: “Kyosei” and “Human Dignity.” The Japanese concept of “Kyosei” looks to living and working together for the common good, while the moral vision of “Human Dignity” refers to the sacredness or value of each person as an end, not simply as a means to the fulfillment of others’ purposes or even of majority demands.”   Principles for Responsible Globalization at

522For more, see new book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses 
© 2011 Leading in Context LLC 
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