The Voice of the (Un)Ethical Leader

By Linda Fisher Thornton

There is great variation in how leaders “use their voice” in pursuit of their work. Some use it to engage and empower others, others use it to deflect unwanted observations or to create distance that isolates them from people they don’t want to listen to.

Some leaders may not be aware that how they speak tells us volumes about their ethical awareness and competence. 

When an ethical leader speaks, the tone conveys service and concern for others. 

  • Humble: There were many people who made this happen.
  • Open-Minded: I always listen to learn, even when we disagree
  • Inclusive: I demonstrate respect for everyone.
  • Caring: I am concerned about you and your challenges. I want to help.
  • Service-Oriented: I know I’m here to help you succeed, not the other way around.

When an unethical leader speaks, the tone is noticeably different.

  • Hogging the Credit: It was all because of me.
  • Closed-Minded: If you don’t agree with me, you’re an idiot.
  • Exclusive: I respect people I like.
  • Self-Interested: My needs are what matter most.
  • Lacking Empathy: Your problems are not my concern.

 

Words matter. Be aware of the tone you use when you communicate. People who speak like ethical leaders are more likely to be respected and more likely to be followed. They are more likely to be selected and more likely to be trusted. They are more likely to have a positive impact on others and on the global community. What message is your language sending to others?

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