By Linda Fisher Thornton
I was thinking about organizational culture recently, and noticed an interesting parallel. Actions such as eating healthy foods, exercising and getting enough sleep all boost our individual immune systems. What actions can we take to boost our ethical immune systems? And how could doing that help us create more ethical organizations?
Building a healthy ethical culture where people take steps to protect ethics and reputation takes intentional effort. It requires regular attention, similar to the way we must eat healthy foods and exercise daily to maintain our individual health.
An ethical organizational culture doesn’t just “happen” without leadership support. To support the overall ethical health of your organization, I recommend taking these 5 important leadership actions (and avoiding the corresponding DON’TS that undo the positive effects of ethical immunity).
1. DO Intentionally Ground Every Aspect Of Your Culture in Positive Ethical Values
(DON’T Leave ethics vague and just expect people to “do the right thing”)
2. DO Clarify Exactly What Ethical Leadership Looks Like in Action
(DON’T give people ethical guidelines and leave them to figure out how to apply them to their ethical challenges)
3. DO Provide Resources For Ethical Thinking and Decision Making
(DON’T assume that people can make sense out of highly complex situations and choose the most ethical choices)
4. DO Create a Safe Environment For Talking About Ethical Challenges and Questions
(DON’T let the conversations happen only in ethics training – that’s not where people struggle with getting ethics right)
5. DO Model Ethical Leadership From The Top Down*
(DON’T Exempt the CEO and Senior Leadership from accountability for ethical leadership)
*Failure to model ethical leadership at the highest levels of leadership is a common problem, and it destroys ethical immunity.
For more guidance on ethical culture building, see these related articles:
7 Questions For Ethical Culture Building
Critical Roles of the (Ethical) CEO
How to Build an Ethical Culture
Linda Fisher Thornton’s book 7 Lenses is your guide to proactive ethical leadership (in 7 dimensions that are all important).
LeadinginContext.com Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™
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