Leading Blog






03.29.19

Do Ethics Really Make You a Better Leader in Business?

Do Ethics Really Make You a Better Leader

ETHICS IS NOT a word used very often behind the walls of companies and organizations. Many companies have a set of values and company policies. However, very few companies educate leaders about ethics and encourage leaders to discuss ethics with their teams.

Ethics are usually an afterthought, taken seriously only after an event that causes a business or team to fall apart. If understood and put into practice by a dedicated leader, ethics have the potential to turn stagnant, declining teams into productive and engaged ones. Ethics enable new teams to continue to grow, sustain, and thrive as the individuals and the business evolve.

Ethics are the foundation for peace and progress. Don’t we all crave both peace and progress at work? Ethics are timeless principles for behavior toward ourselves and others that translate to specific actions.

Ethics are what fuel personal growth and make large-scale collaborative efforts work. The lack of clarity about what ethics are and what ethics really involve in action is the primary barrier for many leaders in practicing ethics at work. Here is how an understanding and intentional practice of ethics at work make leaders, and therefore businesses, stronger and more successful.

Truthfulness over time opens and repairs communication lines.

Ethics prize the principle of truthfulness. Though it seems straightforward, it often takes courage to truly be truthful with team members and peers. Leaders that practice truthfulness with team members build genuine trust over time. Leaders that practice truthful, transparent communication build a team culture of interpersonal respect and alignment.

A practice for cultivating trust is to have regular one-on-one meetings with team members. In your one-on-one meetings, leave technology and distractions behind. Give your team members dedicated focus, ask if they have questions, and give them positive and constructive feedback. Leaders develop trust through transparent and genuine communication. Teams united in honesty and truthful communications move forward as a cohesive unit.

Opportunities for individual development fuel collective progress.

Leaders that understand and practice ethics at work are also better at motivating and empowering individuals in order to fuel collective progress. Another foundational ethical principle is the concept of non-stealing. In workplaces, non-stealing goes far beyond just stealing of physical possessions. Non-stealing in leadership involves not stealing (but instead giving) opportunities, knowledge, and acknowledgment to team members.

Leaders can practice the ethical practice of non-stealing by giving knowledge, skills, and opportunities to team members enable progress. In one-on-one meetings, share your skills and knowledge with team members. Mentor them as they work through a special project or assignment on their own. When individuals are given opportunities to grow individually, they are more dedicated and skilled contributors. Leaders that practice non-stealing understand that individual peace and progress must happen for each team member in order for the whole to move forward.

Non-attachment enables creative problem solving and the generation of new ideas.

Leaders often find themselves stuck, leading a stagnant team because they are attached to their ways or outdated beliefs. Beliefs about what is right or beliefs about people’s limitations often hold back the team from progressing. Leaders who are not open to new ideas and feedback compromise the collective progress of the team.

Non-attachment is practiced by letting go of your outdated beliefs about people, ways, results, or status. New ideas and suggestions that team members bring to the table are often the answers to proactively solving or avoiding problems. Don’t hold firm beliefs about the way things should be, how far someone should progress, or the exact way results should turn out. Allow space for limitless possibility and evolution to happen. Invite and evaluate new ideas and suggestions with an open mind. This practice enables collective progress.

Positive communication and mindfulness foster focus and protect valuable energy.

Finally, ethical leaders are masters of cultivating the conditions for collaboration. In dynamic, fast-paced business environments, leaders and teams often find themselves rushing and producing work full of errors. People burn out quickly after long days of exhausting meetings. Small disagreements or misalignments turn into political issues. Arguments deter focus and negatively impact productivity and engagement. Ethical leaders know how to practice control of energy in order to cultivate focus and ease for their team.

Control of energy involves communicating with a positive tone. Even when giving constructive feedback, ethical leaders start with a positive affirmation and use a tone of equanimity throughout the conversation. This is a sustainable rather than a short-sighted approach. This control of energy helps to cultivate calm and protect the energy of the team and themselves. Control of energy also involves taking constructive rest breaks often to restore and rejuvenate. A walk outside, away from the screen and often chaotic work environment can do wonders to reset your mind and body. Lead by example and encourage your team members to do the same.

Ethics are the foundation for strong leadership and collaboration.

When understood and put into practice at work, ethics have the potential to fuel productivity and motivation. Ethical leaders cultivate focus, trust, and connection, which are key ingredients for successful leadership. Leaders that practice ethics in action find that the principles reach far beyond company walls and add value to their lives outside of work as well. Ethics are universal and add value to our work and life.

How can you put ethics into practice to strengthen your leadership? Many leaders don’t realize that diverse teams often have very different individual perceptions of what ethics look like in practice. Teams need to learn a collective language for ethics in order for ethics to be accessible instead of vague. Leaders can lead by example by putting ethics into action by learning the ten principles from the Awake Ethics guidebook, doing the individual and team exercises for putting the principles into practice, and reflecting on how the actions of the individuals align with their core intentions of peace and progress.

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Leading Forum
This post is by Hilary Jane Grosskopf. She is the author of Awake Ethics: A System for Aligning Your Action with Your Core Intentions (2018) and Awake Leadership: A System for Leading with Clarity and Creativity (2018). She is a leadership guide, strategist, writer and Founder of Awake Leadership Solutions.

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