Leading with Integrity & Accountability: A Guide for Ethical Leaders

What if your boss was displaying favoritism towards specific coworkers or groups, offering them opportunities at the expense of others, based solely on gender, race, or religion—overlooking potentially more capable or skilled individuals? This blatant discrimination and bias underlines the significance of advocating for ethical leadership and responsible conduct in the workplace, which is essential for fostering a healthy and productive work environment.

October 16, 2023

29% of employees in the U.S. have witnessed or experienced unethical behavior, according to a study by The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, in collaboration with the Faas Foundation posted in the Harvard Business Review. This study surveyed over 14,500 employees across industries to better understand how Americans experience work. This study also found that 27% of employees experienced an unhealthy work environment, 27% have experienced being lied to by their leaders, and 1 in 4 employees feel pressured by their leaders to act unethically and are afraid to speak up.

Here are six ways that leaders can enhance ethical and responsible leadership habits:

One: Practice prioritizing transparency and accountability

Transparency and accountability are vital skills for leaders who want to build trust, credibility, and loyalty among their employees, customers, and stakeholders. These skills can also enhance your organization’s reputation, performance, and social impact. In a recent survey, 73% of respondents selected transparency and accountability as the most important aspect of ethically responsible leadership in the workplace.

Two: Foster a culture of ethics

Business leaders can create a workplace culture that values ethical behavior and encourages team members to speak up. Providing employees with training and support to help them understand the importance of ethical behavior will contribute to a trusting workplace and ensure your employees will hold team members accountable if they witness unethical practices.

Three: Embrace diversity and inclusion

Ensuring that the leaders of your company value diversity and inclusion while treating everyone fairly and creating a welcoming and inclusive workplace will let all employees know they are respected, regardless of gender, race, or personal characteristics.

Four: Consider the impact of your company’s products and services

Company leaders need to be aware of their company’s products and services’ impact on society and the environment. This can help guide business leaders to take steps to mitigate any adverse effects and work to ensure that their products and services are used responsibly and ethically.

Five: Engage with stakeholders

Leaders who consistently engage with stakeholders, like customers, employees, and community members, will better understand and be more responsive to their concerns. Leaders should consider this feedback as they continue to make ethical business decisions.

Six: Lead by example

Leading by example and demonstrating ethical and responsible behavior in the workplace will ensure that the company operates consistently with its values and principles. As leaders remain honest, transparent, and accountable, their team members will become confident in their company’s leadership.

The integration of ethical leadership benefits employee productivity, nurturing attributes such as creativity, initiative, innovation, focus, determination, honesty, discipline, and punctuality. Embedding ethical principles into a company’s leadership fosters a culture of ethics, resulting in heightened employee satisfaction, trust, and engagement in their work. Consequently, this diminishes the probability of dishonesty within the organization and boosts employee productivity. As leaders of an organization, it is your responsibility to ensure that your businesses operate ethically and responsibly. As society becomes increasingly vigilant of companies’ impact on the world around us, it is more important now than ever.

*Source: Samidi, Sudarmawan & Sjahrifa, Cut. (2018). The Role of Ethical Leadership towards Employee Productivity of Medium Enterprises: An Indonesia Experience

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