Advertise with

Concern for ethical consciousness comes at a time when the concept of legitimacy in leadership is questioned and public trust in governance is low.
Concern for ethical consciousness comes at a time when the concept of legitimacy in leadership is questioned and public trust in governance is low.

Lack of ethical leadership a clear and present danger


By Paresh Soni - Jan 30th, 10:35

Lack of ethical leadership in most sectors of life is destroying natural ecosystems that sustain us, undermining our economic future, dismantling trust in self-government, undoing the sense of shared interest that allows us to co-exist and unravelling the threads of community that nurture us. 

Concern for ethical consciousness comes at a time when the concept of legitimacy in leadership is questioned and public trust in governance is low. Leaders should be a source of ethical guidance for underlings and responsible for moral development in organisations.

Unethical behaviour threatens the environment by supporting mass production of material goods, often to the detriment of the populations of developing nations. Extreme consumerism is distorting values towards the possession of material goods over quality relationships and meaningful pursuits.

Our current value system tells us “we are what we wear, what we drive and where we live”, and that “what we own reflects what we are worth”. As global organisations grow, so does their ability to influence employees, populations and the environment.

Examples of unethical leadership confront us almost every day, whether it is from politicians, business executives, tenderpreneurs, religious leaders or organisations accused of tax evasion, negligence, misrepresentation, bribery, money laundering, financial manipulation or auditing failures.

Civil society is angry, which results in populist politicians coming to the fore and gaining political ground.

It all seems quite frightening. However, that all these misdeeds are coming to light demonstrates a positive underlying development that is the result of the information and internet age. In the 20th century and before, organisations were more easily able to hide their bad behaviour.

There is a realisation that fundamental change needs to take place. We need a new kind of leadership. Ethical behaviour is a core element, alongside transformative, radical, authentic, caring and performance-enhancing governance.

However, while we know ethical leadership is important, there are few methodologies to make it succeed in business. Likewise, there is little literature about the way to develop ethical leaders.

In truth, we can’t discuss ethical leadership without first looking at ethics. If we ask 100 people what they mean by ethics, we might get 100 different answers.

Ethical behaviour, in its simplest terms, is knowing and doing what is right. The difficulty is in defining “right”. Different individuals, cultures and religions have their own ideas. Attitudes towards slavery and the acceptable treatment of women show how big those differences can be.

Instead of perceiving ethical leadership as preventing people from doing the wrong thing, researchers propose that we need to view it as enabling them to do the right thing.

To be an ethical leader, one needs to adhere to a more universal standard of moral behaviour. Leading ethically is a process of inquiry, asking questions about what is right and what is wrong. It’s also a mode of conduct — setting an example for others about what is right or wrong in particular actions.

Towards this end, transformational and servant leadership help orientate future leaders towards an ethical leadership compass. The bottom line is that we must start educating them now and instil integrity, trustworthiness, honesty, service and a commitment to virtue in them.

Taking responsibility and working to correct mistakes and improve performance is part of a transformative leader’s job, as is making sure that an organisation’s dealings with everyone are ethical. Blaming others, even if they have made mistakes, does not negate the leader’s responsibility.

Ethical leadership implies having a coherent ethical framework that will guide a leader’s decisions and actions all the time, not only in specific situations. Among the most important characteristics are openness and honesty; the willingness to encourage regular discussion of ethical issues and decisions; the urge to mentor others to lead; the drive to maintain and increase competence; the capacity to accept feedback and the ability to put aside personal interest and ego.

Finally, an ethical leader never stops examining his or her ethical assumptions and what it means to be an ethical leader. Like so many other important tasks, maintaining ethical leadership is ongoing.

Leadership is a privilege and a responsibility that demands much from those who practice it. Leaders are role models, whether they want to be or not. They set the tone for the ethical stance of their followers and their company; even, in some cases, for the broader community.

If we are concerned about our future, we must be guided by Martin Luther King’s assertion: “The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men."
Business Live 

Read more about: leadership | ethics | business

Related News

Samsung and KOO win big at the 21st Sunday Times Top Brands Awards
20/09/2019 - 15:12
Samsung and KOO have been announced as South Africa’s Overall Favourite Brands, winning the Grand Prix Awards in the respective Business and Consumer sectors of the 21st Sunday Times Top Brands Survey.

Embracing workforce transformation in a digital world
20/09/2019 - 13:53
Workforce transformation affects all aspects of business and companies must plan for the impact it is having and will continue to have on operations. Nicol Myburgh, Head of the HR Business Unit at CRS Technologies, says the evolving business landscape means companies must start thinking now about the skills they need for the future.

Digital marketing: multi-touch attribution
19/09/2019 - 13:43
The effective tracking of digital marketing campaigns is not as easy as initially thought. One question that often pops up is: at what point did consumer conversion take place? During a campaign, it’s difficult to attribute this correctly, especially with multiple touchpoints such as display and native advertising, sponsored social posts, video ads on mobile or paid-for search results all running consecutively.

Working towards better data management
17/09/2019 - 11:31
Big data is seeing organisations becoming more mindful of aligning their data management practices with newer paradigms such as data lakes, elastic and cluster computing, and real-time data. As such, the cloud provides an environment capable of managing the volume and scale required to do so.

Clover, Milco merger puts 657 jobs on the line
17/09/2019 - 10:05
A total of 657 existing jobs will be on the line at Clover Industries in the next two years if the R4.8 billion merger between the JSE-listed dairy company and Israel-based Milco is approved by the Competition Tribunal.