ethical leadership

Ethical leadership

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The dream of every HR professional, and every employee, is to have ethical leaders who will work towards the benefit of the company and their team. Unfortunately most of the times it is extremely complicated to find that ethical leadership, or at least to know for sure during the recruitment process.

What is the definition of ethical leadership?

The Oxford dictionary defines ethics as “Moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour or the conducting of an activity”. This makes the exact definition a little bit harder. Not everyone would have the same moral principles, so someone conducted by different principles to yours, might not be exactly a referent to you.

However, despite the differences, everyone would agree on someone being ethical when they always follow those “moral principles”. We could therefore define an ethical leader as that one that always acts following their own moral principles.

Why is important to have ethical leaders to your company?

Employee retention

Have you heard “People don’t leave jobs, leave bosses”? If you haven’t heard about this, think about all the jobs you left in the past. Sometimes is just that you needed more money, or it was a weekends job and you finally found your big opportunity. Unfortunately, eventhough is not the number one reason for staff turnover, it is one of the most usual ones.

Surprisingly, it is not about characters, it is about having a manager that is not consistent with their decissions and is not aligned with a certain morale. We all understand bad days, and even strong personalities. The human being can easily adapt to any challenge, but most people really struggle with having to take actions that go against their morale and the inconsistency of it.

Customer satisfaction

When your leaders act in a certain way, or they are permissive with them, it could be really challenging for HR or the board to control and implement best practices around customers. Imagine that one of your leaders doesn’t really care about customers and lies to them in order to get higher sales, or they fake numbers in a report to look like they are achieving targets when they are not. How can you tell your team not to do the same if you are not leading by example?

Are the leaders of your company ethical?

It is not just about saying that they are ethical, it is about checking whether if their actions are really aligned with the moral principles you are looking for in your company. That should start from stablishing a great recruitment process, where you analyse some parts of it, actions or examples of situations where they struggle to take the right decission, etc…

Unfortunately, managers and small company owners (neither the bigger ones) don’t usually spend the time in analysing these part of the candidate’s profile. It could be due to a lack of resources, knowledge on how to do it, or the capacity to see if they are actually evaluating the right points.

How can I know if a candidate or a manager will be conduct an ethical leadership?

Step 1: Stablish what you define as ethical leadership. What are key points of your own morale as an entrepeneur?

Step 2: Find a technique that will help you identifying these points. A professional detailed interview could help, but sometimes is not enough.

Research around ethical leadership

in 2018, researchers from the International University of La Rioja (UNIR) created a questionnaire together with several HR departments that can measure ethical leadership for those who are managing others.

“Developing ethical leaders is the best preventive system for any type of organization and for its own sustainability and future” , “Ethical leaders exist in all areas and levels of an organization, but it is essential that leaders and middle managers are in practice”, but, “to this day, there is no guarantee enough tool”.

Sofía Unda, Director of the research group

Unda recalled that there are studies that indicate the relationship between these leaders and business efficiency, but “the problem is that organizations do not have reliable tools”. Anyone who has a people management responsability role accross any organizations could have the possibility to know how ethical they or their team are. Prior to this research there was no validated model from a scientific point of view in this area worldwide.

Therefore, “It was necessary for an instrument to be designed to measure it and, depending on that, attract talent and develop it within the organization”. In additon to that “ethical leaders are professionals who know how to bring out the best in people, with what the profitability of the company is multiplied by twenty “.

In order to validate this model, the seven members of REGELO (the research group within the university) carried out a series of interviews with executives and middle managers of leading organizations in Spain within the educational, technological and tourism sectors.

“We want to see what they understand by ethical leadership and, specifically, in their sector, if there is a contextual factor that, in some way, conditions the exercise of such ethical leadership,” said Sofía Unda.

Ethical leadership for organizations

The Elo (Ethical Leadership for Organizations) Institute, whose CEO is Sofía Unda, leader of the research mentioned above, was created recently to help companies with this aspect of their leadership. To better understand if their leaders are the correct ones. Helping not just with the current leaders, but with future recruitments now that more companies are understanding the importance of having ethical leaders to manage their teams.

ELO institute developed certificates of “Ethical professionals” not just helping companies, but individuals who are actually ethical leaders to prove that they really are.

As an example of what they do, here you have their global Ethical Leadership quotient.


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