Ethics of a Leader – Part One

This article will look at the ethics of a leader and that of the future leader. In part one – what disciplines or areas the leader should focus on ‘” here the article will focus on ethical leadership, collaborative leader and authentic leadership. The next article (part two) we will look at – what lessons have past leadership behaviors taught us? What type of leadership will the current Gen-X and next generation Gen-Y look for in leaders at work?

What disciplines or areas the leader should focus on?
Here the article will focus on ethics, collaborative leader and authentic leadership as it relates to future leaders and my own experience in these areas.
Ethical leadership is knowing your core values and having the courage to live them in all parts of your life in service of the common good. We have all seen a few high profile ethical failures in the press in recent years. The devastation caused by accounting fraud at MCI WorldCom, Tyco, Goldman Sachs and Enron will not be forgotten any time soon. In addition, CEOs of several other well-known companies have been charged with bribery and corruption then let go with a big severance package. On the other hand, there are companies led by ethical leadership at the top. Many news outlets have accused B-schools for the ethical dilemma by top leadership. We have to remember here that many of those that committed crimes in the business community never even went to college let alone got a MBA.

Corrupt behavior is not spontaneous. It is a deliberate act, and this highlights the importance and power of sound ethical personal values for preventing unethical behavior (Malan & Smit, 2001). Research strongly supports the conclusion that the ethical philosophies and values of management have a major impact on the ethical choices and behavior of employees (McDonald, 2009). Ethical leadership is guided by values such as individual moral responsibility, caring for others, mutual respect, human fulfillment, honor and integrity (Gardner, cited in Engelbrecht, 2001). The future leader will have to understand that their influence on the employees affects the whole of the organization. The old saying – do as I say not as I do will have to be just that an old out dated philosophy. The future leader will have to lead by example, and this means on and off the job. Top leaders have to be aware that their actions or inactions influence the whole organization. That same influence can carry over to low-level employees. The wrong influence can cause the employees to be unethical such was the case at Enron.

This writer feels very strongly about ethical behavior in the workplace and while outside of work as well. Doing what is right in the eyes of your employees is very important because if you do not this is something they will never forget. Personal integrity and ethical behavior I think are closely linked and plays a part in how person values are in line to how they really are. Integrity means that a person’s behavior is consistent with espoused values, and the person is honest, ethical, and trustworthy (Yuki, G 2010). Therefore, to add to ethics, integrity also plays a key role, and I just wanted to add a short statement here about it because I think both are important. Where there is ethical behavior, you will find the leader to have integrity as well.

Collaborative leader
David Archer and Alex Cameron said in a recent article that Collaborative Leaders hone five leadership skills. These skills for the future leader to use are –

1. Courage to act for the long term. Collaborative leaders find common purpose with partners and look at success over the lifetime of the partnership (Archer, D., & Cameron, A. 2009). Here as I understand it, what the writers are saying is – build networks of professionals like yourself that have the same common purpose. This can help also when the leader passes this network information on to their employees. I also would like to say the top leaders in an organization have to collaborate with their employees as well. Often it is the low-level employees who make the strategic plan work, or they implement the plan.

2. Preparation for how you will handle conflict well in advance. Assume that some conflict will occur in the relationship and examine your habits and typical reactions. Will they help or hinder
the partnership (Archer, D., & Cameron, A. 2009)? Here I would like to say we are talking about our employees. I do believe our relationships with our employees needs to be close. However, there is a point one could cross and others in your team my think it is favoritism. I do think being fair to all will help build a collaborative relationship with your team. Being over friendly and trying to win over your employees this way will not work. In other words, trying to be one of the guys/girls will not work.

3. Investment in strong relationships through the partnership, and with stakeholders. Nothing beats real connections when things go wrong. Actively manage the tension between focusing on delivery and on building relationships (Archer, D., & Cameron, A. 2009). Here the future leader will need to form strong partnerships with all employees. Many companies and corporations are looking at a more transparent work force, meaning there is no clear cut leader or manager all are involved in the direction of the company not just top managers. The future of consumers taking actions to change how leadership reacts is already here. Large corporations and small businesses also use many social networking sites. There has been a few times where a consumer has called out a company on bad product and services, and that company had to act on the consumer complaint on line. So our stakeholders as seen, as consumers can form a relationship with a company in ways never thought of just ten years ago.

4. Development of your interpersonal leadership skills. Key among these is; empathy, understanding what drives others and causes them to respond in a particular way (Archer, D., & Cameron, A. 2009). It is very important for the future leader to have empathy and understanding for their employees. Without both, the leader will not be as effective as he or she could be. For me empathy means to have a real concern for your people or team under your charge. Looking out for their best interest on the job will give the leader respect from the followers, but it has to be a legitimate concern for their people and not just acting as if they are. Leaders and managers need an understanding for different work groups, i.e. generation X, Y and even the Boomers. Each group works and completes tasks differently, and they have different needs while at work too. For me, I have worked with every generation group within the past 20 plus years. So, I somewhat understand each group, but I would not call myself an expert. I do believe empathy and understanding is needed in the workplace and is needed for the future leader to put forth more effort in both.

5. An assured personal motive for collaborating. It is not just being nice'” you also need to work out what is in it for you at a personal level. Being a great collaborative leader is good for your reputation and your career (Archer, D., & Cameron, A. 2009). I do think everyone in the organization needs to work together to reach a common goal. However, I did not totally agree with this statement “what is in it for you” although I do know being collaborating with others will advance your career. No one wants to work with a person who is unwilling to work with other people. Therefore, the future leader will have to work out a balance within his or her team ‘” meaning the leader should work with their lower level employees and upper management as well. The balance here is not to seem only to work with upper management. If your team thinks this is happing they will in turn have less respect for you because they think, you are only looking out for number one. How do I know this, well in my twenty plus years in the military you learn that people do postulate a lot, and it is not always the case. I always tried to have a balance between my low-level troops and upper lever troops. As I have learned when I first joined the Navy when I was young I thought the same thing, our leader is only trying to make himself look good. It was only when I got to that same level that I realized I was wrong. Moreover, when I got to the upper level of management and leadership is when I noticed my young troops were thinking the same about me, funny I know.

Authentic leadership

Research on leader-member exchange and social identity has consistently shown that the extent to which subordinates and their leaders perceive themselves to be similar is related to greater liking and enhanced working relationships (Hogg, 2001; Huang & Iun, 2006). Therefore, the future leaders will have to use more transparency in the workplace. To be effective a leader one needs to create transparent relationships within the work group. This will allow your employees to see you as human too and in turn cause a more open environment. I think humility is part of being an authentic leader or both play a part in a leader, who has this leadership type/skill. I hate to use the word skill because being your true self in not a skill it is something you want to do. The future leader will have to be willing to use humility, which includes an openness to concede mistakes, imperfections, and gaps in knowledge, limitations and shortcomings in the workplace. I have always tried to be an authentic leader and to be a real person at work. I do believe it is good to show that you do not know everything and ask for help from your employees. It is always better to admit you do not know something than pretend you do, because eventually the truth will come out and the leader will lose respect from his or her team.

It is important for a leader to build collaborative teams where the leader is trusted and true collaboration can happen. The future leader in the U.S. will soon face the fact of fewer workers to take on leadership and management roles. Therefore, he or she will have to depend on the workers to be more self managed and self lead. More than ever teamwork has to be incorporated in the workplace and the future leader will have to make that happen. The future authentic leader truly needs to be their true self because the next generation is going to expect it. In the past, many leaders did not show their true self and feelings, which made them unapproachable, or to seem not human but more like robots. Employees now want their leader to show their true self and therefore, the employee will as well (within reason) in the workplace.

Copyright © 2011 Kenneth W. Tolley

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