Ethical Leadership Principles

In this section, we present five principles that are believed to lead to the development of ethical leadership. These are respect for others, service to others, justice for others, honesty toward others, and building community with others.
1.     Respect for Others:
Ethical leaders treat others with dignity and respect. This means that they treat people as ends in themselves rather than as means to their own ends. This form of respect recognizes that followers have goals and ambitions and confirms followers as human beings who have worth and value to the organization. In addition, it leads to empathy, active listening, and tolerance for conflicting viewpoints.
2.     Service to Others
Ethical leaders serve others. They behave in an altruistic fashion as opposed to behaving in a way that is based on ethical egoism. These leaders put followers first—their prime reason for being is to support and nurture subordinates. Service to others is exemplified through behaviors such as mentoring, building teams, and empowering.
3.     Justice for Others
Ethical leaders ensure that justice and fairness are central parts of their decision making. This means treating all subordinates in very similar ways, except when there is a very clear need for differential treatment and there is transparency about why this need exists. In addition to being transparent, the logic for differential treatment should be morally sound and reasonable.
4.     Honesty Toward Others
Ethical leadership requires honesty. Dishonesty destroys trust—a critical characteristic of any leader– follower relationship. On the other hand, honesty increases trust and builds the leader–follower relationship. Honesty means to be open with others by expressing our thinking and our reality as fully as we can. This means balancing openness with disclosing only what is appropriate in a given scenario. Honesty for leaders means the following:
Do not promise what you can’t deliver, do not misrepresent, do not hide behind spindoctored evasions, do not suppress obligations, do not evade accountability, do not accept that the “survival of the fittest” pressures of business release any of us from the responsibility to respect another’s dignity and humanity. We would argue that leaders need to ensure that what they believe, what they think, what they say, and what they do are internally consistent. This internal consistency, along with openness, will build trust among followers toward the leader.
5.     Building Community With Others
Ethical leaders build community with others. This is crucial because leadership is about influencing others to achieve a communal goal. This means that leaders develop organizational or team goals that are appropriate for the leader and his or her followers. These goals need to excite as many people as possible, and ethical leaders achieve this by taking into account the goals of everyone in the team or organization.