Leadership and the Ethics Question: 5 Key Traits to get you started

A couple of years down the line, the world still remembers some of the biggest corporate world scandals. From Volkswagen’s 2015 Emissions Scandal to Facebook’s 2018 Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal, we can see how leaders play, perhaps, the most important role in creating the blueprint for what is regarded as acceptable conduct within any organization. 

It is true that employees are such an important factor to consider, as they handle most of the activities throughout the company. However, leaders are the role models whose actions are observed and emulated more than they know. 

Ethical leadership at its core is a multifaceted concept that requires adequate in-depth analysis. However, if you are wondering what 5 key traits define a true ethical leader, here you go:

A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim is fulfilled.”

Leading by example

Ethical leadership starts with self-reflection. As the leader of a group of people, you need to truly define what matters to you, how the work that you do can reflect your beliefs, and set a good standard for others to follow. Lao Tzu once said; 

A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim is fulfilled.”

The way you conduct yourself is a clear message to those that you lead. People will follow what you do and not what you say.


 the most effective leaders are the ones who prioritize the well-being and success of their team above their own interests.

Putting others first

Ethical leaders understand that it is never about them. Their services are premised on the interests of the greater good and they always put others first. Followers are more inclined to give their best to leaders who are forthcoming, transparent, and interested in the progress of the team.

Simon Sinek in his book,  Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t, emphasized that the most effective leaders are the ones who prioritize the well-being and success of their team above their own interests. 

Selflessness, trust, and a sense of service to others are some of the foundational characteristics that will help you become an ethical leader.


Accountability and responsibility

Leadership is synonymous with taking responsibility and holding oneself accountable for all actions, including the poor ones. An ethical leader understands the place of admitting wrongdoings and not shifting blame to others when things do not go as planned.


The best way to get others to take accountability for their actions is to demonstrate the same willingness to take responsibility for your actions as a leader.

Thinking beyond ‘self’ and group-think standards

It is true that leadership can be expressed in numerous ways. However, what makes a true leader is the ability to combine important traits and skills such as innovation, resilience, and adaptability in creating a compelling vision that others can follow.

In the same vein, an ethical leader understands that always doing the right thing may not attract the right level of cooperation from others. However, it’s important to remain firm, defy group-think standards, and continue to focus on the goals, rather than what will benefit you only.


Being guided by the right values

Ethical leaders know that there are no grey lines with integrity and respect, and they allow the right values to be their guide. 

Ethical leadership is all about knowing what is right, building a culture around it, showing just how it should be done, and ensuring that others follow suit. Ethical conduct reflects on the reputation of any organization and compromising on proper standards often causes a dent in reputation and a loss of trust between leaders and stakeholders. 

Ethical standards exist for human protection, quality preservation, and the promotion of fairness and sound judgment. Never underestimate how far ethics can go in building an organization that will stand the test of time. 

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