‘Ethical Leadership’ Category


Ethical Leadership: Encourage Dissent

Justin Clark & Kara Redoutey

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?
Leaders are hesitant to encourage dissent because it implies that they may not be right. It always carries with it a connotation of insubordination. Neither of these things are typically perceived to be desirable attributes of leaders.

What is the case for doing it anyway?
If we never see the contrarian viewpoint, then how are we going to be challenged as leaders to think critically? We must not be afraid to offer a dissenting opinion in order to ensure that our decision making process is robust and encourages only the most carefully critiqued and properly evaluated outcomes.

How can you do it?
1) See the other side.
Try to evaluate a situation from all sides. See different perspectives and be open to other viewpoints.   
2) Embrace tough questions. Welcome the challenge of a contrarian view point and embrace the challenge it may present as an opportunity to have your idea sharpened to the point of producing the best possible outcome.
3) Dissent is not disagreement. Realize that a dissenting opinion is another tool in your arsenal to ensure that the decision you’re making has been vetted through the most rigorous process and will give you the best possible chance to be successful.

Ethical Leadership: Express Your Misgivings

Justin Clark & Kara Redoutey

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?
Leaders are hesitant to express their misgivings because they often fear that they may be alone in their feelings.  No one likes to feel like they are on the outside looking in and particularly as a young leader. You don’t want to be identified as someone who isn’t a team player.

What is the case for doing it anyway?
Doubt and/or apprehension aren’t feelings that exist without cause or reason. They are typically indicative of bigger underlying issues.  Failing to acknowledge them is like ignoring an evacuation alarm in a burning building.  After a long enough period of time, you may find yourself in a situation that you can’t get out of.

How can you do it?
1) Understand your feelings.  
Make sure that you have a handle on your feelings. Know what they are and how to organize the thoughts that they are generating.
2) Isolate your feelings.  Be sure where your feelings are coming from, and isolate your apprehension as best as possible in order to identify its root cause.
3) Express your feelings.  Once you have determined the nature and cause of your feelings, you should candidly, but respectfully, express them to ensure that the course of action is both ethical and appropriate.

Ethical Leadership: Ask the Right Questions

Kara Redoutey & Justin Clark

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

Leaders are hesitant to ask the right questions because asking the right questions may not lead to the most desirable answers. More often than not, it also requires you to ask the hard questions.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Almost every week we have echoed a similar refrain. We have encouraged our readers to ask questions. Sometimes they are intended clarify motive and other times they are meant to promote accountability. Regardless, in order to arrive at the most ethical outcome in a situation you must ask the right questions. If you ask the wrong questions, you will never truly understand the request or the requestor’s motive.

How can you do it?

1) Develop an Ethics Checklist. Whenever you are faced with an ethical dilemma, consult this checklist. Answer each question on this list honestly and thoroughly. Making a decision on a tough ethical leadership challenge will be made simpler by following this process.

2) Investigate. Go back to the requestor and ask more questions. Ensure that you understand. Ask the questions that will get you the answers that you need.

3) Be Persistent. Don’t settle for the run around or answers that are meant to deflect or distract you.

Ethical Leadership: Ask For Help

Justin Clark & Kara Redoutey

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?
Leaders are hesitant to ask for help because it may be viewed as a sign of weakness.  As a young leader, especially, you want to prove to others that you have what it takes to be successful.  Asking for help would only further fuel the idea that you may be in over your head.   

What is the case for doing it anyway?
No one knows everything. It just isn’t conceivably possible. The smartest people know what they don’t know and when to ask for help. As a leader we are responsible for knowing our strengths and our weaknesses so that we can be best prepared for any opportunity that we are presented with. By knowing our weaknesses, it aids us in knowing when we must ask for help.

How can you do it?
1) Know what you don’t know.
The best leaders don’t just know what they are good at. They know what they aren’t good at too. That allows them to make the most efficient use of their time by dealing with the matters they are proficient in and consulting others in other areas. 

2) Don’t be proud. Often times, one of the main obstacles to asking for help is our pride. If we allow it to get in the way, we will inevitably make decisions that are not in our best interest or that of our stakeholders.

3) ASK. Once you identify that you need help and that you’re not too proud to seek help, you still have to go and ask for it. Sometimes the final inertia required to actually ASK is the biggest barrier in the process.

Ethical Leadership: Eliminate Assumptions

Kara Redoutey & Justin Clark

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

Leaders are hesitant to eliminate assumptions because we so often make assumptions and make decisions based off of those assumptions. If we make assumptions, it isn’t difficult for us to assume that others are making assumptions as well. We make assumptions that others know what we have been asked to do and why. We need to stop assuming immediately. Behind assumptions are questions that should be asked and answers that should be sought.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

If we are asking clarifying questions, we can stop making assumptions. We will know the answers and make informed decisions. Making assumptions will lead you to believe that others are informed when they are not. If you make the mistake of believing your team is on board when they are not, you risk making a rash unethical decision, simply because you assumed something that wasn’t true. To read more about the danger of making assumptions, read this article.

How can you do it?

1) Ask questions. If you ask questions, you eliminate the need for assumptions.

2) Consult your mentor. If you consult your mentor, he or she will point you in the right direction and help you form questions you may not have asked earlier.

3) Insist on transparency. Ask the requestor to bring the team up to date on this task and ask your team for feedback. If the requestor is unwilling to do so, you will sense that he/she is not asking you to do something ethical. If the requestor insists on secrecy, you know something is wrong.

Ethical Leadership: Clarify Your Expectations for Ethical Behavior

Kara Redoutey & Justin Clark

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

Leaders are hesitant to clarify their expectations for ethical behavior. They don’t want to push their beliefs or morals onto someone else. They are apprehensive to take a stance one way or another. They are afraid of how they will be perceived by others. They don’t always understand the benefits of clarifying expectations and consistently exhibiting ethical behavior.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

We must first lead by personal example. As leaders, we must show the way. We cannot ask others to make ethical decisions if we don’t make ethical decisions. We must support the organization’s ethical policies and advocate for ethical decision making. This will lead to a culture of ethical behavior, persuade others to discuss ethics and insist on transparency. We don’t want others to perceive us as wishy-washy or unable to stand behind our decisions. We must outline a Code of Conduct and follow it. We must make sure employees are educated on the organization’s Code of Conduct and sign a commitment to abide by it annually.

How can you do it?

1) Develop a Code of Ethics/Code of Conduct. Create a departmental Code of Ethics that aligns with the organization’s Code of Ethics. For help with this, read this article.

2) Lead by example. Do not stray from your ethical guidelines. Stick by them every time.

3) Invite open discussions. Invite your colleagues to discuss ethical leadership challenges or potentially unethical situations with you.

4) Create a learning environment. Prepare written documents so others can review and utilize your case study to prevent unethical behavior in the future.

Ethical Leadership: Invite Criticism

Kara Redoutey & Justin Clark

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

It is difficult for most individuals to accept criticism.  It is even more difficult to invite this criticism to take place.  Most leaders have no desire to feel as if they have failed, made a poor decision, or feel like they are being made fun of, especially by other leaders. 

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Doing the right thing for the organization means consistently making ethical decisions.  Expect that you will receive some criticism for your actions, but only from those individuals whose moral compasses have failed to point them in the right direction.  This is the kind of criticism that you should learn to accept.  You will be a better leader for accepting negative feelings and moving forward with your head held high.  There is no shame in making an ethical decision and leading by example.  You will show other employees that you will not be intimidated and you will not let criticism influence or change your ethical decision.  Standing behind the organization’s Code of Conduct and your thoughtful decision will allow you to invite criticism without fear.

How can you do it?

1)     Accept criticism. There will be individuals that will criticize you for making ethical decisions. Thick skin is important in these cases.

2)     Stand behind your decision.  If you have consulted a trustworthy colleague, reviewed the organization’s Code of Conduct, and reflected on the situation, you have put in the time to help you make a sound ethical decision.  Show your team that you are willing to take the heat for making the right decision.  They will follow your lead.

3)     Create a learning environment.  Write case studies of ethical situations you have experienced and allow your team to dissect and analyze these cases.  Learn from mistakes and improve policies based on your thorough study of real cases.

Ethical Leadership: Clarifying Your Options

Justin Clark & Kara Redoutey

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?
Leaders are hesitant to clarify their options for a host of reasons. Maybe the first option is the easiest. Maybe you feel pressure to choose a specific option. Whatever the reason, it’s important not to fall into the trap of not clarifying all of your options.  

What is the case for doing it anyway?
As leaders we are tasked with making the decision that produces the best outcome for our stakeholders. We are incapable of doing this if we do not clarify and evaluate each and every option.  

How can you do it?                                                                
1) Identify each option.
No decision opportunity exists without at least two choices. With that in mind, making the most informed decision requires you to identify each and every option. 
2) Ask clarifying questions. It is always acceptable to ask clarifying questions. You are entitled to a clear understanding of what is being asked of you.  Be certain that you have done so by exhausting all resources to determine what each of your options are.
3) Make a decision. Only once you are satisfied that you have exhausted all of your resources to clarify your option should you then make an ethical and informed decision.

Ethical Leadership: Unmask Blind Ambition

Kara Redoutey & Justin Clark

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

It is difficult for leaders to unmask blind ambition. The reason for this is the need to acknowledge that the very traits that are ideal for their success as leaders can also be the traits that lead to their downfall. While ambition and drive are key attributes in strong leaders, it is imperative to recognize that these traits could cause us to fail. Ambitiously tackling a task without doing our due diligence in investigation is not wise. It is even more difficult for an ardent leader to identify when ambition is hindering their success.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

The definition of ambition is “an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction.” Knowing that your ambition can lead you to make poor decisions will help you to avoid making rash decisions. To read the story of how blind ambition failed Bausch and Lomb, click here. If failure is more likely when leaders don’t unmask blind ambition, then it is imperative for an ambitious leader to take the steps toward success (the steps toward making a thoughtful decision). A thoughtful decision is made by adhering to the following steps.

How can you do it?

1) Pause. Do not make a rash decision that could be influenced by your ambition and need to please others. Take time to breathe and step away from the situation.

2) Take time to reflect. Once you have paused for a little while, return to the situation and reflect on your options. Make sure you reflect on the pros and cons, benefits and consequences.

3) Review the Code of Ethics. See if your code of ethics outlines an appropriate response for you.

4) Talk to your mentor. It never hurts to discuss the situation with your mentor. Having a trustworthy colleague or mentor is invaluable to evaluating ethical leadership challenges and to making sound ethical decisions.

Ethical Leadership: Toughen Your Hide

Justin Clark & Kara Redoutey

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

Leaders are hesitant to toughen their hide because it will almost inevitably require confrontation.  As leaders, some of us seek to avoid confrontation at almost any cost.  

What is the case for doing it anyway?

You become a leader because you want to make a difference. You believe that you have something to offer. However, you often don’t realize that leadership is all too often one difficult decision after another. One confrontation after another. If we refuse to bow our backs and face these challenges head on, we may be setting ourselves up for failure. In regards to ethical leadership, we may have to take an unpopular stance that will require us to be willing to face ridicule from colleagues and potentially even leaders.

How can you do it?

1) Know the ropes. Leadership requires decision making. If you can’t make tough choices that may be unpopular, then you may want to ask yourself if leadership is right for you.    
2) Stick to your guns. Make an informed decision. And stick to it. Don’t waiver unless you are confronted with overwhelming evidence that your decision was not the best course of action.
3) Grow thick skin. Don’t take constructive criticism personally. It is called constructive for a reason. It is meant to help build you up as a leader and polish your professional skill set.