What is the Value of Being an Ethical Leader?

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By:Beth Flynn, Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

Do ethical leaders influence their employees’ attitudes and behaviors? The answer is a resounding yes. Being an ethical leader is an important end in itself because it is simply the right thing to do to try to live in accordance with one’s values. But it also has tangible benefits for both employees and leaders. Research demonstrates that when employees view their leader as ethical, they are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs and report greater commitment to their organization. Employees are also more likely to view their work as important and meaningful. Ethical leaders influence their employees’ behavior too. Ethical leaders promote behavior that is desirable, but not required by one’s job description, that aims to help others in the organization. Employees who are led by ethical leaders are less likely to engage in unethical behaviors, ranging from a minor indiscretion such as being late to a serious criminal offense such as stealing large sums of money. Finally, when employees report that their leader is ethical, they actually perform better on the job.

Why are ethical leaders so effective in influencing their employees? One explanation relates to the norm of reciprocity, which governs much of human behavior. It prescribes that when one person is treated well by another, they are obliged to reciprocate with positive behavior. Another explanation is that when employees are led by ethical leaders, they are more likely to identify with their group and organization, subsequently behaving in ways to help the collective. A final explanation is that employees often look to their work environment to determine the appropriate way to behave. Ethical leaders serve as role models, and employees learn how to act in their group or organization. Because ethical leaders engender reciprocity, an increased sense of identity, and serve as models for appropriate conduct, employees are more likely to feel good about their job and act in ways that serve the leader and the organization (p. 153-155).”

What are some ways that leaders demonstrate their ethics?



From: Dutton, J.E., & Spreitzer, G.M. (2014). How to be a positive leader: small actions, big impact. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

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Tue, 03/12/2019 - 5:15am -- Beth Flynn

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