Archive for the ‘ Influence ’ Category

Ethical Behavior in Leadership

“Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one is watching – even when doing the wrong thing is legal”. – Aldo Leopold

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Avoiding activities or organizations that do harm to people or the environment.

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Examples of non-ethical behavior in business and leadership are all around us; and recent well-publicized ethical breaches in organizations have brought a great deal of attention to the issue of ethical behavior – from political campaigns filled with half-truths or outright lies, and distortions to support a viewpoint; to examples of business tax evasion; to politicians submitting fraudulent expenses. The lack of integrity around the world is alarming. Even Patricia Wallington writing for CIO identifies that 82% of CEO’s admitted lying about their golf scores.


Ethical behavior is essential in leadership – good leaders have integrity, honesty, and are inclined to do the right thing (which is not, necessarily, the easy or quick choice). Ethical leaders will display self-confidence, and the people around them will be more inclined to work for a leader they know they can trust to make the right decisions. A paper published by Johnathan K. Nelson, George Mason University explains that ethical leadership is associated with a number of desired outcomes related to employees at the individual and group levels, including willingness to exert extra effort and help others; better task performance; increased job satisfaction and commitment to the organization; perceptions of an ethical climate; optimism in the future of the organization and their place within it; perceptions of task significance, autonomy, and voice – including a willingness to report problems to management.

But how can we work to become ethical leaders?

Before we look at how we can become ethical leaders, we need to look at a bigger-picture approach of identifying ourselves as moral people. Jonathan K Nelson’s paper goes on to identify key traits of ethical people:

  • Ensure that ethical behavior in their private life is consistent with the moral standards they publically promote. Ensuring that their actions are not hypocritical of their words.
  • Take responsibility for their actions.
  • Show concern for other people.
  • Treat others fairly and with respect.
  • Use personal and organizational values to guide their behavior and decisions.
  • Implement decisions that are objective and fair, based on fact and not opinion.

Ethics in leadership, however, goes beyond simply acting as a moral person. Being an ethical leader includes recognizing that employees are looking for guidance in their decision-making, and they need to recognize that they have power of influence over the behavior of others. Ethical leaders:

  • Demonstrate examples of ethical behavior and ethical decision-making.
  • Explain decisions not only in making a business case, but in ethical terms as well.
  • Discuss ethical issues in their communication with employees; and encourage ethics-centered discussions, where they can encourage subordinates to speak up about their ethics-related questions and concerns.
  • Explain ethical rules and principles.
  • Give subordinates a say in decision-making and listen to their ideas and concerns.
  • Set clear ethical standards and enforce those standards through the use of organizational rewards, and holding people accountable when standard are not met.

EthicalSystems.Org also provides gives us some ideas we can apply to our leadership role to empower us to act more ethically on a day-to-day basis:

Got Ethics Post It 2

Make ethics a clear priority
Ethical leaders make ethics a clear and consistent part of their agendas, set the standards for those around them, set examples of appropriate behavior, and hold everyone accountable when those standards aren’t met.

Make ethical culture a part of every personnel-related function in your organization
Leaders need to work hard through the hiring process, training new employees, and continuing performance management to bring in the right employees in the first instance, and then help them to work within the organization’s underlying values on ethical business.

Encourage, measure, and reward ethical leadership.
Ethical leadership from the top down is very important – not only because it creates an environment in which lower-level ethical leaders can flourish and grow – but ethical leadership at the supervisory level will guide and encourage followers’ attitudes and behavior.

Ethical leadership, at all levels of an organization, not only encourages employees within a business to act with moral integrity and make the right decisions by providing the right guidance and support on decisions and empowering employees to raise concerns when they feel something isn’t right, but this in turn will support the ethical view of the business, both internally and externally. Ethical leadership has an associated positive effect on employees. Ethical leadership supports the organization in their stead within society ensuring that the business as a whole is able to operate ethically and fairly.

For further reading on ethics in leadership, the Community Tool Box has an article which clearly defines ethics and ethical leadership; and looks at further suggestions on practicing ethical leadership; and Jack Zenger, writing for Forbes looks at ways to prevent corruption (and in turn, develop ethical behavior) in the top leadership levels of an organization.

Leadership as a Lifestyle

Go to any Instagram account, Facebook or social media and you will see a host of lifestyle brands – fashion, makeup, fitness, food, sunglasses, restaurants, coffee shops, shoes – from GQ to the next up and coming photographer or fitness expert. We are attracted to these brands for the messages they portray – fun, motivational, luxury – whatever you have an appetite for.

These brands send a clear message and have a strong theme in common – they are these lifestyles all the time.

Fitness at my gym, to “abs are made in the kitchen”, and wearing workout clothes to the grocery store. These brands say, “I am a 24/7” brand. A few weeks ago, I saw guy on the I-15 south curling a dumbbell while driving – I’m not making that up.

In the same way, your outlook as a leader needs to be just like these lifestyle brands. You need to be a lifestyle leader or what I call a five to eight leader. What many people don’t understand is that true leadership is not just a skill, but a lifestyle. It’s not just something you do “in between the lines” of your 8-5 but how you interact from 5 to 8 as well. A leader in the community, a leader at home, a leader at work….a leader. Leadership as a lifestyle.

Great leaders do not create artificial barriers between time, people, work, community or based on the positions they hold and what they can get in return from the relationship. They are real, honest, authentic, and trustworthy. Here’s one that made me chuckle a little bit. There’s a 2+million viewed  TED Talk about how one develops the necessary skills to sound like a leader. Fifteen minutes of discussing how to best develop a persona that exudes leadership from your stance to vocal intonations. I’m not sure what that means or even how you go about “exuding” a leadership persona.

What we should be doing is spending that time developing a leadership lifestyle full of skills such as listening, sympathy, decision making, and trust. If you are a good leader, you’ll sound like one too.

Be a lifestyle leader.

You Should Bloom Where You are Planted

One of the greatest attributes of successful people and leaders is to understand their passions and strengths. Sometimes we get distracted or side-tracked by other things that are perceived as adding value but in reality they are time wasters and productivity drainers. Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves of what our strengths are and focus on those. Jake Weidmann reminds us all about pursuing our strengths and crafting our passions.

The Leaders Guide to Mediocrity—Less Than a Million Ways to Maintain the Status Quo

“Proceed with caution in the direction of your hopes, and live safely, the life have.” —Hank Dave Locke

Mediocre is a good. Moderate quality is ok. “Average is the norm,” as Yogi Berra might say.

300x300Today’s world is complicated—every segment of society is continually changing and very little seems to be certain anymore, like it was two hundred years ago. No amount strategy, planning, or consulting can change this reality.

The great challenge for today’s leader at work, in sports, at home, or in academia, is to help everyone just hold on through the chaos and hope that things turn out for the good. We need to lower our expectations on what “greatness” really is. Our primary focus as leaders today is to maintain the status quo and not allow innovation, excellence, or a utopian idea of high-performance disrupt people from allowing people to get their job done the way they always have—for the most part.

The following are a host (who really counts how many points there are in articles like this anymore?) of ideas, or habits, or secrets, that will help leaders around the world avoid the stress caused by the quest for “higher levels” of performance and help maintain the status quo within your spheres of influence—if you have any.

Don’t Have a Vision

Visions are nothing more than “pie in the sky” dreams about the way things should be, not the way things really are. Having a vision for your organization only stresses people out and puts too high of expectations on them—expectations that are impossible to live up to in the end. And besides everybody forgets the vision after the town hall meeting anyway. So leaders need to save everyone the stress—don’t create a vision.

Don’t Set GoalsIMG_0517

Like vision, goals are a big stress in any area of life. People don’t need really need goals; it only sets you up for failure and disappointment. People come to work and know what they’re supposed to do and should be left alone to get it done—they don’t need a goal to tell them what they need to do. Without the stress of goals we don’t have to plan our week or take time every day to think about our activities we need to do. Without the burden of goals, people are free to just get straight to working—on something!

Don’t Give Feedback—And Never Ever Ask for Feedback

Feedback is just an illusion. It’s just someone else’s perception. By offering feedback you’re suggesting that something could be actually done a certain way—that’s pretty judgmental if you think about it. The reality is that everybody has their own way about going about doing things. By giving feedback to someone you’re know judging them, you’re insinuating that things could be done even better, and this is very disruptive to an organization—especially when you give feedback to someone that’s been leading people for 20 or more years. By asking for feedback you’re insinuating that someone knows how to do it better than you. That’s a no-no. You’ll look like a fool and people may begin to think that you don’t know how to do your job if you ask for feedback

Don’t Listen

There’s only so much time in a day that you can sit around and listen to people’s complaints and problems. A leader that wants to maintain the
status quo and promote mediocrity, keep things flowing, should have no part of listening to somebody else’s challenges concerns or feedback. Time is of the
essence so don’t waste time listening to people’s concerns, and they’ll figure it out on their own—probably.

Don’t Solve Problems—Today

Like listening, problem-solving is another big waste of time. Problems exist, they always will, so what’s the point of trying to solve a problem when the reality is there will be 10 more, at least, that will spring up the next day. And if you really must try to solve a problem, sometimes you do, than the best strategy is to put it off until tomorrow. An average leader instinctively knows that today is all we have, and today’s troubles will take care of themselves; tomorrow.

Don’t Measure Performance

Yardstick-500x375Our society is beginning to understand this at a youth sports level—it’s time to understand this at a corporate level. If you hand out trophies and reward people for a “excellent” performance, what does that say to the rest of the organization? Measuring performance is just another way to discourage those who want to show up and work and just collect a paycheck. It’s another way to create distrust of the executives. Remember, your mission is to help your people survive, it’s not up to you to help them thrive—making the “scoreboard” irrelevant.

Feed Them Coffee and Donuts

This is a no brainer. Pavlov proved long ago that food, and now today, coffee, is a real good way to keep people satisfied. As long as people can come to work and know that donuts and coffee will be available, they will keep showing up. Sure it didn’t really work out with the orca whales at that Entertainment Park, but then again people aren’t really whales—food defiantly will satisfy humans. It’s not that complicated.

Which brings us full circle. Today’s leaders need to provide a safe environment with moderate expectations. The primary purpose of leadership is to help people survive and get through life in one piece—and enjoy the weekend. Leaders who follow these simple guiding principles will more than likely produce a culture of mediocrity and maintain a steady balance and certainty in an otherwise uncertain world.

Jason Diamond Arnold is a leadership consultant for The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action a real time, real work, leaning experience that develops effective communication and collaboration skills for individuals in the workplace. He works with Fortune 500 Companies, Small Business, and Start Ups developing Performance Intelligence strategies that are linked to research based, leadership development curriculums and cutting edge application software.

Top 3 Reasons Why Being a Great Leader Isn’t Easy

A few months back, I asked a group of leaders for a show of hands on who had experienced either oversupervision or undersupervision. Almost every hand went up. But then I asked how many had themselves oversupervised or undersupervised their direct reports. Only one or two hands shyly peeked out from the crowd.

So what’s going on? Well, leaders can sometimes be unaware of what they should and should not be doing. And this lack of awareness separates good leaders from great leaders. Great leaders know that leading is a never-ending journey that can be filled with treacherous obstacles.

So what do you need to know to become a great leader?
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Moral Courage

“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Courage is a well-admired human trait; but when asked what courage is, what do you think of?

Is it a soldier, fighting a battle far from home against a fierce, unknown enemy?
What about a fire-fighting hero running in to save someone from a burning building?
Perhaps your imagination stretches to a fictional hero, rushing in to save the day?

All of these are an example of physical courage – someone’s life is in imminent danger, and our courageous hero puts everything right again.

But forget about your cape-wearing, pants-on the-outside, lycra-clad hero. What about normal, average people?  The British have a wonderful phrase for this: “The man on the Clapham Omnibus” – people going about their everyday business.

This could encompass individuals who blow the whistle on corporate corruption, at risk of losing their job; or – an example from one of my favourite books (Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird”); a Lawyer, who stands up to defend someone who is innocent, even though society condemns them for doing so. Could these people be described as ‘courageous’?

In a word: yes!

The courage demonstrated by holding on to one’s own values – regardless of whether this is on the battlefield, or in the boardroom – is Moral Courage.

Lisa Dungate defines Moral Courage perfectly in her blog on Lions Whiskers, where she explains that: “Moral courage means doing the right thing, even at the risk of inconvenience, ridicule, punishment, loss of job or security or social status”.

Novelist, J.K. Rowling’s Harvard Commencement Speech for the Class of 2008 provides some moving examples. The  video of her speech, from, is 21 minutes long; but at 12 minutes she gives an emotional recollection of her time working at Amnesty International, with people who risked their own lives to speak out about the persecution, abuse, and torture taking place in their home lands.

Everyday moral courage often isn’t this extreme, but that does not mean that it is any easier to practice: moral courage might mean being different or disagreeing publicly.

As difficult as it is – displaying moral courage can earn respect, trust, and admiralty; and by practicing moral courage very day it gradually will become easier.

Let’s take moral courage away from the corporate setting, for a moment; and consider practicing in every day situations:

  • You and your friends are deciding what movie to see, or where to get dinner, but you don’t like the choice they all prefer. Instead of going along silently, or pretending to agree, say, “Well, it wouldn’t be my first choice, but if you all like it, that’s OK with me.”
  • One of your friends has gotten a tattoo, and everyone is admiring it, but you don’t like tattoos. Instead of letting everyone believe that you also think tattoos are really cool, have the courage to express a different view. “I’m glad you like his tattoo, but personally, I just don’t see the appeal.”

You don’t need to be being rude; or enforcing your own opinions on others, to demonstrate moral courage.

But, as professionals, how can we use these skills to make values-driven decisions consistently?

The Ivey Business Journal gives examples of moral courage in leadership: In August 2008, when Michael McCain, CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, stood in front of the press to accept responsibility for the contaminated meat scandal that resulted in numerous deaths, he undoubtedly needed courage.  Southwest Airlines CEO, James Parker, would have needed courage when he went against the industry job-slashing trend following 9/11 when he courageously announced that he would keep all employees

Why is moral courage important in leadership?

Moral courage is crucial in developing authenticity – it empowers individuals to discover and demonstrate what they stand for – even if this is at the disapproval of others. By developing self leadership through action in moral dilemmas, professionals and leaders can ensure both integrity and impact.

Actions speak louder than words.  Leaders at all levels need to act out their expectations, behave honestly and openly, and demonstrate loyalty. They need to establish and maintain open communications, so that those working with them know that their suggestions will be listened to – that they have a voice. People need to know that their leader isn’t going to act on a whim, just because it’s the majority decision. All of these qualities are facilitated by a leader who has courage.

Leaders with moral courage can be trusted by colleagues to do the right thing. It takes courage to tell the boss something that they do not necessarily want to hear; or to redirect an employee; or to make unpopular decisions.

An awareness of the importance of doing the right thing – which is not necessarily the popular thing – can help leaders demonstrate moral courage when they face ethical challenges in the workplace, and uphold ethical working environments and business standards.

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