What is Ethical Leadership? - Definition & Examples

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Tara Schofield

Tara received her MBA from Adams State University and is currently working on her DBA from California Southern University. She spent 11 years as a sales and marketing executive. She spent several years with Western Governor's University as a faculty member. Tara has been at Study.com for seven years.

Ethical leadership benefits organizations by providing a good example and enhancing the organization's reputation. Explore the defining characteristics of ethical leadership and examine real-world examples of ethical leadership in action. Updated: 01/22/2022

Definition of Ethical Leadership

Your boss is a great guy. He shows respect to his employees by supporting their personal interests and needs. You have commented many times that he is the most honest, considerate, and fair boss you have ever worked for. You trust him and know that he will protect the rights of each person in your department. This boss is a great example of an ethical leader.

Ethical leadership is exhibiting morals and values in a management position. An ethical leader demonstrates character, morals, and virtue in their work, focusing on the needs and rights of their employees.

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  • 0:03 Definition of Ethical…
  • 0:39 Responsibilities & Obligations
  • 3:02 Traits of Ethical Leaders
  • 3:58 Examples of Ethical Leaders
  • 4:32 Lesson Summary
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Responsibilities & Obligations

There are some basic responsibilities and obligations for ethic leaders, including setting a good example, holding everyone to the same standard, and making expectations clear.

Setting a Good Example

An ethical leader demonstrates appropriate and professional behavior for his or her team. For instance, a leader who lies, avoids responsibility, or does as little as possible in his or her own job is not demonstrating ethical behavior. The team will not respect him or her. Unless their personal code of conduct causes them to be ethical, employees will exhibit the same unethical behaviors as the manager.

Ethics can also be exhibited when working with clients and vendors. An ethical manager is honest and straightforward with everyone he or she deals with, not just employees.

Holding Everyone to the Same Standard

Now, imagine you're an accounting clerk at a large office building. There are six other people in your department. Your boss has made it clear she wants everyone to be at work by 8:30 in the morning. However, two of the employees are friends with the boss and get special treatment because of their relationship. They come in at 9:00 or 9:15. Neither of these employees are reprimanded for their lateness.

Another co-worker was 20 minutes late yesterday, arriving at 8:50 in the morning. The boss brought it to his attention that he was late and said he would be written up if he's late again.

When managers are not consistent and hold everyone to the same expectations, staff members lose respect for the leader. She or he will lose power as the boss, and she or he will have angry employees who may retaliate. This behavior isn't ethical and fair. An ethical manager holds everyone to the same rules and consequences.

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