What does it mean to be an ethical, morally sound leader and manager: A humanist perspective

I teach humanistic management and leadership. My perspective comes from my experience and values as a Humanist.  This comes from questions I received from a reporter.

1. What tips do you have for managers who want to be an ethical leader?

The way to be an ethical leader – is to integrate ethics into your decision making. It’s central to it. The question – what a good outcome is – is a moral question. You first have to define what you mean by good.  Good can mean – more money – or getting the project done. Or it can mean – a problem is solved in a way that benefits humanity, your staff, your company and that makes you money.  An ethical leader is the person who defines ‘good’ in a holistic  and humanistic way in terms of well-being and flourishing and not just in an economistic way.

2. What do you define as an ethical leader?

An ethical leader is a leader who is ethical and who makes ethical decisions.

3. Why is being an ethical leader important? 

Ethical leaders are good leaders. If you aren’t a good leader – why even bother leading?  We all have choices. And we can choose to be good ethical people in all that we do. Or we can abandon our moral values to expediency.  Good ethical leaders are role models. People like them. They win awards. They are highly regarded. Unethical leaders are people no one wants to work for and they often end up and jail. Your choice, I know which one I would choose.

4. What tips do you have for building an ethical business? 

I discuss this in my new book: Applied Humanism: How to Create More Effective and Ethical Businesses. The way to create ethical businesses is to understand your business is in the business of solving problems. Commit to solving your problems, all your problems in an ethical effective way.  A big part of how to do this is how to think through problem solving in a way that integrates ethics and helps you avoid problem solving shortcuts that don’t work.  So – if you need energy to power your building, taking the time to think through the ethical implications of how and where you source your energy can help you be more ethical in business and help you gain a competitive advantage over your competitors if you do it well.  Same thing with staffing problems. How do you onboard and develop your staff with dignity?  How do you help your staff develop as humans? Do you encourage them to be ethical?  Do you promote bullies into management positions? There are literally no decisions your company makes that aren’t inherently ethical. So when you approach all decisions as ethical decisions – it will help you build an ethical business.

5. What can managers do to improve their leadership style?  

Take the time to care about the humans who work for and with you. Treat them with dignity and be a dignified person yourself and strive to live up to that ideal.   Fully see the people you work with as fully human. Ethical leadership is not just about the big questions of right and wrong. It’s also about the little decisions of how we handle our interpersonal relationships and interpersonal problems. It’s attention to both the macro and micro ethical questions that defines an ethical leader.

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