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Create a Reputation as an Ethical Leader

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When we think about ethical leaders, we think about powerhouses like Kenneth Chenault, retired CEO at American Express. Chenault’s reputation as an exceptional and ethical leader stands the test of time. In a BLACK ENTERPRISE interview, he said, “One of the things I recognized is leadership reputations are made or lost in times of crisis. Many people can manage in good time; the test of a true leader is how you manage in challenging times.” During the same interview, he said, “To be successful, you have to be a student of leadership. You have to meet the leadership test. One of the things I tell people is that I value every human being in this world, but it doesn’t mean I follow them. I want to follow leaders. You know one of my favorite sayings of leadership comes from Napoleon—and I preface that I don’t want to wind up like him—is that the role of a leader is to define reality and give hope. I literally think about that every day.”

Chenault, and many other inspirational, ethical leaders like our very own Alfonzo Alexander, demonstrate how to be an ethical leader in times of calm and chaos. But how does one become an ethical leader and inspire others?

A great way to gain a reputation as an ethical leader is to begin by leading by example – show those around you what you are made of each day. To build an ethical company, you must start from the top down. Your employees will see your behavior, choices and values and adopt them in their own practices. Leading by example means that you demonstrate characteristics and behaviors you would like your team to practice. This shows your team just how much you care.

There are many different factors and elements that can define an ethical leader. These elements include honesty, which makes ethical leaders worthy of the trust others place in them, justice, which means you are fair and treat everyone equally, offer opportunities with no favoritism, and condemn improper behaviors and manipulations, as well as any other actions that could harm someone. Additionally, you show respect, which refers to respect for others around you, regardless of their position or identifying characteristics, integrity shown when values, words, and actions are aligned and consistent. Lastly, you demonstrate responsibility, which means accepting to be in charge, embracing the power and duties that come with it, and always responding and being present in challenging situations and finally transparency, which concerns mainly the communication with all stakeholders.

Communication is key. To be an ethical leader, you must be a good communicator. Do so by becoming comfortable speaking in public, leading meetings and writing communications that articulate what you are trying to express. The culmination of these tips will help you gain a reputation as an ethical leader.

-Dina Barabash, NASBA Content Development & Web Specialist