Annabel Beerel

What is Ethical Leadership?


Ethical leadership is a leadership grounded in aligning people to new realities. New realities always signal some kind of change. The task of leadership is to mobilize others to embrace change, real change. Real change is always transformative. Ethical leadership is concerned with people’s transformation.

New realities are continuously arriving or emerging. The sooner an organization recognizes new realities, the more time it has to participate in shaping that reality, and the more time it has to develop appropriate responses. Failing to recognize new realities or instigating change initiatives based on a false reading or understanding of new realities is a sign of poor leadership. Poor leadership inevitably has a detrimental effect on the organization’s future survival. Ethical leadership is about dealing with reality, not fantasy or illusion.

New realities can be significant or insignificant. They can be large or small. They can be brutal or gentle. Our current worldwide economic crisis is a significant, large and brutal new reality. Embracing this reality requires ethical leadership at all levels.

Staying attuned to new realities is difficult for a host of reasons. One critical reason is that change always results in some form of loss. Both people and organizations resist accepting unpalatable changes for as long as they can so they can defer dealing with those losses. Since reality does not go away, nor can it be deferred, the longer the organization resists facing reality or, if it chooses to create a more palatable reality which it would rather deal with, the greater the negative impact on the organization’s ability to adapt to change. Ethical leadership is about enhancing the organization’s ability to adapt to change.

Ethical leadership is about wrestling with reality. Reality is the truth. New realities represent new and emerging truths. What is real is what is true. Attempting to always be aligned with the truth represents the ethical quest. Effective leadership is thus ethical leadership.

Ethical leadership:

  • Aligns people to new realities
  • Mobilizes others to embrace change
  • Results in individual and organizational transformation
  • Understands and works with resistance to change[
  • Encourages leadership at every level in the organization
  • Enhances the organization’s ability to adapt to change
  • Openly and honestly wrestles with the truth and encourages others to do the same

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