Commitment–the first pillar of ethical leadership in business


The first pillar is an essential starting point for any leader wanting to get to grips with ethics in business.

This pillar requires you to show a wholehearted and public sharing of your ethical position. Only through a personal willingness to fully engage, can you  expect to make an impact within your own organisation, let alone play a part on a wider stage.

This may seem obvious. Yet business leaders often seem to believe they can spout about ethics without ever demonstrating a real conviction of its importance to both themselves and their business.

By declaring where you stand on ethics and backing this up with practical action  you can move from a personal position to creating a sustainable corporate concern.

If you want to lead, have the courage to do it from the heart.”
Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the American Red Cross. Gail J. McGovern

Commitment therefore always starts from a personal view of what is right, what is responsible. This is why we often hear about leaders needing to hone their moral compass and other complaining about the task:

Life is hard enough, and I think this constant lecturing on ethics and on integrity by many stakeholders is probably the most frustrating part of the equation. Because I don’t think there are many people who are perfect,”
Sergio Ermotti, CEO, UBS[5]Sergio Emotti of UBS

Emotti is an ethically tone deaf leader. Ethics in business is nothing to do with being perfect. It’s about making difficult choices and being determined to make sure the company does what is right.

This translates into behaving with integrity, openness, respect for others and to contributing in constructive ways to the community in which the firm operates. And yes, Mr Ermotti, your stakeholders and the rest of us expect these things!

Commitment also means embracing common values that inspire both the leader and other stakeholders.

I think there are universal values–common norms of integrity, honesty, consideration for others. I believe the responsible company operating to high standards with sound values can make a major contribution.”
Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, former CEO of Shell .  Mark Moody Stuart

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take action

1) Clarify your own values and those of your organisation–how well do they match?

2) Share agreed values frequently–be seen talking about them and explaining why they matter so much

3) Show you’re willing to exert great effort to get people committed to the core values and what they mean for each person

4)  Through your everyday actions demonstrate integrity, fairness and respect of others

5) Set in motion structures, procedures and processes to help people understand what’ expected of them when it comes to ethical choices–don’t just delegate, be concerned with how these are implemented .[spacer height=”20px”]

Five Pillars

The second pillar of ethical leadership in business on RELEVANCE will be published the following week.


Introducing the Five Pillars

Second Pillar: Relevance

Here’s how I and my company Maynard Leigh Associates can help you make sense of ethical leadership 

  • Help you clarify what business ethics mean for your particular organisation
  • Coach you to understand what it means in practical ways to be an ethical leader
  • Run internal programmes to identify and develop core values affecting company culture
  • Assist leaders to establish and communicate leadership tone–inspiring people to act responsibly
  • Develop managers’ and leaders’ confidence to talk about and promote business ethics  
  • Advise on generating employee ethical engagement–where people go beyond the basic rules of compliance
  • Develop new, creative ways to encourage people to speak up about ethical issues 
  • Strengthen HR Team and their ethical role
  • Run forum theatre sessions to communicate about ethics in a highly interactive way 
  • Write an article or feature for you on ethical leadership for your publication

  • Be a keynote speaker about ethical leadership at your next company or public event


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