One of the biggest challenges for leaders in today's increasingly online business world is how to carry out their job as managers. In the past, it was easier for leaders to promote a culture of trust and integrity because they knew what everyone was doing and could see when someone was not performing in accordance with their ethics. But now, with remote workforces and teams spread across different countries, organisations are struggling to make sure that employees are adhering to their ethical standards consistently across departments and geographies.
Leaders in business must be prepared to lead their teams through this rapidly evolving context of work and need to know why ethical leadership matters now more than ever before.
Ethical leadership is not just about doing what is right. It is about understanding what it takes to make a difference in your organisation and in the world at large. Ethical leaders have a responsibility to challenge the status quo, question old and accepted norms and find new ways of thinking about old problems.
They are able to navigate the shifting tides of their industries, keeping themselves and their teams focused on creating positive change while remaining profitable. Ethical leaders are aware of their moral obligations and responsibilities, they have a strong sense of purpose and values, integrity and accountability. They do not cut corners or compromise their beliefs for personal gain because they know that it will undermine trust in them as well as in the organisation they lead.
Even considering how far we have come as a nation and how much progress we have made with regard to human rights, gender equality, racism and xenophobia, it is clear that these issues are still very much alive today and need our attention more than ever before. We need ethical leaders who are willing to stand up for what they believe in, even if it means going against the tide.
Ethical leadership can help us shape our future by creating an environment in which people feel safe enough to speak out about injustice without fear of persecution or reprisal from those around them, and without the fear of being ostracised for their beliefs.
Ethical leaders are also known as good stewards who care about the people they lead and put them first in everything they do. This is because ethical leadership is not just about the individual at the front; it is also about the team you lead. It is about what kind of culture your organisation creates, how your employees treat each other and how they work together towards a common goal.
This means that ethical leaders will always put their principles above their personal ambitions or desires because they know that if they do not do so, they will not be able to lead effectively in the long run. The goal is to create a more equitable society in which everyone has the same opportunities and access to resources.
We are living in a time of great uncertainty. The world is changing at a rapid pace, and we need leaders who can help guide us through these turbulent times. A better future can be achieved by developing and nurturing leaders who have the knowledge and skills to solve problems, as well as the moral character to guide them in making wise decisions. We need such leaders now more than ever, and we all have a moral responsibility to do our part in shaping them.
Dr Joseph Sekhampu
Chief Director: NWU Business School