South Africa has seen its fair share of unethical leadership in recent years, with the political and economic infrastructure being manipulated and managed for the benefit of a few. However, even though we know that this behaviour is unethical, the business world remains a complicated place with many grey areas which regularly test our moral compass.
Leaders, as the responsible people in the organisation, are often seen to be the ethical navigators and feel responsible for the misdemeanours or transgressions of others. Despite our best efforts, we cannot change the behaviour and motivation of others. However, without clarification of the expectations of the organisation, we cannot expect people to always know whether they are doing the right thing.
This does, unfortunately, mean that leaders have a role to play in ensuring that people remain within the moral conditions laid out by the organisation, and can be held accountable if these conditions are not in place.
In this article, we outline five conditions that you can apply to ensure that you are acting as an ethical leader. We hope to offer you some guidance which can protect you and your organisation from the unintended consequences of unethical behaviour.
Five Ways Your Workplace Can Make You an Ethical Leader
Codes of Conduct and Best Practice guidelines
Putting into a place a set of rules and regulations which stipulate the nature of managing unethical, illegal or morally challenging situations in the workplace, is a vital step for your organisation. When we don’t know what is expected of us, it’s easy for situations to unravel and ethics can become an emotional area to solve after the fact. Deciding on the policies which work for the team as well as unpacking the ethical challenges of your industry, the best practice guidelines for managing them, and how to regulate your organisation’s daily work, is a great way to collaborate on governance for which everyone has agreed to and is then responsible for upholding.
Training on ethics and company culture
Having the ability to make ethical decisions is not a given skill. Educating your employees will empower them to make informed decisions about their actions, and is essential to ensure that your staff are able to make ethical decisions. Providing regular training and seminars is one method, and can include the following:
- Updates on the latest best practice guidelines
- Updates on national and international industry rules and regulations
- Instilling commitment for your corporate values
- Providing guidance through challenging situations
- Encouraging them to speak up about mistakes and uncomfortable ethical behaviours where the team can discuss and learn from their mistakes or the challenges of others.
One of the key behaviours of ethical leadership is consistency and fairness. If only certain policies are respected, individuals are dealt with in disparaging ways, or consequences for unethical behaviours are inconsistently punished – then your organisation is in trouble. People notice when they are not managed fairly, and inconsistency can quickly deteriorate the trust, collaborative spirit, and psychological safety of people at work. Being consistent in what is regulated and how it is fairly implemented is key to ensuring that your reputation and codes of conduct are upheld inside and outside of the workplace.
Do what you say, and admit when you don’t. Being an ethical leader means being a role model for best practice. This requires you to know your core values and to behave them. As an example, it is one thing to say that you want everyone to be punctual but you are late for meetings, or that you respect your employees’ health but then send them tasks when they are on sick leave, or that you value work-life balance but you yourself always work overtime. Integrity is a highly necessary part of ethical leadership because, without it, your team will inevitably see you as false and will lose trust and respect for you. In order to be an ethical organisation, you as the leader have to be willing to follow the same protocols of behaviour that you set out for your staff.
Check your motivations
While there are many definitions of leadership, there is one concept that underpins them all. The idea of being responsible for something greater than oneself, and while there have been many tyrannical leaders in history, the true meaning of a leader is one who is not motivated by self-advancement but rather by the progress of the team and company as a whole. If you want to be an ethical leader you need to become aware of your motivations and be vigilant with yourself. Make sure that you know who you are and how your behaviours impact those around you. If you are making decisions which drive your own success or financial gain, you will not only lose the commitment of your staff, but you are setting an example that individual gain is more valuable than collective success.
As you can see, ethical leadership is as much about your own behaviour and intentions as it is about setting up clear and consistent procedures to guide ethical decision making. Being an ethical leader is not a simple task and requires regular self-awareness, education, and policymaking in collaboration with your team.
We wish you the best of luck in implementing our suggestions, and please do contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or need assistance.
Often when we find ourselves in a position of leadership, a great amount of effort needs to be made to put on a good front. This is with good reason because we can’t expect our team to follow us if we aren’t confident about the steps ahead and how we will achieve our outcomes. While having a confident and strong sense of direction as a leader is essential to building trust, collective action and results, this representation of leadership as a guiding light without fear is detrimental to the humans behind the frontline.
Leadership is a space where failures are unacceptable and where predictions about the future need to be correct (or at least account for possible obstacles and setbacks). This expectation of our leaders can place an incredible amount of pressure on the people we look up to, to lead the way.
In the changing world of work as it is today, there is space for us to become a different type of leader. One who is a mentor on one hand, and a student on the other. One who is motivated and engages others in most situations, and one who is in need of support and engagement from others in difficult moments.
In order for leaders and their organisations to thrive in today’s world, there needs to be a synergy between leadership and self-leadership, and between clear implementation and learning through failure.
This shift towards meaningful leadership for the future requires leaders to become conscious, curious, and aware of their limitations and how they can engage a learning mindset.
4Seeds focuses on supporting the leaders of tomorrow. We believe that everyone has the potential for great leadership with the right mindset, skills and self-awareness. It is our mission to empower leaders to become equipped for their roles and grow into their unique leadership style for the happiness of their team and the overall performance of the business as a whole.
Because it is our burning desire to co-create meaningful, happy and engaged workplaces across South Africa, we have designed an intensive two-day workshop called The Meaningful Leadership Development Programme. This programme is intended to build self-awareness, practical skills, and leadership theory which support resilient, authentic and conscious leadership behaviours.
In the article below, we will unpack some of the core concepts behind our Meaningful Leadership theory and how these elements impact the path of a leader – from one who needs to control and “be perfect”, to one who is able to be humble, honest and more resilient for themselves as well as the teams and the organisations they lead.
How to become a Meaningful Leader
There is a misconception that leadership requires us to know others better than we know ourselves. This results in many leaders focusing on their external experiences, and relationships with others more than on their internal world. However, the true essence of a great leader is one who knows themselves so well that they become a role model to others just by virtue of truly being themselves.
How you choose to learn more about yourself is up to you; however knowing your strengths, your weaknesses, your limitations, your triggers, and your assumptions about the world is a good starting point.
During the two-day Meaningful Leadership Development Programme, we take you through a self-mastery process where you are able to gain awareness in a supportive and collaborative learning environment while gaining the skills and knowledge needed to continue your leadership journey with self-awareness.
“The point is not to become a leader, the point is to become more yourself.” – Warren Bennis
Become more mindful
Mindfulness is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.”
It’s a term that has gained much traction in the media over the past decade, with extensive research showing the benefits of how mindfulness can transform your daily life and bring you more happiness.
In leadership, this concept of mindfulness has another dimension, in how we interact with the world around us and how we notice its effect on ourselves. Mindfulness assists us to manage stress, build resilience, and helps us to become more emotionally intelligent.
The Meaningful Leadership Development Programme includes elements of mindfulness as a fundamental resource for those who want to have a more positive and resilient outlook. During the workshop, we provide different practical methods which will give you space to start acknowledging how your actions, emotions and thoughts influence those around you, and how you can become more conscious in your daily actions to have a more positive impact on the world.
On the leadership journey there are always plenty unknown, potentially diabolical consequences for everything we do. Because of this inevitability, many leaders become driven to control, predict, project, plan, and play it safe. While this risk adversity is a helpful quality in order to guide an organisation to success, being able to stay curious is the true sign of a great leader. It shows the difference between a manager and a leader.
Curiosity takes vulnerability, which is why many people believe that asking questions shows weakness and incompetence. However, the opposite is in fact true. If we don’t ask questions, how will we know what we don’t know? How will we find new solutions, and how will we learn from our mistakes so we can progress?
Curiosity is the sign of a Meaningful Leader because without it, arrogance, fear and control become necessary to retain a position of authority. It takes a great leader to admit mistakes, be humble when they don’t know, and be open to new lines of enquiry.
Becoming a curious leader with a growth mindset sets the tone for developing a learning organisation. An organisation which has the ability to ask questions, be creative, experiment (with conditions), and explore the learnings from every failure to become stronger. Curiosity is the quality which leaders need to engage with to guide their organisations into the uncertain future ahead. It’s the difference between an organisation with or without a future.
“Replace your fear of the unknown with curiosity.”
Resilience is something that every leader needs in bucket loads. It’s the ability to bounce back from adversity, to learn and grow from difficulties, and to make lemonade when life throws you lemons.
Luckily for us all, resilience is a learnt skill. While some of us have a higher level of resilience because of our lives up to this point, we all have the capacity to grow and develop our resilience muscles.
A resilient leader is one who is able to manage struggles with grace, adapt to challenges quickly, and who has the capacity to thrive from difficulty rather than just survive. In the times we live in, resilience is becoming a vital and essential skill for the Meaningful Leader.
In our two-day Meaningful Leadership Development Programme, we explore the foundational theories and practices of resilience and how you can begin building your resources to manage stress and failure with greater ease and purpose.
“Life doesn’t become any easier or more forgiving, we just become stronger and more resilient.”
Being a leader in today’s world is a challenge, to say the least. At 4Seeds we believe you have what it takes to create a powerful and memorable impact on your team, organisation and society as a whole.
If you are interested in becoming more self-aware, mindful, curious, and resilient so that you can take your leadership to the next level, then send us an email to email@example.com to find out more about how our two-day Meaningful Leadership Development Programme can help you.
We wish you luck on your journey to becoming a more Meaningful Leader.
Happiness is our business at 4Seeds, which means that we know the powerful benefits that it can bring to your team morale, motivation levels, productivity, and overall organisational performance.
Sadly though, happiness is still an elusive topic for many managers, which often leads to stress and confusion about how to lead teams towards more joy, satisfaction, and happiness in the workplace. Most organisations have challenges, deadlines and ongoing developments, which means that ignoring employee happiness on your strategic agenda can reduce your team’s resilience and increase their stress which in turn will lead to high absenteeism rates and staff turnover. It is therefore essential for any company’s profitability to increase their employees’ happiness.
At 4Seeds we aim to make team happiness not only possible, but practical and sustainable through our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop. It takes place over four half days (or two full days), and introduces the best practices based on the latest research in the Science of Human Happiness.
There is a plethora of research exploring the benefits of Positive Psychology for the workplace, however, this article will unpack the key approaches included in our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop, and will share some of the latest findings about how these practices can benefit your employees, teams, leaders, and your organisation.
Why Crafting Your Team Happiness is essential to your business
Increased positive emotions at work
We are all aware of the impact that negative emotions have on our motivation, our health and our desire to socialise, and recent science shows that the exact opposite of this is true for positive emotions. Positive emotions such as joy, contentment and gratitude at work can radically reduce our stress levels. This, in turn, results in less sick leave and lower rates of staff turnover; two of the biggest costs of any company.
Positive emotions are also contagious and make us more “likeable”. This likeability translates to increased leadership following and building more positive relationships in the workplace.
In our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop we unpack the true nature of emotions, we do emotional intelligence self-assessments, and learn some of the key practices to increase the number of positive emotions we experience at work.
Capitalised character strengths
Our character strengths are those behaviours, talents and skills that come so naturally to us that they are effortless to express, build our confidence and help us to excel. So why wouldn’t companies want their employees to use their strengths at work?
Unfortunately, humans have a natural tendency to focus on weakness. This means that we take what we are good at for granted, and focus on where we can improve; the impact of which is actually detrimental to employee performance. A large-scale research survey performed by UK’s Corporate Leadership Council found that leaders who focused on an employee’s weaknesses to assist their development actually reduced their performance by 27%. It is apparent that focusing on weaknesses is not the key to employee productivity, so why not try a strengths-based focus?
Employees who use their strengths are 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit their jobs. This seems to be reason enough, however, research performed by Gallup (an American analytics and advisory company based in Washington, D.C.) shows that it also increases company profits by between 14% and 29%.
Using strengths in the workplace has profound benefits for the individual employee as well as on team performance. Strengths help us be more confident and focused, and assist us to become more collaborative when we see the benefits that everyone brings to the team’s success.
Our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop uncovers the value of each individual’s character strengths, and helps teams to recognise the unique profile that each person can bring, and how they can capitalise on these to succeed both individually and collectively.
Optimised engagement through flow experiences
Employee engagement has been a hot topic in industrial psychology for the past decade. The concept of Flow psychology has also become a common term. It is described as the sense of competence and control, loss of self-consciousness, and such an intense absorption in the task at hand that you lose track of time (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).
These flow experiences result in increased intrinsic motivation, a higher level of work commitment, and of course high levels of concentration, focused attention and long experiences of selective calm which can combat everyday work stress (Goleman, 2013).
Flow experiences can be few and far between in the bullpen environment at work, however with the practical advice we share in our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop, you can not only increase the flow experiences of your employees at work, but in turn boost your overall team engagement, sense of achievement, and life satisfaction. Powerful stuff, right?
Finding and pursuing meaning at work
We have moved away from meaning and purpose being concepts kept to religious institutions or conversations with close friends. Recent research shows that meaning and purpose are key parameters of why people choose to stay in a certain organisation or why they choose to leave, and that meaning actually trumps compensation in terms of the reason someone stays at their job.
Generating a sense of meaning and purpose in your employees can help increase their commitment to company objectives, their level of engagement, and their overall sense of happiness and life satisfaction.
In our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop we uncover the core values of each individual in the team, as well as their individual sense of purpose. We also unpack how these translate into the meaning they experience at work and how this can be increased on a team and organisational level.
Crafting Your Team Happiness – creating conditions for the future
The key principles of Positive Psychology that we introduce in our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop are not only important to develop individual happiness, but do in fact boost your bottom line as well. Companies are no longer just a place to work and receive a salary; they are where we spend most of our day, and the ideal place to introduce the principles of Positive Psychology.
If you are interested in our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop, or would like more information on how you can start to boost positive emotions at work, harness your team’s character strengths, increase your employee engagement, or bring more meaning and purpose into your organisation, then send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happiness is core to the future success of any company who wants to stay relevant and thrive. We wish you all the best on your journey.