A Question Of Ethics

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Do you think it is okay for the president to cheat on his wife?

I hope you do not feel this is okay. Yet there are many who feel this is acceptable.

When Clinton committed sexual acts with an intern, many turned a blind eye. They said it has nothing to do with his leadership ability.

Do you think it is okay for a company to bilk its investors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars?

This happened a few years back with Enron. Many people were up in arms over the misappropriation of funds.

These two examples created vastly different reactions. Yet both were caused by a lack of ethics or a failure of ethics.

A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world.
— Albert Camus

Ethics is defined as “The moral principles of a person.”

I regard ethics as a key character trait of leadership. Without it, how can you be trusted?

What can you do to ensure you are an ethical leader?

These 5 traits are the cornerstone of ethical leadership-

  1. Honesty
    Do not misrepresent the facts. Hold to a standard that the truth will be told. Do not tolerate dishonesty.
  2. Take Responsibility
    When mistakes are made, own up to them. Do not hide the failure. Admit that there was a failure. Accept the consequences and move on.
  3. Compassion
    Ethical leaders know that leadership requires compassion. Everyone falls at one point or another. By extending compassion, ethical leaders show they understand this fact. They know even they might fall one day. Without compassion, there is no redemption.
  4. Fairness
    Be fair in your dealings as a leader. When you are not fair, you are taking advantage of others. Those around you will start to question your ethics.
  5. Seek Guidance
    Many have gone before you. They are wiser than you. Seek the guidance of other ethical leaders and you will grow in the area of ethical leadership.

I hope you have these traits in your leadership today. If not, start working towards them today.

With these traits you can avoid much heartache and humiliation. Lets not have that happen to you.

I believe you can be an ethical leader. Go out and lead well.

In law a man is guilty when he violates the rights of others. In ethics he is guilty if he only thinks of doing so.
— Immanuel Kant

Question: What other traits would you say make an ethical leader? Please share your answer in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Hi Joseph, just clicked through to you from Dustin’s Blog.
    Great post! I think I’d add the Value for Legacy. A great leader is not seeking to build his own empire in which he is the center and nothing works without him, but understands to constantly empower and train new leaders to raise up under him and take over areas of responsibility. This is the core of any multiplication and growth of any organization.

    • Hi Daniel. Thank you for taking the time to stop by my blog. Your feedback is very welcome!

      You’re right. Legacy is a great value for a leader to have. Leaders should not be afraid to train and build up others to take his place.

  • Integrity, but you pretty much defined it already! Great job. I pray our nations leaders will read this post and act accordingly!!!

    • Thanks TC! There would be a tremendous change in our nation if our leaders started to live with integrity.

  • A. Amos Love


    You talk about “ethics ” as a “key character trait of leadership.”
    And I agree with you if we’re talking about “Leadership”
    in the two examples you gave relating to “leadership” in the worlds system.
    Politics and business – BUT…

    Seems Jesus has a unique take on “Leaders” for the body of Christ – “ONE.”

    Seems Jesus taught “His Disciples” in Mat 23:10-12, NOT to be called “Leaders.”
    And told them why. – For you have “ONE” Leader – the Christ?

    And NONE did… In the Bible, ALL “Disciples of Christ” called themselves “Servants.” 😉

    New American Standard Bible – Mat 23:10-12.
    Do not be called leaders; for “ONE” is your Leader, that is, Christ.
    But the greatest among you shall be your servant.
    Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled;
    and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

    The Message – Mat 23:10-12.
    And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them.
    There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.
    **Do you want to stand out? – Then step down. – Be a servant.**
    If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you.
    But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

    Was wondering if you ever noticed that Jesus taught “His Disciples”
    NOT to be called “Leaders?” For you have “ONE” Leader – the Christ?

    And if you ever asked Jesus what this means for you?

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall “hear My voice; “
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice – One Leader

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

    • Amos, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      I can see your point in what Jesus said. However, in reading Matthew Chapter 23 it appears Jesus is talking about the scribes and Pharisees. They require the “regular” citizens to do things they are unwilling to do. That is not being a leader or a teacher. It is being a hypocrite. That, I believe, is the heart of that section of scripture.

      In 1 Peter Chapter 5, it says : “Tend the flock of God in your midst, overseeing not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock.”

      That scripture makes it sound like there are those that will oversee the flock, even if there is one shepherd. But we need to lead with love, not because we want to be controlling.

  • I like your point about admitting failure. Most of the time we think “ethical” means not cheating on your taxes, forgetting that it also means taking the rap when it’s not attractive, instead looking for potential to sweep it under the rug (which unfortunately the natural tendency most of the time). Good stuff, Joe.

    • Thanks Stephen. Glad you liked that point. It is an often overlooked action. If we are quick and open to admitting our mistakes, others are less likely to destroy you over the error.

  • A. Amos Love


    I agree when you say…
    “That scripture makes it sound like there are those that will oversee the flock.”

    The question becomes – Does “oversee” = equate – to “Leader?” Or “Leadership?”
    Seems most today – who want to be known as, or called, “Leader” – think so.

    BUT – In 1 Pet 5, the word for overseeing – oversight KJV – is…

    Oversight – Episcopeo – KJV – look diligently 1, Heb 12:15, take the oversight 1; 1 Pet 5:2
    Strongs – #1983 episkopeo from 1909 and 4648; to oversee, to beware, look diligently.
    Thayers – to look upon, inspect, oversee, look after, care for, to look carefully, beware.

    For me – that’s quite a bit different than – I’m going to *lead* – and you will *follow.*

    Haven’t you ever wondered…
    Why NOT one “Disciple of Christ” called them self – “Leader?”
    Why NOT one “Disciple of Christ” called another “Disciple of Christ” – “Leader?”

    Seems Jesus told **His disciples** NOT to be called **leaders** and NONE did.

    Rom 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ,
    Php 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ,
    Col 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ,
    Tit 1:1 Paul, a servant of God,
    Jas 1:1 James, a servant of God
    2Pe 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant

    Does your number one for “ethics” come into play here?

    “1 – Honesty
    Do not misrepresent the facts. Hold to a standard that *the truth will be told.*
    Do not tolerate dishonesty.”

    Fact – Jesus instructed **His Disciples** NOT to call themselves “Leaders.”
    Fact – NOT one “Disciple of Christ” called them self “Leader.”

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall **hear MY voice;**
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice – One Leader

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

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