Essentials of Ethical Leadership

Santa Clarita Signal • Ethically Speaking Column • For Sunday, March 29, 2015

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Essentials of Ethical Leadership

David W. Hegg


The ramifications of ethical ideology are important in every area of life, but nowhere more so than in positions of leadership. To stand out in front and beckon those behind to follow where you lead is to say “I know who I am, and what I believe, and the ways we must improve. Trust me, and then follow me.”


Leadership is first about trust, and then about insight, ability, courage and any number of other components in the leadership skill-set. Here are the ethical essentials of trustworthy leadership.


Integrity is always first. Great leadership begins with leaders who know who they are and are committed to remaining ethically consistent. Great leaders are painfully self-aware, their own biggest critics, and manifest a robust stubbornness when it comes to disregarding their own high standards of discipline, process, and conviction.


Great leaders have extraordinary integrity in their personal discipline. They have incredibly specific routines in order to get everything into the day that is required for both high productivity and personal satisfaction and growth. They are first and foremost men and women of personal integrity. That is, they have a well-defined understanding of who they are and who they must remain, and it has been shaped over time, through both trial and success. It is who they are.


Second, great leaders know what they believe. They have come to some serious foundational convictions about the world around them. They have determined the essential principles upon which success in every area of life are built. They have the intellectual stability that comes from putting roots deeply down into truth. Consequently, they are not blown this way and that by every wind of theory or cultural fad that comes along.


Simply put, great leaders are men and women of conviction. They believe they can offer plausible explanations of why things are the way they are in this world because they have invested time and energy reading, thinking, and discussing the great questions of life. They also are life-long learners in their area of expertise and never content believe they know all they need to know. Great leaders both know who they are and what they believe, and they’re not afraid to tell you those things directly.


Lastly, great leaders are driven to make the enterprise better and better. Managers protect the status quo while leaders wake up thinking about improvement. Managers maintain while leaders innovate in order to enhance. Managers smile when things are running smoothly. Leaders smile when things get better and better.


Great leaders know who they are, what they believe, and the ways to make things better. But their commitment to fundamental convictions remains as the anchor to keep them from unnecessary risks. They know when to sprint and when to walk, and even when to bide their time. But their pace is always part of the overall plan to lead the enterprise to greater and greater levels of success. That’s what great leadership does.


On the other hand, those in leadership positions who don’t  know who they are, and seem to move in whatever direction the winds of convenience, expedience, or personal glory are blowing, will never engender great trust in their followers regardless of how eloquent they may bluster about the path to success. The reason is clear. If we don’t trust you, we won’t follow you. And trust is built with the individual stones of integrity, consistency, insight, and conviction.


By the way, everyone reading this is a leader of some sort. Given that leadership is simply influence we’re all responsible for the leading we do, whether in the home, office, ball field, or community. Given this, it is exceedingly necessary for us all to know who we are, what we believe, and what it will take to become better and better at living honestly, courageously, and righteously in this broken world.