An ethical leader is expected to take into consideration those directly affected by the activities of a company – the stakeholders, everyone affected by the activities of the business. Some leaders seem to have the values and attributes that allow them to instinctively do the right thing, but for the majority it’s a learning curve. Developing the attributes, values and skills of an ethical leader involves taking what is intrinsic to the person and honing those skills through discipline and practice. However, it is good to remember that leaders sometimes have to make unpopular decisions in order to do the right thing! The decisions may be inconvenient and involve risk but those who follow their principles always come out successful as culture change often has unexpected payoffs. CEO’s who make the difference make the customer experience part of strategy discussions and constantly review their actions with regard to company values.
Beware destructive value statements
If values statements involve fancy words strung together to look impressive and they are not rigorously practiced, then they can become destructive. Employees soon perceive that management is not living up to the stated values, which leads to cynicism. Employees who do not embody the company values and attributes then undermine customer confidence and the credibility of management’s actions.
Establishing your company values
Company values can’t be snatched from a list. Think about what motivated you to start a company in the first place rather than being swept up in fads or politically correct values statements unless you are absolutely sincere about them.
Below we have laid out six values, attributes and expectations of good leaders to start focusing on.
1. Sense of Justice
A well-developed sense of justice ensures people are treated fairly and don’t think they are being discriminated against because of gender, education, ethnicity or other factors.
2. Respect for others
Respect the newest member of the team who asks a lot of questions and needs to be given guidance rather than relying solely on opinions from the established team. Many newcomers see the gaps in marketing that people who have done it for years don’t see.
Respect covers customers too – simply because a customer is a small one or unknown doesn’t mean they should be treated with less respect than large customers – you never know which small business can become a giant virtually overnight!
Leaders have to be kind – sometimes giving a person the day off can reap huge benefits rather than being a stickler for rules. In the long run kindness is not weakness – instead it leads to better productivity. People recall the kindnesses from employers like congratulating the employee about his kid who made the team, remembering the names of spouses and children and tokens of appreciation for a job well done, all go to show the CEO is a fellow human being on this journey through life – not a dictator hogging the office with the best view.
4. Encourage innovation
Real values have to be kept in mind constantly. For example, if you have decided you value ‘innovation’ then employees who come up with innovative ideas need to be listened to and given an opportunity to trial ideas rather than being shut down with “That won’t work here,” or “This is the way we do it.” If a person proposing the change is given the chance that individual will go above and beyond what is expected tweaking the idea until it works properly because they are invested in the change.
5. Team building skill
When the right team is in place changes can be successfully implemented. Good leaders focus on finding and building the team that will embody the values and attributes they envision for the company rather than trying to mold often unwilling people to new roles.
6. Leading by example
The values of a company need to be on the office walls so the CEO has them top of mind and makes them a daily routine. There have been embarrassing cases where CEO’s couldn’t remember their own company values at conferences! This is simply because they were hidden away in a file along with the mission statement. If you’re expecting other people to embrace the company values, you better be sure you are living those values.
The expectations placed on the shoulders of a CEO are massive. Every stakeholder is expecting value, every employee wants acknowledgement, every customer wants service that goes above and beyond the norm; but these become second nature when living according to your values and attributes.
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