Whether a local, national, or global business leader, the quickest way to lose the support of your colleagues is by practising bad ethics. Businesses tend to reflect the attitude and actions of their chosen leaders, so ethical leadership leads to ethical practices throughout the business. “Doing the right thing” isn’t viewed the same by everyone, but ethical leaders who display these habits are certainly more likely to make moral decisions than those who do not. 

Here are seven habits and characteristics to look for in potential leaders and to practice in your own leadership role. 

Be Honest

Sometimes people don’t like to hear the blunt truth at first, but leaders who maintain a reputation of always calling it like it is gain trust in the long run. Sugarcoating the reasons for why a given task needs to be completed is no good for anyone. Most employees understand that sometimes they will draw the short end of the proverbial stick, and ethical leaders will lay out those situations as such and reward individuals for extra effort. 

Be Respectful

Honesty and respect do go hand-in-hand, but just because a leader is honest doesn’t mean they know how to convey things in respectful ways. Understanding that everyone in your work circle is going through different things is as important as being respectful of the fact that everyone comes from different walks of life, as well, and ethical leaders will practice and encourage diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Encourage and Empower Individual Growth

Great leaders continually make those around them better, and the greatest of the great go out of their ways to empower individuals to continue to do the same. Ethical leaders should not be afraid of any of their team members becoming even better than they are at a given task. The leaders should want that to happen, and ethical ones do. 

Ethical leaders are open to hearing ideas and should make the individual growth of their team members as important as the growth of the company. 

Be Stern Against Ethical Violation

The best way for a caring and ethical leader to prove that they believe what they preach is by showing no tolerance for anything that violates the ethical codes he or she leads by. Without displaying this zero-tolerance mindset, leaders will be taken advantage of and implementation of quality ethical behaviours will be much more difficult. 

Display a Team-First Mindset

Project management methodologies can work wonders in personnel management, especially the aspects related to making everyone feel equally important in a given process. Ethical leaders give themselves difficult jobs more often than they divvy them up to others, and this is the best way to prove with action words about teamwork. 

Encourage Ethical Practices Beyond the Workplace

Ethical leaders reflect their morals in the workplace outside of it, and participating in and encouraging involvement in community projects is a characteristic of all ethical leaders. As a bonus, corporate social responsibility adds to business longevity, so it’s a true win-win-win situation! People are helped, ethical practices are toned, and business does well. 

Be Proactive

Far too often in the workplace, issues are met with other issues, rather than being resolved. Ethical leaders will hear issues and immediately work to adjust them, rather than point a finger back at someone. Certainly, times will exist where a request can’t be met, but this should only happen when an ethical, fair decision has been made regarding the issue, and the reasons should be transparently shared. 

Ultimately, the old golden rule is the best thing ethical leaders can follow. Treat everyone you work with how you would want to be treated in their situation.

Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He is currently writing a book about scaling up business and his experience implementing lean methodology.