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WHAT IS
ETHICALLY INTELLIGENT
LEADERSHIP?

Ethical Intelligence is not about being Self-Righteous.

It's about the Right Use of Self.

Big Difference.

 

Some believe that leadership is reserved for people in "higher" positions - and not just "average" folks. 


This is entirely incorrect.

 

When I obtained a degree in Organizational Leadership to accompany the one I have in Psychology, my goal was to teach and advise workplace teams and individuals about how to lead with Ethical Intelligence in both their personal and professional lives.

I kept hearing the phrase "lead by example" but so many of the examples I read, heard about, and witnessed directly from leaders and managers in workplaces was not ethical, honorable, or inspiring.


In fact, the example too many people in powerful positions lead by is often abusive, divisive, petty, biased, narcissistic, and downright inhumane. In 2014 I read an eye-opening NY Times opinion piece about why so many people hate going to work every day. I also learned that countless employees feel powerless to change anything and choose to stay silent because they need their job for sheer survival.

The toll this takes on them is immense physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. The corporate "stress management" mindfulness trainings I was contracted to teach during this timeframe were merely bandaids over metastasizing cancers - and were being marketed more for increasing employee performance and productivity, not boosting health and well-being. Scores of students told me privately that what is now referred to as "toxic" leadership, management, and an unhealthy workplace culture was the problem, and no amount of meditation could ease their stress when the root cause was not being proactively addressed. Many bosses simply didn't want to change their behavior, and if the numbers were good, they didn't have to.

 

I then realized the phrase "lead by example" needs to be quantified.

The fact is we all lead by whatever example we extend via our thoughts, choices, actions a
nd behaviors within whatever field of influence we have in any given situation or interaction in any given moment personally and professionally in both harmful and beneficial ways - and there are no unimportant situations, interactions or moments.

"Ethics lies at the core of successful leadership, providing a solid framework built on trust, integrity and accountability.

"History has shown that ethical leadership significantly impacts employee engagement. When leaders consistently display ethical behavior, they establish a culture of trust and fairness, leading to increased employee satisfaction and commitment.

"Contrary to the notion that ethical leadership may negatively impact financial performance, there's actually a positive relationship between the two. Organizations that prioritize ethical behavior tend to attract loyal customers and retain talented employees, ultimately leading to improved financial outcomes."

- Ryan McGrath, Forbes.com, The Role Of Ethical Leadership In Long-Term Organizational Success, 9/8/2023

The question to ask yourself is: What example am I (or my business) leading by?

What is Ethical Intelligence?

 

Ethical intelligence is the conscious embodiment and courageous application of honorable principles, practices, and processes that cultivate compassion, cooperation, and collaboration between individuals and groups across all interactions and situations, and through which elevates humane, inclusive, and sustainable insights, innovation, and interconnection. It is contagiously inspiring in bringing forth the best and highest thoughts, choices, actions, and behaviors in the people our lives impact and treating one another with respect, dignity, kindness, and full honesty.

It embodies a mindset that is 100% committed to cultivating an unbreakable, purposeful habit of integrity that composes our identity: intrinsically woven with impeccability, character, humility, and courage.  It is the inner moral compass that constantly self-reflects and upgrades our personal Internal Operating System in every situation and interaction we find ourselves in, personally and professionally. It's owning the fact we are all imperfect human beings - and we all have the ability to grow, shed our old skin, and evolve - or  "learn, unlearn and relearn" as the late futurist Alvin Toffler once stated. 

Ethically Intelligent behavior is rising to the top of the list of leadership qualities essential to sustainable organizational success as well as attaining and keeping public trust. Customers are demanding accountability and transparency in the principles and practices of leaders of all types, and "getting away with" unethical behavior is certainly not something to brag about if you or your organization aspires to have a reputation of unshakable integrity. ​​​​​

​​Ethics - a code of embodied, guiding universal principles that shape and govern our behavior regarding right and wrong - has often been left to discussions in university philosophy classes, or rules imposed through strict religious doctrines, unquestioned dogma or "motivational/inspirational" posters that proclaim great-sounding platitudes to be adopted at work - that often no one pays much attention to.

 

Focusing upon authentically cultivating honorable character overall rather than the details of any one action - considering the influence of human being upon human doing - helps us transcend the tendency of the ego to think one ethical belief system is "better than" another, an error in thinking that leads to elitism, bias, and division. 

"Ethical blindness is a temporary and unconscious deviation from one's own values. It is important, to understand that ethical blindness is not the same as unethical behaviour. It is just the increasing inability to see the ethical dimension of what, on deciding. But ethical blindness increases the probability, of unethical behavior. So, in many cases, unethical decision making is less rational and less deliberate, than we think. But more intuitive and automatic. And a specific circumstances, the ethical aspect of a decision, might fade away. How is that possible? Our main assumption is that unethical decisions in organizations have less to do with a person making the decision, and more with the context in which they make their decision. Contexts can be stronger than reason, stronger than values and good intentions." - Palazzo and Hoffrage, Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

Ethically Intelligent skillsets and mindsets are essential to provide balance and a means to honestly self-reflect how we are showing up in the moment in any given situation or encounter. It is collection of interdependent qualities that serve as "checks and balances" on the ego running wild - and using Emotional and Social Intelligence and Social Mindfulness for ego-serving purposes alone. Unfortunately, there has been resistance to learning about upholding strong ethical principles at work and in everyday life because a) Ethics are often confused with religion, morality, and "commandments," and b) Doing so requires taking a deep, radically honest look at ourselves/our organizations and taking ownership for any unethical behaviors we/they are engaging in. This means 24/7/365 - not just when we "feel" like it, or when nobody's watching - and includes ending any justification of engaging in ethical transgressions that by their very nature create harm or suffering simply for personal and/or organizational gain. This includes the fallacy of what is called "situational ethics."
 

What makes someone Ethically Intelligent? 

There is not one definitive list of qualities that when combined will make us a "perfectly ethical" human being. However, there are many that, when incorporating radically honest self-reflection and assessment regularly, can help guide us into making more ethically intelligent choices and taking more ethically intelligent actions as we grow in intentionally conscious awareness. And just like Emotional and Social Intelligence and Social Mindfulness, our level Ethical Intelligence is not fixed; we have the ability to refine our character as we travel through Life - which is reflected through the choices we make. 

 

First things first: Who we are frames how we think, choose, act, and behave in any context/situation. 

Our character shapes all four, which in turn impacts how we respond to life stressors and how resilient we are when 

moving through and past them. When we try to improve what we do without refining who we are, it is illogical to think 

we'll be able to build high performing, collaborative and productive teams - or for that matter, lead by authentic, 

transparent Ethically Intelligent example in whatever sphere of influence we have: at home, school, work, as parents and

family members, and in all our social interactions. 

≈ Ethical Intelligence is not about depending on someone else to hold you accountable. 

≈ It is about you holding yourself accountable because it matters to you to live and lead by impeccable (not perfect) example.

≈ It's about playing Big in Life.

≈ You are responsible for the impact (positive and negative) of every one of your free-will actions and inactions

– even their unintended results and consequences.
≈ Depend upon yourself to take ownership for the impact of your thoughts, choices, actions and behaviors on others  - as well as yourself.
≈ Choose to embrace 100% accountability as part of who you are and how you show up - especially when no one is looking. 

 

Those who never take ownership for any of the above will always blame others and cause pain and suffering wherever they go as long as their refusal to hold themselves accountable continues.

 

“Manliness consists not in bluff, bravado or loneliness. It consists in daring to do the right thing and facing consequences whether it is in matters social, political or other. It consists in deeds not words.” - Gandhi

Build an Ethical and Harmonious Workplace Culture Before 

Focusing on Productivity and Performance

​​​Honorable character as the centerpiece of Ethically Intelligent leadership can be expressed as a higher octave of the basic principle of the Golden Rule that encourages us to actualize our highest potential as human beings. "Treat others in the fair and just manner their highest self is worthy of being treated - and doing the same toward yourself." It embodies inclusive respect and kindness toward all humanity - including the compassionate yet sometimes fierce "tough love" that doesn't dismiss or enable a fellow human being's darkness or shadow behaviors. It includes the ability for us to forgive one another, as we are all imperfect human beings that make mistakes, as well as holding others (and ourselves) accountable for violations of the law and crimes against humanity - both of the latter being extreme breaches of ethical conduct. Not taking a stand or not speaking up when you witness corrupt, inhumane (and yes, undeniably evil) thought systems, behaviors and actions in any form, by any person is enabling with silence

 

Key Questions to Ask Yourself:

 

≈ What are your core values? What is non-negotiable?  What kind of ethical compromises are you willing to justify making, and where do you draw the line? 

≈ Recall a situation where you were afraid to do what you knew deep inside was the right thing to do, so you went along with what others did – or did what was asked of you without questioning it. How did doing that make you feel? What were you afraid would have happened if you did what you felt was right, even if you were the only one who did? How would you have decided if you didn't have this fear?

 

≈ To what degree are you focused upon your own needs? To what degree are you focused upon the needs of others?

≈ Have you ever compromised your integrity for survival, personally or professionally? What did you tell yourself to justify doing so?

≈ Do you transparently and authentically "walk your talk"?

≈ Are you a psychologically safe person to be around? In other words: can people speak up and/or give you feedback with honesty and candor without fear of your wrath or retribution? Can you openly admit when you are wrong about something? How do you treat those who have admittedly made mistakes? Do you view apologizing as weak - or as an act of power? 

≈ Think about critical decisions you've made that seriously affected your life and/or organization, and possibly the lives of others. Are you happy with what you chose? Why or why not? Where are the points where you would have made different decisions if you could do it again? What would you have done?

 

≈ Have you  ever "gotten away" with doing something unethical? How did that make you feel?

≈ What example do you want to lead by: at home, school, work, within all your relationships, and in all your social interactions? 

 

≈ If your Big Picture intention and goal is to live an ethical life no matter what the circumstances are, what's getting what you want worth if you have to push someone else down to get it?

What is Ethical Intelligence?

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