Advice » In the Workplace» Workplace Issues » How Leaders Can Be Ethical Role ...
How Leaders Can Be Ethical Role Models

How Leaders Can Be Ethical Role Models

When you hear the names Enron, WorldCom and Arthur Andersen, you instantly think "secrets and lies." But do the misdeeds of these companies represent the modus operandi for leaders today? Are morals in American business deteriorating?

I posed this question to 10 business leaders, and they all agreed that business ethics have eroded over the past two decades. Yet these leaders are also unanimous in their belief that American business can retrieve itself from the gutter. They say it is up to each individual to make good ethical decisions.

Personal Responsibility -- When Does It Start?

It's easy to blame business leaders for corporate transgressions. We stand up and take notice when our retirement accounts are affected, after all. But when should personal responsibility start? In the 2008 Junior Achievement/Deloitte Teen Ethics Survey, 79 percent of teens surveyed said they felt prepared to make ethical decisions when they enter the workforce. However, 38 percent said it is sometimes necessary to cheat, steal, lie or behave violently to succeed. These results would make anyone wonder if, as adults, these students will make the right decisions when they face ethical challenges on the job.

It used to be that making decisions in business was pretty simple. All you had to do was ask yourself, "Is this legal? Is this against company policy? Can I sleep at night if I do it?" Then business got more complicated, with the competition to succeed becoming more intense. The gray areas surrounding decisions expanded. Many leaders are now torn between company profits and doing the right thing. They are also torn between doing what is right for the company long-term and what is good for their careers in the short-term.

What Can Ethical Leaders Do?

Ethical business leaders will have to take some immediate steps to show employees and stockholders they are honest and determined to do their best for the organization. Each leader must model high ethical standards. In addition, here are 10 more steps you can take right now.

  • Assess your personal morals. What you do in your personal life permeates your business affairs and the lives of your children. Be a good role model.
  • Review your company's ethics. Make it clear what is and is not acceptable.
  • Establish your mission statement and your company's core values. High ethical standards are based on integrity, honor, honesty and fairness to all.
  • Communicate the mission and core values to every employee and customer through your words and actions.
  • Create an ethics policy that clearly states the company's philosophy and consequences for not following the policy. The Society for Human Resource Management has published some business ethics guidelines (log-in required).
  • Implement business ethics training.
  • Tighten your accounting practices as well as your conflict-of-interest policy.
  • Establish an ethics panel that will review business ethics violations and questionable decisions. This group can take pressure off employees during decision making.
  • Include ethics in your performance evaluations to ensure employees are held accountable for their actions.
  • Watch out for any employee who is out to make a name for himself. It is often the superstar who is the one pushing the envelope.

No Magic Potion

The University of Missouri has many well-known graduates; two of the more noted are Sam Walton of Wal-Mart and Kenneth Lay of Enron. Their different paths to success remind us that there is no magic formula for keeping your employees honest. As Elizabeth Dole told the Duke University class of 2000, "In the final analysis, it is your moral compass that counts far more than any bank balance, any resume, and yes, any diploma."

Latest Jobs

Posted: 07/01/2015
Dover, DE
Posted: 07/01/2015
Phoenix, AZ
Posted: 07/01/2015
Newburgh, NY, 12550
UnitedHealth Group
Posted: 07/01/2015
Boston, MA

Want more personalized results?  Update Your Profile


Monster Communities

Teaching Community
Where teachers meet and learn.
Create and connect.
Networking for the career-minded woman.
Nursing Link
Where nurses call the shots.
More Monster Communities

Monster Partners

Scholarships, financial aid and more ways to pay for school.
Find top campus and online degree programs.
Military portal for the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Financial Aid
Scholarships & financial aid.
Staffing for Government Jobs
Staffing and hiring solutions for federal government agency jobs.
More Monster Partners

Job Hunt Strategy

Six Ways to Make a Recruiter Hate You
If you want to blow your chances with recruiters -- and, by extension, with the companies they work for -- here are six perfect ways to do so.

Resumes & Cover Letters

Rev Up Your Resume to Relocate
Hoping to relocate? Get the ball rolling on landing the right job in the right location with these expert resume and cover letter tips.


100 Potential Interview Questions
Interview questions can run the gamut. You probably won't face all 100 of these, but you should still be prepared to answer at least some of them.

Salary & Benefits

10 Questions to Ask When Negotiating Salary
Most of us aren't natural negotiators, but asking these 10 questions during salary negotiations can help you get everything you deserve.

Employee Sourcing

Alt text
November Monster Employment Index Grows 13% Year-Over-Year, Tenth Consecutive Month of Positive Annual Growth.

For Seekers

Campus and Online Degrees
Advance your career and earn more with an online degree.
Free Salary Wizard
What are you worth? Find out and negotiate a better salary.
Research Careers
Get information on jobs and career paths to help guide your choices
Questions & Answers
Find answers to all your career related questions -- powered by Yahoo! Answers
Resume Distribution Service
Our distribution service puts your resume right in the hands of recruiters.
Resume Writing Services
Our experts will craft a keyword-rich resume that stands out in the crowd.
More Career Resources

For Employers

Career Ad Network
Target your job posting to more candidates on thousands of websites.
Hire Right Background Checks
Explore our background check packages to improve the quality of your hires.
Hiring Home Page
Find the best candidates for your business with Monster hiring solutions.
Job Postings
Find the right solution for your hiring needs. Starting at $99.
Power Resume Search
Monster's new search technology precisely matches people with your jobs.
Resource Center
Find staffing insights, labor trends, HR best practices and more.
Target Post
Connect with skilled, hourly and administrative candidates for only $99.

Social Media

Jobs on Twitter
Find jobs in your area and industry.
Monster Careers
Tune into our career advice and discussions tackling a wide range of topics and industries.
Monster Corporate & PR
Stay up-to-date on the latest news. Get the 'Who', 'What', 'When', and 'Why' on all things Monster related.
Monster Customer Service
Got a Monster question? We've got the answer. Whether you're a job seeker or employer, we can help you find the answers you need.
Monster for Employers
Find advice on hiring.
Follow Us
Check out our many pages and stay connected with the latest industry news, events, career advice and job openings.

Other Links

Monster Company Profiles
Explore companies and get information to guide your career decisions.
Compare Salaries
See how your pay stacks up to others in your field.
iPhone Application
Download the Monster app for iPhone and iPod touch.
Monster Job Seeker Blog
Monster Job Seeker Blog.
Monster Thinking Blog
Monster's Recruitment Trends Blog.
Jobs & Career Resources
Search Jobs:
For Employers: Post Jobs | Search Resumes | Advertise
About Monster | Work for Monster | Advertise with Us | AdChoices | Partner with Us | Investor Relations | Social Media
Terms of Use | Privacy Center | Accessibility Center | Help | Security | Contact Us | Sitemap | Mobile
©2015 Monster - All Rights Reserved U.S. Patents No. 5,832,497; 7,599,930 B1; 7,827,125 and 7,836,060 MWW - Looking for Monster Cable? - V: 2015.12.0.54-204