Ethical Leadership for Sustainable Wellbeing

post from Dr. Ian Hesketh and Sir Cary Cooper:
Which style of
leadership behaviour is the most effective has been the challenge for most
executives for many years. Trying to meet the challenges of modern-day working
practices and the demands of a 24hr global demand under increasing constraints
is a real conundrum. Ethical Leadership
is proven to improve employee wellbeing and promotes extra-role effort. Further, ethical leadership can decrease emotional exhaustion and increase work engagement. It can also result in a
willingness from employees to make suggestions to
improve the organization. Our experience is that the concept of feeling
trusted in the workplace magnifies ethical leadership and can also result in
further extra-role effort.  So, what are
these concepts and how easy is it to implement them?
The great news is that
these are easily learned and adaptable to all workplace settings. Ethical
leadership is the notion that the leadership approach involves promoting
ethical standards in organizations and encourages followers to behave more
ethically. Although historically it is born out of the philosophical concept
that it improves wellbeing, it has been popularized of late due to questionable
business practices and huge corporate scandals; together with evidence that it
improves both employee wellbeing and organizational performance.
Here is why. Ethical leadership leads to increased extra role effort.
That is, what employees are prepared to do that is above and beyond what is
expected of them by their employees. It also leads to employees feeling trusted
to make decisions on their own that are appreciated and acknowledged by their
employees. Further, it leads to reduced occurrences of feeling emotionally
exhausted, that is the cognitive or physical strain that one feels from
workplace pressures. It also leads to increased employee engagement, this is
the way employees view their work as a positive challenge and are prepared to
interact, to suggest new ideas and feel part of the organization. For example,
employees are more likely to speak highly of their employer, both inside and
outside of work. Employees are more likely to promote the business; and
encourage other colleagues to do so also.
What to look out for? Ethical leaders are people-oriented. They look out
for the long-term interests of colleagues and are unwavering in this quest.
They authentically promote ethical behaviours, both inside and outside of the
workplace. They live their own lives ethically. They make fair and balanced
To conclude, ethical leadership is good news for all business and for
successful organizations is being proactively sought after. If you have
leadership responsibilities or are concerned with human resource management and
are recruiting or promoting your next tranche of leaders, look for the
qualities outlined in this short article. These qualities in leaders can result
in sustainable high performance. In this high performing environment you will
witness employee pride in working for a reputable organization. One in which
people are attracted to be part of and speak highly of both inside and outside
of the organization. If this is your goal, ethical leadership is the way to go.
Ian Hesketh,
PhD and Sir Cary Cooper
CBE are the authors of WELLBEING
AT WORK: How to Design, Implement and Evaluate an Effective Strategy
Both are associated with the National Forum for Health and Wellbeing at Work
(UK). For more information visit: