My college professor once told me that, “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.” The above quote by C.S Lewis forms the foundation of my personal leadership philosophy. I believe that great leaders are characterized by their ethical values rather than their action and results. This section entails my definition of leadership, my core leadership values and character that will shape the kind of leader I intent to be.
My Leadership Philosophy
Waggoner (2010) defines leadership as a form of relationship between people. Leadership refers to the art of persuading others to do things and activities to achieve desired goals. Many intellectuals have written about leadership, such as the different forms of leadership and personality traits that make good leaders. However, there is a vast collection of information on leadership, it is important to adopt a leadership style that rhymes with my personal values and goals.
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In developing my leadership philosophy, I will focus on what is important to me and to the people I will be serving. While there are different forms of leadership, I believe ethical leadership is the only style of leadership that can enable me to bring real change and influence others positively. Hence my leadership goal is, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Maxwell, 2007). Effective and ethical leadership will enable me to lead others in achieving goals through the right means.
Ethical leadership is now a buzzword used by many leaders, yet they still lack ethical values. Thoughtful reflection on ethical leadership made me come up with my own definition of leadership as the ability to form relationships with others based on care, mutual respect, and making the right choices at all times. It is worth noting that leadership is challenging leadership that is more so ethical. Ethical leadership is about engaging others in a positive manner and guiding them towards achievement of the collective vision.
Knowledge of Self
My leadership philosophy is determined by various factors particularly my knowledge of self. I believe that as a leader I have to analyze myself to know my core qualities. My character will enable me to connect with others, form relationships and care for others. Ethical leadership is the kind of leadership that relies on positive virtues; hence, I have to identify my core values that will enable me to become an effective and ethical leader. These dominant values have shaped my life since childhood. In addition, these values have helped me succeed in the small leadership roles that I have taken in the past. It is easy to identify my core values, in fact others often comment about them. Below are nine aspects of my character that rhyme with ethical leadership:
Moorhouse (2002) claims that integrity is one of the leading virtues of ethical leadership. Integrity is about having a strong moral compass that will ensure that I do the right thing at all times. Leaders often find themselves in tricky situations, and leaders that lack integrity often take the easy way out. As a child, I have been taught to always do the right thing. While doing the right thing is hard, leaders with integrity strive to do the right thing all the time in order to bring more positive values and events into the world.
“A leader must take special responsibility for that’s going on inside his or her own self, inside his or her consciousness, lest the act of leadership create more harm than good.” The above quote by Johnson (2013) sums why ethical (good) leaders must have integrity. A good leader has integrity from the beginning; a good leader has good intentions such that everything they do only brings more good. Additionally, integrity makes leaders accountable and transparent as Cloud (2009) puts it, “leaders take ownership of the results and do not try to excuse those or blame someone else for them.”
An ethical leader is a passionate about leading others. Passionate leaders are intrinsically motivated, they have the zeal to help others, to do good, and even inspire change. Passion enables a leader to create a vision, mission, and goals. I believe that I have passion for leadership; I have taken a number of leadership roles in school for years. I excel in being a leader because I like doing it, and sometimes my passion makes others listen to me. Garlow (2004) states that, “the true measure of leadership is influence--nothing more, nothing less.” With passion, a leader can command real change in the behaviors of others.
Truthful leaders are ethical and effective leaders that take into consideration the opinion of others. Truthful leaders find it easy to build trust and followership because they do not conceal information or lie to others. I feel that being truthful is an important part of ethical leadership as it ensures that the leaders and the followers are always on the same page. Garlow (2004), comments that, “talent is no substitute for trust.” Regardless of how effective and talented a leader is, without trust the followers will not believe what the leader says and they are less likely to do as they are told.
Goal Oriented and People Oriented
An effective leader is a goal-oriented person that works towards achieving already established goals (Moorhouse, 2002). While forming positive relations with others in a prerequisite for effective and ethical leadership, working towards attaining goals is more important. Effective leaders produce good results that will inspire others. Effective leaders have a vision and they seek buy-in for the vision from the followers. They also create proper ways of achieving the vision through analysis of priorities, available resources, and support from the followers. I feel that I am a goal-oriented person, my life is characterized by small successes that I have worked hard towards achieving, and I have no doubt that I will be a goal-oriented leader. It is also important to use a people oriented approach to support the vision, mission and goals, people oriented approach focus on creating the greater good for everyone.
Respect is the foundation of any effective relationship. A leader has to earn the respect of others, and yet a leader must respect others in order to do so. In respecting others, a leader creates a new form of relationship where others can seek advice and feedback from the leader. The followers will feel the need to share different viewpoints with the leader. A respectful leader is open minded, and takes into consideration the needs of others. Effective leaders use respect as the basis of true empowerment.
I feel that service is one the greatest leadership traits that one can possess, after all the goal of leadership is to serve others. Maxwell (2007) borrows a quote from the Bible to show the importance of service in leadership, "Jesus said I came to serve others, not to be served by them.” Leadership role is not an opportunity to amass wealth or achieve selfish individual goals; instead, it is an opportunity to serve others to attain common good. Serving others is not just serving a few individuals, but giving everyone equal opportunities. Leaders must be willing to sacrifice personal gain for the sake of the group, particularly those in dire need.
Hard work and Dedication
An effective leader must work hard to achieve set goals. Starratt (2004) states that leaders have to ensure that there is technical efficiency and delivery in performance through hard work. Leaders understand the processes in and out, and they lead by example. They are committed to the mission, vision, and objectives through their actions. Leaders must be dedicated at all times such that their commitment will inspire others to work hard.
Growth and Learning
Effective leaders take time to nurture their leadership skills. Garlow (2004) states that leadership is a process that develops daily and not in a day. Effective leaders know the importance of continuous learning to improve their leadership skills, experience, and interaction with others. I believe that leaders are not born leaders, rather they are made. Good leaders take the time to learn what it takes to be a leader; they take time to learn about others, about different leadership styles and skills to improve their leadership. There are increasing leadership challenges in today’s society, and only leaders that undergo continuous growth and learning can solve such challenges.
Humility is another character of effective leaders. Humility is a theological virtue, which can be applied to any kind of leadership situation. Humble leaders are approachable, and they seek to serve other well. Dickson (2011) states that, “The most influential and inspiring people are often marked by humility.” Humble leaders inspire others to do better, and they can influence others better than talented and extremely effective leaders.
How my Personal Values Relate to Effective and Ethical Leadership
My core values support the leadership style of my choice. The above personal values are necessary for effective and ethical leaderships. Virtues of integrity, truthfulness, respect, and service will enable a leader to earn respect and followership. On the other hand, the virtues of service and humility will enable a leader to offer outstanding service to the followers. Mihelic et al. (2010) notes that ethical and effective leaders are capable of bringing long-term changes unlike unethical leaders that focus on short term goals.
Other personal values such as growth and learning, hard work, goal oriented, and passion will also make me an effective leader. Effective leaders are associated with good results, they are dedicated and disciplined, and already established goals and processes guide them.
Why Leaders should Act in an Ethical Manner
I believe that ethical leadership requires commitment and dedication; however, it has its benefits. Ethical leadership brings out the best in everyone; it also instills a sense of proactive responsibility, authenticity and enables the followers to be part of the leadership experience (Starratt, 2004).
Ethical leaders are role models that inspire others to do better, not just in the professional life, but also in their personal lives. Ethical leaders inspire others by communicating the importance of ethical standards, and they also hold employees to a high standard. Most importantly, ethical leaders encourage positive virtues to prevent any form of negative outcome. Ethical leaders are humble, respectful, hardworking, and they have integrity, hence such positive virtues will produce positive outcomes.
Lastly, ethical style of leadership creates a leader that does not bow down to pressure. Leaders often find themselves in tough situations where they have to go against the majority in implementing unpopular views, and without a strong ethical background one can easily make fatal leadership mistakes. Ethical leadership enables a leader to maintain consistency, maintain good relations with the followers, and achieve good results that benefit most people.
As Martin Luther said, “Man is created out of dust but in the image of God,” it is our responsibility as leaders to adopt positive leadership values that will bring the best in our followers. Positive leadership values are the foundation of ethical leadership. Leaders with humility respect and perseverance will withstand everything thrown their way, their faith will not waver, and eventually they will be successful (Piper, 2006).
To sum up, my leadership philosophy is:
I believe that leadership is a journey guided by individual values such as respect, humility and integrity
Ethical leadership brings the best out of leaders and followers
I believe it is important to spend time reflecting on our leadership style and its implication to others.
Cloud, H. (2006). Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality. New York, NY: Harper Business.
Dickson, J. P. (2011). Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Garlow, J. L., & Reed, G., & Maxwell, J. C. (2002). The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership Tested by Time: Those who followed them--and those who Didn't . Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Johnson, C. E. (2013). Meeting the ethical challenges of leadership: Casting light or shadow . New York, NY: Sage Publications.
Maxwell, J. C. (2007). The Maxwell leadership Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
Mihelic, K. K., Lipicnik, B., & Tekavcic, M. (2010). Ethical leadership. International Journal of Management & Information Systems (IJMIS) , 14 (5).
Moorhouse, J. (2002). Desired Characteristics of Ethical Leaders in Business, Educational, Political and Religious Organizations from East Tennessee: A Delphi Investigation. Digital Commons.
Piper, J. (2006). The Roots of Endurance: Invincible Perseverance in the Lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Starratt, R. J. (2004). Ethical leadership (Vol. 8). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Waggoner, J. (2010). Ethics and leadership: How personal ethics produce effective leaders. CMC Senior Thesis.