You can’t discuss leadership in detail without discussing the importance of ethics and a strong moral and ethics policy within your organization. I will be the first to admit, no leader is perfect, certainly not me. And because none of us are part of a perfect executive board, ethics, agreed upon morals, and policies must be set in place. If you work with an established brand such clauses and policies are probably already in place. However, if you lead a small company you may not have established such values on paper. Or perhaps, you are an executive at a company with dated plans and procedures in place and you need to get your team up to par. Whatever the case may be, you owe it to yourself and team to make sure you are proactive and have an updated ethics policy in place and are taking the steps to avoid challenges that poor morals will cause. Plans are only solid when they are actually implemented and when they are enforced and embraced by a willing and capable team.
Diversify your leadership team
To prevent many ethical challenges you need to have a diverse team. And not just any position on your team but you need to diversify your decision making team. Diverse leaders will bring rich cultural understandings and backgrounds. When we operate through diverse lenses we will see our work, values, and capabilities with expanded vision and unbiasedness. Bias and naivety fuel many challenges and generate negative outcomes. Staff your leadership team with wise, diverse professionals who who align with your values and will help steer you away from any circumstance that may endanger those values.
Have a social media policy
In today’s digital and social media world many, many problems and ethical concerns stem from social media. Social media can be a blessing or curse for your organization. When you utilize social media platforms to engage with your audience and build brand awareness you win. But when your team is caught sharing views that do not reflect your own or the company’s views you can find yourself caught in a PR crisis. Other social media dangers include boasting inflated success or sales, running ad campaigns that seem unauthentic, or posting or sharing sensitive or false content. Having a clear social media policy that your team adheres to will prevent major social media mistakes.
Establish a company wide code of ethics
Just like a social media policy, a code of ethics will keep your company’s morals and values in check. Most places of work will have an assumption of good ethics and practices and will even detail them in employee handbooks and conversations but that is not enough! Spell out your ethical expectations on paper and make it clear that the set standards are nonnegotiable. Ethical policies and clauses should include:
Social media policies
Expectation of code of conduct
Expectation of honesty and transparency
Rules and guidelines for talking to current and potential clients
Guideline for dealing with a crisis
Stated repercussions for breaking the code
Hold every individual accountable
What good is an ethics plan that is not enforced? Once your ethics plan is clearly stated you must then address:
Who is exempt from this plan
How will we enforce it
What will happen to those who break it
No one should be exempt from your code of ethics. And although it may apply to all people within your organization, it should especially be exemplified through your top leadership team. Get the head of the snake in line and the body will follow. Leading by example is a must. Lastly, being prepared to enforce it by reprimanding or removing those who neglect it is necessary. Without accountability of the rules set in place you just have jargon on paper and not a plan of action.
Part of the Dow Jones code of ethics policy reads, “It is an essential prerequisite for success in the news and information business that our customers believe us to be telling them the truth. If we are not telling them the truth—or even if they, for any valid reason, believe that we are not—then Dow Jones cannot prosper." This is a great example of a strong code of ethics because it assumes and takes on full responsibility. Stating that your company not only has an expectation of being truthful and factual but also understanding that there is a fault that must be reconciled even if your client base believes there is wrong doing or error is powerful! A code of ethics protects the interests of the work culture and the customer. It brings in accountability and removes gray areas. As adults we all know right from wrong. As leaders we must implement solid plans to maintain these rights and oust and remove all wrongs for the better good of the organization.
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