The modern Oxford Dictionary defines the word ethical as, ‘relating to moral principals or the branch of knowledge dealing with these. For example: morally correct: can a profitable business ever be ethical?’

The dictionary as defines the word ethical, ‘principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.’

Ethical philosophy in the Western tradition has been divided into three types:

  1. Virtues (generosity, charity and justice) based on Aristotle’s ideas
  2. Morality, which is a human duty based on ‘rational people respecting other rational people. This is most supported by Kant.
  3. Utilitarianism, which is, conduct, which produces happiness or benefit to the largest number of people. This is also called the greater good concept.

Ethical philosophy is characterized by ethos, which is ‘the prevalent tone or sentiment of a people or community.’ Now the thing about ethos is that it a matter of opinion and as such is relative to the time and context of the group of people who share a common ethos. In business, large-scale opinion can be more influential than law or commonly agreed upon rules particularly when it comes to markets, attitudes and publicity. Commonly held opinion is a powerful reality of our society. Public opinion can be the sternest measurement of them all when it comes to ethics.

As for ethical management and leadership skills, when you next make a decision make sure that you are being:

  1. Transparent- make your decision public
  2. Considered the effect upon people- have you fully considered the detrimental effects of the decision and worked out how to avoid them
  3. Fair- will people consider this decision fair.

If you can answer yes to the above questions then you can be sure that you are making an ethical decision. If you can’t say yes then consider another solution.

If you are having trouble making ethical decisions then find someone who has strong ethical principals who, most importantly, doesn’t owe you anything. He or she will have the perspective you need when dealing issues regarding ethics.

Be careful though, leaders can often be blinded by their own self importance’s and believe they have the right to cause anguish and suffering from people. This is not true. Good leaders have the fortitude and know when and how to find another way to do things – the ethical way.