Ethical leadership


Ethical leadership, defining it as “the demonstration of normatively appropriate conduct through personal actions and interpersonal relationships, and the promotion of such conduct to followers through two-way communication, reinforcement and decision-making”… [and] the evidence suggests that ethical leader behavior can have important positive effects on both individual and organizational effectiveness (Rubin et al 2010: 216-17).

In leadership we see morality magnified, and that is why the study of ethics is fundamental to our understanding of leadership. The study of ethics is about human relationships. It is about what we should do and what we should be like as human beings, as members of a group or society, and in the different roles that we play in life. It is about right and wrong and good and evil.

Leadership is a specific type of human relationship. Some assurances of this relationship are power and/or influence, vision, obligation, and responsibility. By understanding the ethics of this relationship, we gain a well understanding of leadership, because some of the vital issues in ethics are also the chief issues of leadership. They comprise the personal challenges of legitimacy, self-interest, and self-discipline, and moral obligations related to justice, duty, capability, and the greatest good. Its meaning and purpose is evolving
as does the business.

When it comes to an organization’s viewpoint, defining what is the ‘Right thing’ and whom or what should be the major concern for ethical decisions – the company, the shareholders, the stake holders or the whole society, plentiful questions arise.


Businesses that are proactive make ethical leadership a priority advantage in many ways. Here are three of the many ways that ethical leadership helps us contend:
1. Ethical consumerism is increasing. Consumers increasingly expect businesses to think beyond their own gain and to prove concern and care for a broad array of stakeholders. Businesses that demonstration concern produce the loyalty of increasingly savvy consumers who want to support ethical companies.
2. Ethical leadership and high-trust cultures bring out the best performance people have to offer and fetching out people’s best performance will help our businesses compete effectively in today’s global marketplace.
3. Having strong ethical leadership and a high-trust culture will help appeal and hold the best talent. The skilled and ethical people that we attract when we lead ethically will delight our customers, help us get more done, and improve the brand.

One of such organizational example from the industry of fashion is of H&M, the global fast fashion leader, has ramped up its sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts in recent years. Once an easy target for those critical of the clothing industry’s record on environmental and human rights problems, the micro-seasonal Swedish trendsetter can provide a bevy of statistics that would make most CSR professionals blush.
H&M’s business concept is to offer fashion and quality at the best price. Quality also means that H&M products must be manufactured in a way that is environmentally and socially sustainable. Therefore dedicated to working closely with their suppliers and stakeholders to achieve a long-term, sustainable social and environmental standard in the factories that manufacture H&M’s products and in the operations of other business partners.
H&M’s Code of Conduct specifies its requirement from their suppliers, their subcontractors and other business partners in order to accomplish their pledge to our Board of Directors, to their employees, customers, shareholders and to other stakeholders. It is the obligation of H&M’s suppliers and other business partners to update their subcontractors about H&M’s Code of Conduct and Policy for Homework, and to ensure that these are implemented in every factory and workplace that produces, finishes packs or otherwise handles goods or performs services for H&M.

H&M base its requirements chiefly on internationally agreed standards such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and applicable ILO Conventions, as well as national legislation. It works at the following levels:
1. Legal Requirements
2. Child Labour Is Not Accepted
3. Health And Safety
4. Workers’ Rights
5. Housing Conditions
6. Environment
7. Systems Approach
8. Monitoring And Enforcement

“The future of ethical leadership involves a high degree of ethical awareness and ethical competence that is intentionally managed by business leaders. It involves considering a broader definition of ‘stakeholders,’ a desire to give back and contribute to the greater good, and a lower tolerance for harm to people and the planet. “Linda Fisher Thornton, It’s Time to Practice Ethical Leadership, January 2013 Issue.
Meeting to the time where ethical leadership is a strategic gain in fashion industry. The future ethical leaders need to demonstrate the diversity and flexibility of the team. To appraise the next making of fashion designers, entrepreneurs and consumers on the urgency and approaches for designing, producing and consuming sustainably. Having strong ethical leadership and a high-trust culture will help appeal and retain the best talent. The competent and ethical people that magnetise when direct ethically, will amuse the customers and improve the brand.

List of References:
Heres .L & Lasthuizen. K (2010) ‘ETHICAL LEADERSHIP: A Variform Universal Phenomenon’ [online] available from [27 March 2014]
Mullins.L.J with Christy.G (2013), ‘Corporate Responsibility and Ethics ‘Management & Organisational Behavior, Tenth edition, 17: 659-688 ‘The Leader’s Light or Shadow’ [online] available from [27 March 2014]
Fishaer.L (2013) ‘How Is Ethical Leadership a Strategic Advantage?’ [online] available from [28 March 2014]
[online] available from March 2014]
Kaye.L (2012) ‘H&M, The Ethical Fast Fashion Leader?’ [online] available from March 2013]
Ciulla .B.J ‘Ethics and Leadership Effectiveness’ [online] available from [28 March 2014]


5 thoughts on “Ethical leadership

  1. There is good explanation about the ethical leadership and how H & M implemented this in their organisation,can you please explain me the how ethical leadership benefits organisation.

    • Thanks Abhilash, i would like to say H&M is the best example in fashion business leader since H&M with its multi channel retailing, is the 2nd largest apparel in retail globally. In this aspect it outsource production to 800 suppliers with a brand promise of being a sustainable brand. In this liue, H&M strictly abides by CSR, fairtrade and ethical norms across its supply chain.

  2. Ethical leadership is indeed one of the most important aspects to the success of an organization. Ethical leaders can lead the organization in the right direction and set an example for others to follow. A well written blog with a good example from H&M.

  3. Pingback: ETHICAL LEADERSHIP | sezinerdem

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