True leadership is about who you are

Ethical leadership

Ethical Leadership: Insights from Simon Sinek, Brené Brown, and John C. Maxwell

Ethical leadership is about being service-oriented, not self-oriented; it's about elevating others, not elevating oneself

As the start of a new era draws closer, one phrase, in particular, is making its way into the corridors of our workplaces, the conferences of corporate leaders, and the aspirations of organizations. This phrase is “ethical leadership.”

It’s more than just a platitude; it’s an effective strategy that has the potential to revolutionize the way we do things in the workplace.

By embracing ethical leadership, we are able to release hidden potential, generate innovative ideas, and establish a culture that is founded on trust, integrity, and respect.

Today, we are going to investigate this topic by looking at it through the eyes of three leaders who were among the first in their fields: John C. Maxwell, Brené Brown, and Simon Sinek. Every single one of them offers a unique viewpoint, and the themes of ethics, empathy, and empowerment run through the entirety of their observations. If you’re a fan of these inspirational authors and speakers, then you’re in for a real treat with this blog post!

Ethical Leadership and Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek is someone who knows how to get people motivated. He’s not just a motivational speaker, but also someone who advises organizations on how to work better. He’s a big advocate of what’s called ethical leadership. Think of his work as a guide for leaders who are trying to find their way in the complex and sometimes challenging world of business. Out of his many teachings, there are two ideas that are really at the heart of being an ethical leader.

Leadership is about caring

Sinek once said something that really makes you think: “Leadership is not about being in charge. It is about taking care of those in your charge.
What does that mean? Well, it’s like this: being a leader isn’t about telling people what to do and being the boss. It’s about looking out for your team and making sure they’re okay. It’s not about flexing your muscles and showing off your power, it’s about being caring and understanding. It’s about putting yourself in the shoes of your team members and feeling what they feel. That’s what builds a team that trusts and respects each other.

Influencing by inspiring

The second big idea from Sinek is this: “There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.” 
What he’s saying is that as a leader, you’ve got two options. You can trick people into doing what you want, or you can get them excited about a shared goal and make them want to work towards it. Ethical leaders choose the second option – they inspire.
They help everyone see the same dream, and they encourage everyone to bring their own unique skills and talents to make that dream come true.

Think back to the best boss you’ve ever had. Chances are, they didn’t just boss you around. They probably made you feel excited about your work and inspired you to do your best. That’s what Sinek is talking about – leading with care and inspiration. If you can do that, you’re on your way to becoming a great leader.

Ethical Leadership and Brené Brown

Brené Brown is a name that resonates powerfully in the field of leadership, known for her groundbreaking work on vulnerability. She looks at leadership through a refreshingly human lens, bringing forth insights that are deeply personal, yet universally applicable. When we talk about what it means to be a ethical leader, two of her ideas stand out.

Vulnerability is the path to more love, belonging and joy

The first idea revolves around vulnerability. Brown says, “In a culture where people can become leaders by pretending or changing what they believe to be true, vulnerability can feel risky. But the reality is that vulnerability is the only path to more love, belonging, and joy.” 

She’s saying that being open about our weaknesses and fears might seem scary, especially in a world where leaders are often expected to be strong and unflappable. But, it’s exactly this openness that leads to a sense of belonging, joy, and love – elements that foster a healthy, positive work environment. 

Vulnerability is not about being weak; rather, it’s about being brave enough to show your true self, to admit when you’re wrong, and to accept that it’s okay not to know everything. When leaders embrace their vulnerability, they spark innovation and change, and more importantly, they encourage others to do the same.

Choosing courage over comfort

I really love Brown’s second big idea. She says, “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; it’s choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast, or easy; and it’s practicing your values, not just talking about them.” 

This statement is a powerful reminder that being an ethical leader is not always the easy path. It’s about making tough choices, standing up for what’s right, and walking the talk. It’s not enough to merely speak about values; ethical leaders embody their values in their actions. When faced with a choice between doing what’s easy and doing what’s right, they choose the latter, even if it’s the harder path.

In a nutshell, Brené Brown’s insights highlight the importance of vulnerability and integrity in ethical leadership. By embracing these qualities, leaders can forge deeper, more genuine connections with their teams and foster a culture of trust, authenticity, and mutual respect. 

Ethical Leadership and John C. Maxwell

John C. Maxwell is a real giant in the world of leadership development. He has provided countless practical and deeply meaningful insights on ethical leadership. I would like to share two of his ideas that are very important to me; you can read more about him on his site: Maxwell leadership.

A good leader makes his team shine

The first one is this: “A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.” 

Imagine you’re working on a group project. If something goes wrong, an ethical leader says, “That’s my fault. I should have done a better job.” 
And when the project is successful, the same leader says, “Great job, team! You all really pulled through.” 

That’s what Maxwell is talking about – it’s about being humble and taking responsibility. An ethical leader is more than happy to shine the spotlight on the team when things go well.

John C. Maxwell

People feel your attitude

Maxwell’s second big idea is this: “People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.

Let’s say you’re a leader who talks a lot about trust and respect. But if you then go and gossip about your team members, they’re going to feel your negative attitude, regardless of what you say. Ethical leaders don’t just talk about values – they live them. Their actions and their attitudes show what they truly believe. If you are interested in living your values, read: Living Your Values: A Leadership Imperative for the 21st Century

The biggest lesson of Maxwell is: be humble, take responsibility for your actions, and remember that your attitude can speak louder than your words.

Starts the day by thanking your team for their hard work. When a team member makes a mistake, take him aside, address the issue, and take responsibility for not guiding him better. Ensure to acknowledge the team’s achievements, and make sure everyone knows their effort is valued.

Don’t just talk about respect and trust – show it in everything you do. That’s the kind of leader Maxwell wants us to be.

Your own road to ethical leadership

Here are some practical steps to embark on your journey towards ethical leadership. I have included some insightful articles from this site as references.

Empathize and Listen Actively: Develop your emotional intelligence. Try to understand your team’s perspectives and feelings, and respond thoughtfully. 

Embrace Vulnerability:
Be open about your failures and struggles. This honesty creates an environment where everyone feels safe to be themselves and take risks.

Lead by Example:
Uphold the values you espouse. Your team will follow suit when they see you practicing what you preach.

Encourage Feedback:
Foster a culture where feedback is welcomed and appreciated. It promotes growth and continuous improvement.

Inspire, Don’t Manipulate: Motivate your team by painting a clear, compelling vision of the future, rather than resorting to manipulation or intimidation.

Ethical leadership

References and Further Reading

For those who wish to know more about the topic, here are some resources:

Simon Sinek, “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”
Brené Brown, “Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.”
John C. Maxwell, “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”

Table of Contents


On Key

Other Posts