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The Conundrum of Ethical Leadership

Categories: Management

By Michael Patterson | April 13, 2022 << Back to Articles The Conundrum of Ethical Leadership

Many leaders struggle with finding ways to be effective. Value-driven ethical leadership is a truly needed ingredient for environmental services (EVS) and housekeeping leaders. The EVS and housekeeping field employs a very diverse workforce, and managers must develop and empower workers to attain organizational goals.

As leaders, it is essential that you understand and develop a personal value structure that will help guide your decision-making thought process.

EVS and housekeeping leaders who wish to improve the ethical quality of their leadership and decision-making must first understand and take responsibility for the decisions they make. You will need to search inside yourself to make the best decisions possible and always apply ethical-driven principles in your work, as well as in life. Our workforce is more diverse in culture and education, and needs to be successful in understanding their role within the organization, work teams, and, yes, their own personal growth.

While working on my master’s degree, I did much research in psychology and stumbled upon the works of Abraham Maslow and Lawrence Kohlberg. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is extremely concerned with human motivation and is seen as particularly important for effective leaders. The hierarchy of needs has five steps depicted by a pyramid with five steps. The steps will help leaders better understand what their team members truly need to succeed.

Kohlberg’s work suggested that ethical quality and reasoning may be improved through thoughts and action. The quality and reasoning may be classified into three stages of development, which are the basis for ethical reasoning:

  1. Pre-conventional: A person learns to respond to rules and social expectations. This gives way to the sense of good, bad, right, and wrong.
  2. Conventional: The person responds to and is loyal to family and peers. You learn to deal with other points of view. This stage is looked at as the social stage.
  3. Post-conventional: A colleague or peer no longer accepts the values of the group, but tries to take into consideration social orientation and universal ethical principles.

Having been in leadership for over 30 years, it is my opinion that you will most likely pass through each stage before moving into a higher level of moral and ethical development.

When I was completing the Certified Executive Housekeeping course, we learned that character ethics is the foundation of success. True happiness and success are achieved when passing through to a more complete or higher stage of development and integrating those principles into the basic character.

It is obvious that people vary in their understanding and views on standards. We all know people who believe that whatever they say is right regardless of what others think or what is true in substance and fact. There is much complexity of human values and ideological values, and therefore most value leadership conflicts arise.

A leader’s interpersonal style is important when trying to build relationships. An effective leader must have the support of top management. Typically, top management or the senior leaders in an organization will create a positive or negative culture.

As senior leaders try to build an environment that fosters ethics and values, like professionalism, it may be challenging to gain total acceptance within the organization.

I teach ethics as a topic for leaders. There are some values that are widely recognized by leaders that are requisite traits of an ethical leader. Chief among them are honesty and integrity; treating everyone with dignity and respect; and caring for others, including promise-keeping, trustworthiness, fairness, and personal accountability.

Take the time to break down communication barriers that may hamper personal growth and empowerment. Ethically effective organizations must implement internal control systems.

Your ethical and value-driven leadership will propel your teams to great heights.


About the Author.

Michael Patterson, executive director of IEHA, a division of ISSA, has almost three decades of leadership experience within IEHA. His IEHA mission is empowering members through education.