Ethical And Moral Leadership

Ethical and moral leadership is topical in SA today. On our weekly Leadership Master Class we discussed this with a man that has learned about it through very responsible positions and through sad experience – Zwelinzima Vavi. He joined us as Prof Theo Veldsman from UJ introduced the theme and meaning of such leadership – listen here.

I will merely highlight the following list that draws a distinction between behaviors of ethical and unethical leaders. As you read it, first think of yourself, how you measure up. Then, think of current examples like our President Jacob Zuma, or Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela, or your direct manager or CEO.


The Ethical Leader


The Unethical Leader

Is humble Is arrogant and self-serving
Is concerned for the greater good Excessively promotes self-interest
Is honest and straightforward Practices deception
Fulfils commitments Breaches agreements
Strives for fairness Deals unfairly
Takes responsibility Shifts blame to others
Shows respect for each individual Diminishes others’ dignity
Encourages and develops others Neglects follower development
Serves others Withholds help and support
Shows courage to stand up for what is right Lacks courage to confront unjust acts

Donald G. Zauderer, “Integrity An Essential Executive Quality” Business Forum (Fal 1992, pp 12-16)

Well, how did you do? How did your manager/CEO perform? How did Pres Zuma match up? And Advocate Thuli Madonsela?

On the one hand it is difficult to be an ethical and moral leader in a world where your behavior is and will be more visible than ever before. On the other hand it is simple. Be clear about your morals and values; be clear about what morals and values matter to your followers; and finally, be clear about the morals, values and ethics of your context, be it the organization you work for or the party you represent. This means, know yourself; know your people intimately; and know your context, your organization.

When you listen to the conversation with Vavi and my panel, note two attributes that will be crucial as you attempt to exemplify a high standard to those you lead, in a world that seems to drive the benchmark down slowly but surely.  The two attributes are: Humility and courage.

Without these you will struggle to be an ethical and moral leader. Listen more about why. Enjoy!

Adriaan Groenewald is a leadership expert and commentator. Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Adriaan on for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation. Follow him on Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP or @LeadershipPform.




Adriaan, as an accomplished author and leadership advisor, has been interviewing and working with top leaders for more than 15 years. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Leadership Platform. (Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP)

Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022

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Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


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