Ethical Leadership Meaning, Importance and Examples in a Workplace

The Business Ethics Leadership Alliance (BELA) conducted the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) Survey. The report shows that only twenty-five percent responded, saying their company uses regular surveys around “sexual harassment.” Sexual harassment is an important aspect of ethical leadership, and clearly, there is a need for better attention to checking sexual harassment and other responsibilities concerning ethical leadership.

What is ethical leadership?

Human societies have defined some actions as good and others as bad. While good practices are ethical, bad practices and conducts are called unethical. Thus, you can define ethical leadership as a phenomenon where people in management roles promote a culture where they themselves as leaders are ethical in their approach and ensure that the same is followed across the workplace.

Importance of ethical leadership

Ethical practices and conducts hold importance at a workplace as they ensure focused workforce, happy employees, safe work environment and a respectful work culture. It empowers the stakeholders to sustain growth and accelerate expansion when they are confident people are thriving and motivated to contribute to the new initiative and aggressive targets.

The 4v model of ethical leadership

The four Vs in the 4V model of ethical leadership are - Virtue, Voice, Value, and Vision.

Virtue - Ethical leaders exhibit virtuous behavior and are thus seen as role models by others.

Value - Developing one's own values in an organization is the first thing for an ethical leader. It might take some time to understand the current situation and system in place and how you can contribute to making it better.

Vision - Again, as leaders, your initiatives and actions must translate into a goal (vision) that motivates others.

Voice - A leader’s voice must be heard. Only then are their initiatives executed on the ground. They define the vision for others to act. Thus, a clear voice that motivates them is crucial.

Principles of ethical leadership

People are born with leadership qualities. While you naturally inherit the important ones, most will evolve. Following are some of the other areas that an ethical leader needs to pay attention to to ensure an easy function and thriving culture:


An ethical leader approaches work with integrity. They are honest and have strong moral principles including how they collaborate with the stakeholders within the organization, their team members and even outsiders. They communicate details with honesty and not lie about things or hide information unless they are confidential and out of context.


Oftentimes, unfair practices have led to collapse. Contended and fulfilling work cultures have been key to a growing and thriving workforce. Hence, a leader must ensure their initiatives are based on equality and fairness and get executed on ground without fail.


Expertise and professionalism have proven to give results. A sense of respect for each other is the outcome of a favorable work culture. And an indication that ethical leadership exists within the organization at the management level and within the working class.



A sense of accountability ensures goals you set within the department and the company as a whole are met and that the people responsible have clarity of their role. This is often ensured when you have a sound top-down approach. Everybody knows who they report to and what is expected out of them.


Leaders are known to trust their team to get the best out of them. It infuses a sense of responsibility and confidence, which then helps them push their limits and achieve the best outcome possible.


It is another important aspect that others would love for their leaders to ensure it exists within their company and the team. A lack of transparency often leads to resentment in employees, causing a lack of motivation and accountability.

Ethical leadership examples

Building the right culture at work drives the much-needed excellence at teamwork and, ultimately, the growth of the company and its employees. There have been plenty of examples of right leadership under which companies thrived, and to mention a few of those would be MARUTI SUZUKI, DR. REDDY’S, EY, ACCENTURE, PFIZER, and INFOSYS.

Manjaree Chowdhary’s journey ever since she joined Maruti Suzuki as the first Woman General Counsel will be an apt example of how an ethical leader evolves in an organization. As she narrates, it is inspiring to know how she fastened initially but had to stop, know more about the system in place, know more about people, and establish her own core values. Only then were her ideas heard, and her initiates were put in place. She could use her experience to translate best practices in Maruti Suzuki's governance and compliance.

On failing miserably in her first attempt, she realized that implementation here was people dependent and not process dependent. Now, with the approval of the MD & CEO of Maruti Suzuki, Kenichi Ayukawa, she has been able to make some valuable additions including “specialized focus on compliance and risk management” and “a separate Compliance department in the Legal team.” Her contributions as an ethical leader effectively drove sustainable outcomes for Maruti Suzuki with integrity.


What is ethical leadership in business?
Ethical leadership in business is when the people at the management level ensure ethical behavior and conduct exist at all levels within their business.
What are the benefits of ethical leadership?
Ethical leadership in an organization motivates its people to act with focus towards the goals and achieve targets. They thrive both in their personal and professional lives.
What is necessary for strong ethical leadership?
For strong ethical leadership, it is necessary that good governance and compliance are established and sustained.