Leading and inspiring by example

Leading and inspiring by example

Monday, 19 march 2018 | Redacción CEU

The best leaders are not the ones who know how to do everything or the ones who raise the voice higher. They are not the ones who impose control with strength, nor the ones who more than as a boss behave as a friend. Good leaders are not only the visionaries, the guiding forces, the magnificent rulers and the great communicators, they are also the ones who inspire their employees by example. When the captain of the ship prioritizes issues such as the arrival of the merchandise to the port on time over the security of the occupants of the vessel, it is not surprising that its crew members do not show even the slightest hint of loyalty and that, in some cases, it is not even present among them yet. Whether on the high seas or on solid ground, the ethical commitment of managers has a real reflection on the members of their organization.


Corruption could occupy its own section in the journals. There are numerous financial scandals that capture the covers of newspapers and open the news of half the world. In the business world there are frequents cases of power abuse, tax evasion, cartels creation, price manipulation or fraud. In other occasions, although the techniques used by some companies are not explicitly illegal, can be, in turn, questionable. A good example of them are techniques like “click-baiting” or the diffusion of fake news that are so trendy in digital media. All these practices show that for some executives economic goals prevail over ethical issues.

Managers who do not present a strong commitment to values like honesty, justice, respect, equality or integrity will find with difficulty these strengths boosted among the members of their organization. There is no point in the extensive and meticulous elaboration of a deontological code in a company, if nobody ever speaks again about it in the performance of the daily routine. Its utility is even minor, if in addition these precepts are not only forgotten, but they are faced in the opposite way. Among other tasks, bosses have the important mission of promoting the culture of values of their organizations. This task is not to enumerate the ideal characteristics of their workers and the forbidden behaviors in their companies in front of the employees themselves. Leaders embody the figures that guarantee that in their companies things are being done well and the first step to do this is serving with their example.

Employees are the reflection of their bosses

Many times unintentionally, the actions of the bosses impose a pattern of behavior to their employees. In most cases, they are the true reflex of their behavior. If the bosses themselves do not pay attention to some issues, who is going to consider them important? If the bosses themselves do things wrong, why is the rest going to do them well? Many employees continue to keep their values unaltered regardless of the atmosphere that surrounds them, but in an environment overshadowed by mala praxis, it is likely that borders are transgressed easily, the own workers may not even understand that some specific behaviors are not right. On other occasions, these upstanding workers are pressured to act against their own principles whether it is due to the environment or even the bosses themselves.

If we take into account that we are moving towards an increasingly flexible, specialized and independent work model where employees have a greater presence, weight and responsibility in the decision-making, the exemplary behavior of the leader is even more necessary because the employees will be those who, in many cases, take over, drive their own projects and even give voice to the company backed by the digital media. In addition, the scenario where they work on will be increasingly complex and confusing because its borders are blurred and it is in full digital transformation.

Leading and inspiring by example

Towards an ethical leadership

Although many people sometimes contemplate the superiors with skepticism, leading is not a simple task. Managers are often very stressed, have great responsibilities and are responsible for measuring risks, facing their consequences and finding solutions to potential problems. Meanwhile, they are analyzed in detail by their competitors, partners, customers, shareholders and, also,  workers. Therefore, it will be easy to fail in some aspects, since they are also human. It will be precisely their ethical commitment and their values which will save them from falling into bad behaviors.

However, managers are not alone, they can be supported by the own employees, because the great potential of the companies lies precisely in the people who make these ones up. An organization that listens to its employees will be able to resolve their doubts better, know their problems and also detect possible bad behaviors. In some cases, the workers are afraid to tell their superiors what is going on because they are concerned about receiving possible reprisals from their colleagues or sometimes also from their superiors. In an open environment where communication is free and bidirectional, it is more difficult that this information is hidden or goes unnoticed.

The strategies adopted will also mark the behavior of employees. If they want to prevent that the environment in an organization becomes strange and the organization ends up acquiring unethical habits, it will be crucial to work on the culture of values and avoid corporate practices like an excessive pressure on goals without considering employees, promoting competitiveness from negative values, the constant mistake recrimination, the setting of contradictory purposes or the "dehumanized" treatment of the organization members. On the other hand, encouraging equality, respect, teamwork, honesty, recognition, fraternity, solidarity and loyalty among colleagues can have a great reward, not only in business terms like work well-being, a good company reputation or the increase of productivity and happiness within the firm, also paves the way towards the construction of a more balanced, civilized, free, sustainable and fair society based on the principle of the common good.

At CEU IAM Business School, we believe that leaders in the business world cannot ignore values or ethical commitment. We have precisely designed our Global MBA aimed at the training of those who lead the business projects of tomorrow in a global and digital environment, marked by the constant change, in a way that they can also be able to do it with a deep ethical sense of business.