"The sheer volume and diversity of recent scandals in the corporate world, various levels of government, and even the media, has been astounding. Even though initiatives to get tough on corporate malfeasance were introduced and promoted in the early 2000s, it seems the only lesson learned is how to shield bad deeds more effectively while keeping up the appearance of compliance.
The most recent National Business Ethics survey reinforces this notion. Using data from the 2011 report, 42% of respondents state their organizations have weak ethical cultures — a result comparable the highest level in the history of the survey.
Given the importance of ethics in underpinning effective organizational leadership, the question remains: how do we demonstrate and promote ethical behaviour?When MRG examined what was the strongest predictor of ethical leadership behaviour out of the 22 competencies in their model, the resounding answer was empathy. In other words, leaders who scored highest on empathy also exhibited the highest levels of ethical leadership.
The results are intuitive. The definition of empathy is, “identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives.” Using this lens, we can see how empathetic leaders would be much more inclined to act in an ethical manner. Rather than being solely focused on their own needs and their individual responsibilities to their organizations, they are keenly aware of their connection with other people and the broader communities in which they live. They are able to integrate these values into their moral judgements, which limit their exposure to ethical risk. They appreciate and respect the needs of others and can take moral action that can serve multiple parties."