Relational Leadership recognizes that the at core of unethical behavior is a distorted view of people and our relationship to them.
For example, how do you as a leader look at your people? Are they children to be managed, resources to be exploited, pieces of the organization to be shuffled and arranged by an omnipotent “human resource management department.” Ugh. And we wonder why so many leaders fail.
A leader’s prime defense against unethical leadership is time allocation. First, leaders need to regularly take time to examine their commitments and assumptions as a leader. This is not “wool-gathering” but rather a necessary process to ensure the integration of one’s stated commitments into life practice.
For example, a Christian leader says she believes that all people are created in the image of God. Yet a review of decisions coming out of her office in the last 6 months reveals a consistent pattern of making decisions without input from fellow workers. A self-aware leader who allocates regular time for reflection will recognize and repair this contradiction between commitments and actions.
Second, leaders must take the time to be with others. Leaders simply must take the time to be with people who are unafraid to “speak truth to power.” A very real danger of leadership today is the isolation that is often imposed on leaders by the organization’s own hierarchy. Get out of the office and invest time with others. Have coffee with your opposite number, attend a conference where you don’t present anything, find a way to break out of your isolated tower.
When you regularly schedule time to reflect on your own leadership and to interact informally with others, you are on the way to building the kind of support structure you need to avoid ethical failure.