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Leading by example

October 9, 2012

Nolan included leadership as one of his seven principles of public life and it seems to me that it’s the key for organisations wanting to achieve high standards of ethical behaviour. 

It’s no good senior managers asking people to adhere to stringent standards if they are not prepared to meet those same standards themselves.  People judge others by what they do, not what they say – if they see their managers paying lip service to high ethical standards but then ‘filling their boots’ when the opportunity arises, then that is the behaviour they will emulate.  Managers need to think all the time about their own behaviour, and how it will be perceived, if they want their staff to maintain the highest standards. Are there examples you can give us of leaders who have driven up standards in this way?

But ethical leadership isn’t only for those we might readily identify as leaders, such as CEOs, board members, senior civil servants and elected representatives.  The culture of an organisation is established by the actions of all its members from the most junior to the most senior.  The behaviour of each team member will affect the actions of everyone else in their team – so upholding the Nolan principle of leadership is a responsibility of every public servant.  Are there organisations which have been successful in establishing this sense of responsibility among their staff?  How have they done it? What have been the results?

Patricia Moberly

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