Ethical Leaders are Fair

In 2013, leaders will be under scrutiny as never before. They will be judged for their ethical behaviour, and this judgement will be accessible to the world through social media. We have already seen this demand for fairness and equality, as the gap between rich and poor grows.  This trend has sent ripples around the world, as demonstrated by the following examples:

1. Berkeley University students barricade themselves in because the administration threatened to cut support for students of colour.

2. The latest Pew research  highlighted that many Chinese citizens are concerned with growing inequality. 81% agreed with the statement the “rich just get richer while the poor get poorer,” and 45% completely agreed. Roughly half (48%) said the gap between rich and poor is a very serious problem, up from 41% four years ago (fully 87% consider it at least a moderately big problem).

3. Citizens in Christchurch, New Zealand organise marches to protest against the reduction of democracy since earthquakes devastated the city two years ago. They want the voices of all citizens to be heard.

In 2013 poor ethical behaviour will be received with  even less tolerance. Some of the factors affecting this: the rising unemployment of youth; the tension between leaders who want to maintain control and the masses who do not want to ‘follow’; and the growing immediate response to perceived unfairness via social media.

So why is it that fairness is so important?

Neuroleadership expert, David Rock, has developed the  SCARF model as a framework for considering those factors that activate a reward or threat response in social situations. The fifth factor he mentions is Fairness. Rock explains that when we perceive an event is unfair we experience a strong threat response, which creates feelings of hostility and undermines trust. If your staff, citizens or families perceive something to be unfair then trust and collaboration will not flourish and your organisation will suffer.

Watch the video of these Capuchin Monkeys and you will see how perceived lack of fairness produces an immediate response!

As a leader it is your responsibility to be fair in the eyes of your staff,  families and communities. Would they consider you to be an ethical leader? Do those you interact with feel like the first Capuchin?

Ethical behaviour will be amplified in 2013 and it will only take a small incident to spark a highly significant reaction. More of 2012, but stronger reactions still. Leaders of countries, organisations and families ignore fairness at their peril.

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