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12 Characteristics of an Ethical Leader

From preparedness to honesty to kindness, here are 12 answers to the question, "What are the best characteristics of an ethical leader?"

  • Preparedness

  • Vulnerability

  • Fairness

  • Humility

  • Ownership

  • Considerate

  • Honesty

  • Trustworthy

  • Respectful

  • Courage

  • Integrity

  • Kindness


Ethical leaders see the business world for what it is, not what they want it to be. In this context, that leader will prepare the business for tough times.

Taking it a step further, such a leader will also ensure their employees have the correct professional skills for their position, appropriate professional support, realistic and achievable goals, and a pathway to success and advancement in the organization.

During challenging times, the business will be prepared and employees will be ready to do the work needed to weather those times. This is the most important business ethic to remember: your failure to lead appropriately will harm and eventually destroy your business. It is wholly immoral to have the tools to lead effectively but not use them.


All ethical leaders should possess the ability to be vulnerable. Leaders who will expose their weaknesses and make mistakes can lead with greater authenticity and humility. This allows them to be more open to feedback and criticism, which is essential for making ethical decisions.

It also encourages their team to be more open and honest, which can create an environment of trust and respect. By being vulnerable, ethical leaders can show their team that it is safe to make mistakes without fear of judgment or reprimand. In this way, ethical leaders can foster a culture of learning and growth within their organization.


Sadly, not all leaders are effective leaders; rather, it takes a certain set of traits to create a likable, reliable, and inspirational leader. It is their duty to decide what is best for a group of people, whether they are in a position of authority inside an organization or in the government. Even though it could be stressful, a moral leader will possess the qualities needed to make a choice and guide their team on the right route. Being an ethical leader entails treating others with decency and fairness and showing respect for them. Sincere concern for people or being personable, pleasant, understanding, and helpful in safeguarding and growing their personnel are all characteristics of ethical leaders.

Peter Bryla, Community Manager, ResumeLab


Ethical leadership doesn't always need to be right. These sorts of leaders are the type that willingly listen to others, absorb what they say, and use it to better themselves and others.

They willingly look inward to discover where their leadership can improve and know that their methods aren't perfect, but rather, a work in progress that can always get better. A truly ethical leader sees the value of their own humility. Instead of always seeking to be right, they continuously strive to be better.

Max Schwartzapfel, CMO, Schwartzapfel Lawyers


An ethical leader is one that leads by example and takes ownership of their projects and team from start to finish. They provide constructive feedback that encourages employees to produce their best work instead of destructive criticism, which negatively affects the workplace and the vision ahead. Leading by example influences team members to achieve their goals that align with the mission and values of the company.

Tommy Chang, VP, Head of Marketing, Homelister


An ethical leader puts employee well-being and growth above personal profit. This is a defining characteristic of ethical leadership because it shows that the leader cares about the people they are leading and not just their own personal gain.

Ethical leaders understand their employees are the foundation of their business and they prioritize their well-being and growth. They create a safe and supportive work environment, provide opportunities for employees to learn and grow, and ensure that they fairly compensate their employees for their work.

Ethical leaders also strive to create a fair workplace, where everyone is treated fairly and with respect. By putting employee well-being and growth first, ethical leaders show their commitment to creating a successful and sustainable business.


They're transparent. Ethical leaders are honest about the good and bad at work. They don't string employees along with "upcoming growth opportunities" that never develop. They don't take credit for their team members' successes.

When a leader is transparent, their workers know they can trust them. This creates a more harmonious working environment and fosters a sense of both support and loyalty.

Brian Munce, Managing Director, Gestalt Brand Lab


An ethical leader is someone who acts with truth and integrity in every situation. They understand the importance of making decisions that are fair to everyone, no matter their feelings or opinions. Ethical leaders will always strive to do what is best for those around them, creating an atmosphere of trust within their organization. They set an exemplary example of high moral standards and take responsibility even when things go wrong. Furthermore, they show courage in taking a stand against unethical practices and protecting everyone's right to decency, fairness, and respect. Ultimately, ethical leaders show genuine care for the wider community rather than simply pulling strings to get ahead or gain power over others.


Ethical leaders are approachable and know how to disagree respectfully.

They are open to hearing different perspectives and will engage in meaningful dialogue. They also understand that there is no one right answer and that different people may have different approaches to a problem.

While they may disagree, they don’t become defensive or attack the other person. Instead, they can express their opinion respectfully and are open to hearing other ideas.

Ethical leaders understand that disagreement can lead to growth and progress and that it is important to be open to different perspectives.

Grace He, People & Culture Director,


Making the right choice isn't always easy. It takes courage to go against what "the cool kids" are doing, even if you're the only one. But when you can show those around you that you have the courage to be ethical at work and in your personal life, you become a trustworthy leader in their eyes. This opens up opportunities that far outweigh the things that could have come from making an unethical choice.


One characteristic of an ethical leader is integrity. Integrity refers to the quality of being honest and upholding strong moral principles. Ethical leaders are trustworthy and act consistently with their values and beliefs. They are transparent in their actions and decisions, and they hold themselves accountable for their behavior. Having integrity allows ethical leaders to build trust and credibility with their team members, colleagues, and stakeholders. It also sets a positive example for others to follow and helps to create a positive and ethical culture within the organization.


Kindness is key because, when leaders are kind, they can connect with all stakeholders. They can make ethical decisions in picking resources and vendors that are kind to the environment and people. And, of course, there is a bottom line for leaders. When they are kind to their teams, team members are more motivated and are more driven to deliver their best. This improves productivity and fosters innovation in the workplace. When leaders are ethical, employees know they can trust them, and they are more likely to be loyal to the people they trust.

Tenaz Cardoz, Founder & Marketing Consultant, Kind Hearts Brigade