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Essential Topics that Ethical Leadership Training Courses Should Cover

Damian Hehire-learning

7 Essential Topics that Ethical Leadership Training Courses Should Cover

Ethical leadership is essential in modern businesses and organisations. Ethical leaders set standards for their teams, and they inspire those around them. Leaders who behave ethically also reduce corporate risk and enhance brand reputation. Given the crucial role that ethical leadership can play in the success of an organisation, it is important that leaders receive high-quality and ongoing training.

We outline below seven essential topics that you should consider including in your ethical leadership training. Before getting into those topics, there are some key points to highlight to ensure the training you create is as good as possible.

Top Tips for Developing Ethical Leadership Training

  • Ensure the learning objectives are ultra-clear – it is important to be upfront with those undertaking the training about the objectives and what you want to achieve, including any behavioural changes that should take place. Given the leadership status of those who will be doing the training, it is usually best that there are two-way discussions around objectives.
  • The content should be relevant and create an emotional connection – use real-life scenarios and case studies to make the content relevant to learners and to develop an emotional connection. This helps leaders engage with the training process and understand the complex ethical dilemmas that can arise, while also giving them the opportunity, in a controlled environment, to practice making ethical decisions.
  • Provide additional resources and information on how to access support – everybody needs support at times, particularly when ethical dilemmas come up. As part of the training, ensure leaders know where they can get support and additional information.

Topics that Should Be Included in Ethical Leadership Training

1. The Organisation’s Mission, Values, and Purpose

Your organisation is likely to have spent significant time discussing and deciding on your mission, values, and purpose. It is essential that leaders have a deep understanding of the thought processes behind those decisions, especially if they were not involved in the crafting of these important statements.

2. Awareness of Trigger Situations

Trigger situations are the circumstances where ethical decisions or dilemmas can arise. Leaders need to be equipped with the skills to identify these trigger situations so they can be clear about the next steps they should take.

3. What to Do in Challenging Situations

After being able to identify trigger situations, the next step is to know what to do when those situations arise.

The first is to be prepared, including thinking through the various options that could come up and the actions and decisions that should or could be taken as a result.

When in a situation that is ethically challenging or ambiguous, leaders need to learn how to assess the information clearly, calmly, and without prejudice or prejudgment. They should also ask questions and get advice.

4. Courage in Challenging Situations

Making the right ethical decision can often be harder or have a more difficult outcome, so leaders can benefit from learning how to be courageous in such situations. The challenges could be organisational, but they could also present the leader with individual professional difficulties, making courage in challenging situations an even more important topic.

5. Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is usually essential in situations that feature ethical dilemmas. Being able to step back from the situation to look at it critically can bring the additional clarity that is needed to navigate to a suitable solution.

It’s also helpful to understand the importance of always asking questions, double-checking information, and not accepting that norms have to always be norms.

6. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity

Many ethically challenging situations arise in large businesses and organisations (and small ones as well) because of diversity, equity, and inclusivity issues. These are topics that have an ever-increasing focus, so it’s important that learners have a good understanding of the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusivity, as well as how those principles should be applied.

7. How to Move Away from a Blame Culture

A great catalyst for ethically challenging situations in businesses and large organisations is a culture of blame. Many forward-thinking companies are working hard to permanently change their culture to one of responsibility and continuous improvement. This is not something that can happen overnight, though, and it needs the support of the organisation’s leaders.

Therefore, training is essential, including what a responsibility and continuous improvement culture looks like and how to get there when your starting point is one of finding someone to blame when things go wrong.

Ongoing Professional Development for Leaders

There are many people who are born leaders and there are also those who grow into the role, improving their leadership abilities with professional and life experiences. Regardless of how a leader is created, ongoing development and learning are essential to ensure they continue improving their skills and, ultimately, become better leaders. Ethical leadership training should be part of that ongoing development and learning, with the seven topic areas listed above representing a good starting point.