Leadership: The Pathway to Ethical Behavior

Without a set of values to believe in and act upon, the world cannot survive. The mission of the ruling classes should be to guide civil society with words and, above all, by ethical example.

Today, on the contrary, in every sector (even in the religious sector) we are witnessing the slavery of consent, sought with all available means. The result is a narrow-minded universe, populated on the one hand by lobbies whose economic interests prevail over the collective interest, and on the other by unscrupulous individuals who discover their natural habitat in the planetary ethical-social crisis.

If the example comes from above, according to a stereotype that contains a basic truth, one could say that the progressive disintegration of the social fabric is the consequence of a worrying “ethical void” in those who should instead, by social role, represent a reference guide.

This ethical void is a constitutive element of the wider crisis we are experiencing, a cultural crisis that certainly concerns management and the organizational dimension, but concerns, more deeply, relationships, the sense of people, and the sense of self.

Considering all this, one can ask: can leadership and ethics coexist in the same company?

I believe that these two concepts can be an integral part of a corporate management style that is more attentive to the moral aspects and needs of employees and customers. An ethical but also effective guide is possible, and in many organizations, it is already a reality.

Obviously, a truly ethical business is not based on proclamations and principles, it is not based on words but on ethical actions. Nor does an ethical leader improvise overnight: he can do it through a commitment to follow a learning path of behaviors that allow him to recognize and manage his personal and working life ethically.

Deviating a bit from the normally suggested standards, I would propose as behaviors to be assimilated essentially the following:

  • Seriousness
  • Respect
  • Loyalty
  • Sincerity
  • Responsibility
  • Integrity


Seriousness is the prerequisite for building ethical behavior. Seriousness concerns how things are done, how one works, and getting to the bottom of issues, it demands that we avoid superficiality, pretending nothing happened, passing the blame, postponing problems to others, and acting to please someone.

Part of it is thoughtfulness, reflection, and diligence. It is also discretion, and confidentiality towards the tasks entrusted to us, it is taking problems to heart, evaluating the effects that our choices and our actions can have on others, it is severity in giving weight to things, going beyond the banal.


Respect lays the foundations for the creation of that dimension necessary to build ethical relationships which is trust, the matrix, and condition for a human life worthy of the name.


Loyalty indicates bond (not of blind fidelity, not of flattery, not of enslavement), alliance, harmony, and agreement in view of common objectives to be achieved and paths to be built together.


Ethical behavior needs clarity. Sincerity is frankness and bluntness, the art of speaking re free and clear; it does not deceive, it does not delude, it requires a language that is understandable to those in front of you. It doesn’t mean saying everything, but not pretending and not lying. Sincerity opposes the darkness, the opacity, the mud in which slanders spread, words that confuse things, disturb relationships, establish power relationships, and create distrust. It is also the ability to recognize one’s mistakes, avoiding the mechanisms of self-justification and shifting blame and responsibility onto others. A person who has authority, who holds roles of responsibility, of leadership, does not see his authority diminished by recognizing the mistake he has made, he does not destroy his authority, on the contrary, it strengthens it


The ethics of responsibility leads a person to reflect on the responsibilities entailed by one’s choices, on the consequences of one’s actions and one’s words.

Responsibility pushes us to answer for ourselves above all, for our humanity, for our work, for our position, for our role for which we must answer to ourselves, to our own conscience, but also to superiors and collaborators.

In responsibility, there is the assumption of a commitment towards the other and the keeping of a given promise. A person with ethical behavior is capable of promising and keeping promises and, therefore, builds trust and so becomes reliable.

And this is the root of authority, currently a rare commodity.


Integrity refers to what is whole, not broken, unharmed, not double. Duplicity is often the concealment of unethical behavior. Integrity, therefore, leads to rectitude and correctness, irreproachability, impeccableness, solidity, and consistency.

Whoever is whole has solid inner foundations, has inner consistency, is not easily manipulated nor exposed to any instability. It is not easily corruptible.

The ethical leader does not only have the goal of increasing productivity and profits. It also assumes responsibility for ensuring a work environment with a high standard of moral conduct, for the good of the company, but also the people who are part of it.

Being an ethical leader means having a high awareness of oneself, of the values one creates, and the emotions one feels.

By following the learning path mentioned, an environment can be created where people feel good about themselves and the role they play in the company.


Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo is a lawyer and teacher of law & Economic Sciences, "lent" to the finance world. He has worked, in fact, 35 years long for a multinational company of financial service in the auto sector, where he held various roles, until that of CEO. In the corporate field, he has acquired skills and held positions as Credit Manager, Human Resource Manager, Team leader for projects of Acquisition & Merger, branch opening, company restructuring, outplacement, legal compliance, analysis and innovation of organizational processes, business partnerships, relations with Trade Unions and Financial Control Institutions. After leaving the company, he continued as an external member of the Board of Directors e, at the same time, he has gone back practicing law and was a management consultant for various companies. He has been also a columnist for newspapers specializing in labor law, automotive services and work organization. His interests include human behavior in the organizational environment, to the neuroscience, the impact of new technologies, the fate of the planet and people facing poverty or war scenarios. He loves traveling, reading, is passionate about many sports, follows the NBA and practices tennis.

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