Journaling & Ethical Leadership

Ethical leadership (morality, values, ethics) is not a new concept. Look at any philosophy book and it won’t be uncommon to find this topic discuss amongst well-known philosopher: Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and so forth. While the subject of ethics is not new, it has gained popularity in leadership circles, especially within the past few years. How we treat one another, our transparency in decision-making, and our organizational and personal values are all parts of discussing what it means to lead ethically. Believe it or not, knowing how to do these things effectively leads to a stronger team dynamic (*yes, it takes a lot of time, patience, and creativity).

With some people feeling that ethics have been lost within the workplace, this leadership style has had more focus as a foundation for how one guides others. While everyone will say that they have values, few people know what that looks like on an everyday basis within the workplace. Thinking about this led me to the list of journals prompts below. I’m big on journaling. I journal practically every day, and have done so since I received my first journal at age eight. As I thought about the subject of Ethical Leadership, I began thinking of how people can assess whether they are acting ethically, hence the prompts. I encourage you to try out some of these prompts and see where it leads you. While these questions are meant for the workplace, they can be reworked to fit almost any situation and place. Some of these prompts will be easy to answer, and some will pose a challenge. For the prompts that are challenging, consider them as an opportunity to implement some new practices into your workplace.

Tenets of ethical leadership: respect, honesty, communication, values, trust, equity, community

List of Common Values

Loyalty                                    Duty                            Respect

Service                                    Honor                          Integrity

Courage                                  Grace                          Order

Strategy                                   Balance                       Discipline

Growth                                    Originality                  Endurance

Accountability                        Strength                      Forgiveness

Thoughtfulness                       Elegance                     Humility

Thoroughness                         Teamwork                   Punctuality

Independence                         Intelligence                 Unity

Intuition                                  Control                        Community

Learning                                  Reliability                   Tolerance

Compassion                            Enthusiasm                 Excellence

Trustworthiness                      Consistency                Ambition

Insightfulness                          Practicality                 Altruism

Creativity                                Obedience                   Structure

Determination                         Learning                      Belonging

Diversity                                 Positivity                     Health

Wisdom                                  Equality                      Originality

Inclusiveness                          Freedom                      Family

Journal Prompts

  1. What are my top 5 values?
  2. What are my expectations of my team members?
  3. Do I exhibit what I expect of my team?  In what ways?
  4. How did I exhibit one of my values today?
  5. What problem was presented to me today? How did I handle the issue?  Did it align with my values?
  6. What is my communication style/pattern? How did I ensure that communication is clear and open to people?
  7. Checking bias: What are my biases?  What can hold me accountable to ensure that I treat others fairly?
  8. In what ways have I led by example today?  What areas should be improved?
  9. How are my actions aligning with my words?
  10. How can I make others feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, suggestions, and solutions to me?
  11. In what ways am I being transparent and honest?
  12. What professional development opportunities have I offered to those around me? How can I offer more opportunities?  How can I provide opportunities that are currently lacking?
  13. Who is proving to be a challenge right now?  What can I do to make this relationship less challenging?
  14. Does everyone know how decisions are made? If not, what can I do to ensure that everyone is aware of the way our area/company works?
  15. What are some complaints that staff have?  What can I fix?  If there is something that cannot be fixed, have I explained why to the staff?
  16. What team building activities have I instituted?  If the answer is “none,” what team building activities can I institute?
  17. What are the needs of my staff?  How can I meet them?
  18. Think ahead: What potential problems can I see arising?  How can I prepare for those problems in way which would be helpful (ex. Employee A and employee B do not get along, but have to work on a project)?
  19. Does everyone on the team know the mission and purpose of your area/company/department?  If not, how can I ensure that everyone knows and understands the mission and purpose?
  20. What are everyone’s strengths and weaknesses? 
  21. In what ways do I make time to listen to my team? Do they shape our direction and actions?  If not, how can I make them more a part of the team?
  22. How do I resolve conflicts within my team? What is the process?
  23. What am I doing to make myself a better person?
  24. Are there any practices that make my team members uncomfortable?  If so, what are they and how can they be changed?
  25. What ways are you taking care of yourself?

Bonus Prompts

  1. Have any of your top values changed?  If so, what have they changed to and why?
  • Which practices are not equitable?  How are you working to change them?
  • What have you done to ensure that new hires are properly on-boarded?
  • In what ways are you holding you team accountable, collectively and individually?
  • Which of your behaviors would you like to manage better? In what ways can you do that?

Keep leading and stay safe,

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