Who are our ethical leaders of today?

I attended an International NGO Learning Forum recently on Leadership & Ethics hosted by Islamic Relief which, although it was planned a while ago, seemed apt as it followed the media coverage over the leadership crisis at Cooperative Bank. A bank, indeed, which prided itself on its integrity and its ethical stance.

Transparency International whose aim is to promote transparency, accountability and integrity at all levels and across all sectors of society published their 2013 results of their Corruption Perception Index. It is interesting to note that countries like the UK rank only 14 (up three places from last year) and the USA are ranked in 19th place. The top ranking countries are Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Singapore, and countries like Afghanistan, North Korea, and Somalia ranked lowest at 175. We, in the UK, may think we are nearer the top of this list but we should not be complacent.

Turning to eminent people in recent times, who we might describe as “ethical”, then leaders like Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Desmond Tutu and, of course, Nelson Mandela would probably come to mind. The definition given of ethical leader given at the Forum was “one who leads with the highest levels of honesty and integrity, builds trust, and is immensely cognisant of his/her need to role model, and act based on worthy values and ethics”. I think it would be fair to say they fulfil these criteria, but it begs the question “who are the emerging ethical leaders”? Pope Francis? Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury?

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