A Hard Nut to Crack for Many Leaders in Nepal

A Hard Nut to Crack for Many Leaders in Nepal

Whether you’re leading a student club, heading a team at work, leading a company or holding a public position, crossing ethical boundaries is often easier than you think. Every decision made by a leader can have a clean and clear purpose or making compromises with a string of personal benefit attached to it. In other words, personal gain has been chosen over work ethics. Rampant bribery in both public and private sectors is a manifestation of unethical leadership which has somewhat been normalized in today’s work culture.

The key pillars of ethical leadership are honesty and strong moral codes. Ethical leaders prioritize the interest of their stakeholders over personal gain. They bravely accept accountability and transparency and earn confidence through their consistent adherence to ethical principles. They remain steadfast even in the face of adversity or temptation. These leaders foster respect and push for social responsibility. Such leaders cultivate a culture of respect and drive social responsibility to bring positive change within their organizations and for their stakeholders.

Various dark influences can lead leaders to act unethically. First, the desire for personal gain can prompt them to ignore ethical boundaries for power, promotion, and unfair monetary benefit. Second, in competitive settings, the quest for success may push leaders to achieve results at any cost, cutting corners, or compromising on principles. Third, an unhealthy organizational culture shapes leaders’ ethics, tolerating or even encouraging unethical acts to fit in. Lastly, leaders might act unethically if they think they won’t face the consequences. In these settings, a culture of ‘quid pro quo’ thrives, meaning you get something for something. Personal favors trump ethical actions. Weak governance and lax ethical enforcement worsen the problem, allowing unethical behavior to foster.

Leaders sometimes justify unethical actions as necessary or acceptable under the circumstances. People with weak characters might succumb to peer pressure or an unethical work environment. Also, some leaders lack a strong moral compass or empathy, making them prone to unethical behavior without considering its impact on others. A lack of ethical education or diverse perspectives make it worse.

Challenges of ethical leadership in Nepal

The firm grip of corruption in Nepal continues to block the way for ethical leadership at every turn. Several factors have stopped leaders from being persons of values and principles. Misusing power and resources for personal gain has eroded public trust and ethical standards, both in governance and in the private sector. Political instability and frequent changes in government leadership further disrupt ethical leadership efforts. Short-term agendas often win over long-term ethical considerations, leading to compromise in decision-making.

Socio-cultural factors like norms, traditions, and hierarchical structures present both opportunities and challenges for ethical leadership. In countries like Nepal, there is less room for ethical practice as leaders often compromise for the sake of maintaining ‘useful’ relationships. For example, nepotism, bribes disguised as gifts, money, and favors, preference for favoritism over meritocracy are experienced by the general public. This deepens injustice and widens the gap between the rich and the poor.

Ethical leadership through the lens of leadership theories

If one is urged to go beyond the clutches of unethical leadership, he or she should first commit themselves to the truth and justice as the guiding light in life. There are leaders who have stood out in these qualities and in good leadership. They turn out to be transformational and authentic leaders. Such leaders offer valuable frameworks for understanding the behavior of leaders who prioritize ethical principles in their decision-making. They gain widespread approval and become role models for people around them for their strong character. Authentic leaders, more specifically, emphasize integrity and moral courage. They show not only emotional intelligence but also a commitment to morality.

Recent studies in South Asia highlight the leadership’s impact on ethics and the success of an organization. For instance, a study published in the Journal of Business Ethics focused on Bangladesh’s garment industry and showed how transformational leaders foster integrity and ethics. Meanwhile, scholars from the Indian Institute of Management found that ethical leadership is linked to higher employee satisfaction and better organizational performance. Additionally, psychologists in Pakistan uncovered key factors such as moral identity, cognitive biases, and situational pressures that influence leaders’ ethical decisions.

It is apparent from the studies that the ethical side of a leader is intertwined with various positive attributes. It serves as a crucial element in establishing the leader’s credibility, inspiration, and fairness, resulting in transformation within both the organization and the country as a whole.

What can be done?

Ethical leadership is challenging in a workplace where self-centeredness breeds. Leaders must be guided by principles of fairness, justice, and integrity to cultivate a strong moral identity. Their moral uprightness helps them make ethical decisions and encourages them to stick to their values, even in challenging situations. Leaders should practice moral introspection to assess the ethical implications of their actions. They should make decisions grounded on rationality and moral reflection.

How does moral standard develop?

The birth of moral standards is established in the family. When children see their parents engaged in corruption, lying, cheating or being unfair, they too learn that doing those things is okay. Evil takes root at a tender age in such children. It is even worse if everyone in the family acts like it is normal. But besides families, children also learn ethics from school, religion, and cultural norms. These early influences lay the foundation for understanding right and wrong and affect how they judge and behave. As people mature and experience more in life, their moral standards evolve through critical reflection and exposure to new perspectives. Personal growth, education, and exposure to diverse cultures and ideologies challenge and refine existing moral beliefs. Moreover, cognitive development plays a crucial role in deepening moral reasoning.

Why should leaders adhere to moral standards?

Moral standards are guiding principles rooted in sound reasoning rather than mere authority. They prioritize considerations beyond self-interest and are based on impartial judgments. Violating these standards often leads to feelings of guilt and shame. However, if unethical actions become normalized, individuals may silence their conscience or resort to various forms of appeasement. To justify their unethical actions, they may trade with God through pujas or offer a share of the ill-gotten money as alms for the poor.

Adherence to moral standards is fundamental to fostering a just and ethical environment within organizations and across the country. They are like a moral compass that guides the leaders’ behavior and decisions to transcend individual preferences or situational factors.

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