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It has become all too easy to criticize the unethical behaviours of corporate and political leaders these days.  Our eyes have been opened to the fact that lapses of ethical behaviour happens every day in the corporate world and in private lives.  The reality is that the most ethical human beings can fall prey to the lures of riches and abundance.  For this reason it is important for the emerging Business Professional to constantly develop and monitor his/her character and not only adhere to professional codes of conduct.

Crescentio Torres from the Center of Creative Leadership says the following: “Ethical leadership isn’t about avoiding the worst behaviours. It isn’t about technically following laws and regulations.  Ethics determines fair and honest behaviour and establishes boundaries about how we relate to each other. In that sense, the only way for people to work well together, and to have good professional and personal relationships, is to think and act in an ethical way.”

At Themba Thandeka Leadership Institute we have identified nine aspects which produce the essence of character. These aspects will assist you as an emerging Business Professional to conduct yourself in a professional and ethical way. To explain these aspects we will use the word “character” as an acronym.



Be clear about things!  Let others know where they stand with you.  It has been said many times that it is a good thing if people don’t know where they stand with you, because that will keep them on their toes.  The opposite is actually true when there is a lack of clarity.  A lack of clarity leads to uncertainty which in turn leads to confusion.  Through our coaching and training of leaders across the country we have found that the most ethical leaders go out of their way to provide clarity to those that they work with.  Clarity produces certainty which in turn leads to focus.  As an emerging Business Professional never play games with those that you work with.  Be clear about who you are and what you expect.



“Let your yes be your yes and let your no be your no.”  Why do we second guess the words and deeds of certain people and leaders?  It is simple we second guess them because they are known as a dishonest person.  As an emerging Business Professional you need to realise that you are building a reputation.  You have to make sure that it will be a reputation of honesty.  Be honest in your thoughts, words and deeds.  The most important person you need to be honest with though is yourself.  Once you lie to yourself, dishonesty will become the norm in all the other dimensions of your life.



Sometimes the only reason I get up in the morning to go for my daily 5 km jog, is because my wife is already waiting.  She holds me accountable.  I struggle with discipline, but I know that having people in my life that holds me accountable, helps me with my discipline.  Leaders with character know their weaknesses, know the areas in life where they are prone to temptation and they actually do something about it!  They rely on accountability.  They build accountability structures into their lives that help them to maintain their character.  Being held accountable by others is a proactive approach that every emerging Business Professional should apply to their lives.  This will assist you in preserving your character.



Take responsibility.  Our culture shies away from responsibility, but we need to embrace responsibility.  Having worked with people development for the last 14 years we have learned that few people take responsibility of their own lives, let alone the responsibility of their jobs.  People of good character take responsibility for their lives they take responsibility for their jobs, for executing tasks and for finishing what they are being paid for.  This might sound simple, but speak to any seasoned manager and you will find that having people in your team that takes responsibility for their tasks are few and far between.  As an emerging Business Professional you want to be known as someone who takes responsibility and does what is expected of them.  If you don’t know how to do what is expected of you, take responsibility and find out, but be known as somebody who accepts responsibility.



As an emerging Business Professional you must always act authentically. Executives we talk to frequently emphasize the importance of authentic leadership: doing your job without compromising your values, beliefs or personality.  Authenticity starts with awareness.  Do you know who you are, what your values are and what your dominant personality is?  The problem with people who don’t know who they are, is that they try and become like those around them.  This leads to behaviour which is not authentic and causes confusion to the individual and those that they work with.  Be prepared to invest in personal growth so that you can develop the awareness you need to live a life of authenticity.  We have discovered an amazingly powerful technique that you can put to work for yourself. It requires but five easy-to-implement steps.



Some of the best leaders that we have worked with have this amazing ability to be consistent.  They are the same at work, at home, at the gym and even after a few drinks!  As an emerging Business Professional you must realise that consistent behaviour is paramount in establishing a good character.  If you constantly change your mind, change how you feel about your work, change your idea of what you want to do with your life, change in your behaviour towards colleagues and change the way you do your work, people will struggle to work with you.  You will be seen as “all over the place” and your colleagues will struggle to trust you.  Be a consistent person.  Leaders who apply the same rules and apply the same treatment to everybody that they are responsible for are seen as leaders who are fair and have good character.



Always remember that keeping information to yourself has potential negative consequences. Share information broadly and with integrity. You don’t want to be perceived as hoarding information for your personal gain.  Often not saying anything can lead to more harm than actually speaking.  A big part of communication is listening. Learn to listen. Most of us take listening for granted, so we don’t work very hard at improving it. But effective listening doesn’t just happen; it takes a great deal of purpose. It’s hard work and requires your complete attention.  As an emerging Business Professional you must talk when it is needed and share your information for the greater good, but you must also acquire the skills of effective listening.  People feel valued when you listen to them.



Kerry Bunker has documented the rise of bright young managers with unusually high levels of talent, intellect and ambition. They are given regular opportunities to advance and move into very senior levels of responsibility on an accelerated career path.  Unfortunately, these young managers often arrive with gaps in the critical developmental experiences needed to hone them into authentic, mature and emotionally competent leaders.  Emotional cluelessness is often a great risk for young and rapidly rising leaders simply because they have side-stepped or rushed through powerful life experiences that represent pivotal learning junctures in the adult development process.  The emerging Business Professional of today is in demand and emotional development could be neglected in their personal growth.  This is why coaching and mentoring should be a priority for the emerging Business Professional.



Invest time and energy into your existing relationships. Repair damaged relationships and the image others may have of you, as necessary. Also, identify the people with whom you need to establish or develop a relationship. Your ability to use the power of relationships will be compromised if you are not connecting with the right people. This lesson of relationships should be learned very early in life. Sometimes your character depends on the depth of your relationships.  As an emerging Business Professional, make relationships your priority in the workplace.

Your reputation is crucial to your Business career.  Your reputation will be determined by your character and the above mentioned aspects will keep your character in good stead.


Author and Contributor: Hermann Du Plessis – Founder & Director of Themba Thandeka Leadership Institute – LinkedIn Bio: https://www.linkedin.com/in/hermann-du-plessis-01b17618/

Additional Resources:

Lennick, S & Dr. Kiel, F (2007).  Moral Intelligence – enhancing business performance & leadership success.

Dr. De Klerk-Wyer, R & Dr Le Roux, R (2008).  Emotional Intelligence – a workbook for your well-being.

Rampersad, HK (2009).  Authentic Personal Branding – a new blueprint for building and aligning a powerful leadership brand.

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