Game Changers 2020 Essay Series: The Principle of Dignity

The Principle of Dignity

Dawnet Beverley, Sr. VP and Managing Partner, Donnelley Financial Solutions

As a leader, it’s crucial to remember that the way you present yourself at work affects more than just the company and your immediate staff. Your leadership establishes the tone of the office and affects the entire work culture. Employees soak up the workplace environment and reflect it back to you. In the end, they are an excellent mirror to the way you’re running the company. Whether you’re contributing to their well-being and satisfaction at work, or causing undue stress and anxiety, your leadership style can affect your employees both negatively and positively.

The key ethical principle that guides great leaders is treating employees with dignity. Doing so contributes to their well-being, inspires them to produce better quality work, and builds a culture within your company over time. Many CEOs wrongly believe culture is a concept reserved for ‘squishy, beer-for-lunch, feel-good’ companies and hot startups, that don’t deserve a place ‘at the grown-ups table.’ This is simply untrue. Culture should unequivocally be at the top of every leader’s priority list.

Why? Because employees are people, not just numbers contributing to your balance sheet. You must value their dignity as members of your team and human beings. As an ethical leader, there are qualities and skills that you must develop to help you do this:

High Integrity that Inspires Trust

An ethical leader possesses “high integrity that inspires trust and dives right into the nitty-gritty of the work.” Don’t ask your employees to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself. This way, employees have no reason to question your intentions. Build this element of trust between yourself and your team so you can “focus on producing results in a positive environment.”

Help Others Grow

When more people are able to work together on a project or task, it allows everyone to build new competencies and skills This is conducive to a fun and productive work environment focused on both individual development and team development. To inspire and equip employees “at all levels in the organization to put others first in all they do,” everyone needs training. No one inherently knows the right way to do everything: it comes with experience, practice, and patience. For ethical leaders, there are a few behaviors to keep top of mind:

Live Your Values

First, you need to define them. Once defined, it’s important to reflect on them regularly to ensure you truly embody them.

Listen to Understand

Your employees need you to hear them. You already don’t always need the floor. Give others the opportunity to speak up and make an effort to listen and understand. Be more present with others, and you’ll find your employees feel more respected and worthy of the time you’re giving them.

Once you’ve mastered these skills and techniques, your employees will trust that you take their well-being and dignity to heart, leading to an improved company culture overall, as well as better business results.

May 10, 2019