Harvest Humility and Authenticity to Become an Ethical Leader

by | Nov 22, 2023 | 0 comments

Photo by Diva Plavalaguna

“Only humility will lead us to unity and unity will lead us to peace.”

—Mother Teresa.

Leaders have lost their way.

Leading can be exhausting.

You might feel like you are being pulled in multiple directions—putting out fires, acquiring and retaining talent, and making tough calls left and right. All while trying to grow, adapt, and meet expectations in an ever-changing economic and societal landscape.

Phew. That was a mouthful, huh?

But that’s only part of it. The heavy load of leadership might also compromise your mental health and cause burnout. Stress and anxiety might creep in. Sleep may become a luxury. Managing your emotions may be a tricky balancing act. And you might feel the need to armour up to hide these struggles.

So, no wonder many leaders end up operating outside their moral compass and compromising their ethics to sustain their role, keep their business afloat, or make more money. In fact, a systematic review revealed that “more than 50% of companies globally experience a minimum of six fraud incidents per year, with another 50% not reporting or investigating the worst incidents.”

Such derailment might bring inconsistency into your choices and actions, affect people’s trust in your leadership, and promote unethical behaviours in your followers.

This is where humility and authenticity can help you.

Wearing the cloak of leadership might make you see those qualities as weaknesses. But being humble and authentic shows real strength, supports your capacity to lead ethically, and inspires others to do the same.

What is ethical leadership?

Ethical leadership is a leadership approach grounded in your morals and the collective values of your organization, community, and society.

It means every move you make honours those principles and prioritizes humanity and integrity over profits.

Need a few practical examples? Check out how the leaders of big companies like Johnson & Johnson and the beloved Starbucks have managed complex ethical dilemmas.

Why is it important to be an ethical leader?

Ethical leadership can benefit…

  • You as a leader: Being an ethical leader allows you to connect with your true self and role, living and operating by your values and those of your company. Value-based actions are associated with improved mental health and daily well-being and may increase your credibility.
  • Your employees: Ethical leadership is related to employee well-being, especially for those working in stressful and hazardous conditions. As an ethical leader, you set an example and motivate others to make conscious choices. Your workforce will feel engaged to perform their tasks because they trust your guidance and are proud to be part of your team.
  • Your organization: Ethical leadership fosters a company culture and reputation of transparency, justice, open communication, and accountability. This contributes to talent acquisition and retention, customer loyalty, and long-term success. Plus, it reduces the risk of scandals or PR issues.
  • Society: Ethical leaders consider how their decisions and operations impact society and the environment. They know they have a responsibility to not only their organization but also the community, country, and world. So, they commit to minimizing their environmental footprint, respecting human rights, complying with laws and regulations, and promoting community initiatives.

What mindfulness qualities can help leaders become more ethical?

Mindfulness[1]  is the practice of focusing on the present moment with intention and without judgment.

Ethical leaders are inherently mindful [2] because…

  • They have great curiosity and awareness.
  • They practice compassion and loving-kindness.
  • They know how to regulate their emotions in the face of adversity.
  • They remain aligned with their personal and organizational values.
  • They are patient, open, and accepting of what they can and cannot control.

And, of course, they are humble and authentic.

How can humility and authenticity support ethical leadership?


According to studies, humility “involves how leaders tend to view themselves (more objectively), others (more appreciatively), and new information or ideas (more openly).” It’s an innate trait that implies self-awareness and an inclination to look past oneself.

Researchers see leader humility as a moral competence that’s neither too high nor too low. It’s a balance associated with enhanced employee well-being and less unethical behaviours in followers. Humble leaders acknowledge their skills and shortcomings, seek help, and are willing to listen and learn from others.

How does humility relate to ethical leadership?

A humble leader would admit when they’ve made a mistake and rectify the situation—even if it means risking their company’s earnings.

On the contrary, an arrogant leader wouldn’t take responsibility for their wrongdoings, assuming they are always right and redirecting blame to others, which is highly unethical.

As Carly Fiorina states, “When strength and confidence become arrogance, failure will eventually be the result. Sustained success demands the practice of humility.


Research defines authenticity as the “sense or feeling that one is in alignment with one’s true or genuine self.” It’s linked to well-being, job performance, life and job satisfaction, and moral behaviours.

Authentic leaders have integrity, self-awareness, and unbiased processing. They are hopeful, resilient, ethical, and true to themselves. They also strive to form meaningful relationships and support their people to grow, develop, and become leaders—resulting in unconditional trust from their followers. 

How does authenticity relate to ethical leadership?

An authentic leader is connected with their personal and company values and draws from them when making a decision or taking an action. This alignment is critical to ethical leadership.

On the other hand, unauthentic leaders may avoid vulnerability and operate from a need to project power. They might not communicate openly about challenges and even hide information, which goes against the honesty and transparency of ethical leadership.

Mindfulness tips to harvest humility and authenticity to become an ethical leader

1) Discover yourself

Being a humble and authentic leader relies on your awareness of self—your values, thoughts, feelings, actions, strengths, weaknesses, goals, impact on others, and how others see you.

Build your self-awareness by:

2) Develop a beginner’s mind

Leaders with a beginner’s mind approach situations with curiosity and a sincere desire to gain new perspectives, learn, and improve. They check their ego at the door and acknowledge their preconceptions and limitations with humility.

Here are11 ways you can start developing a beginner’s mindset.

3) Practice gratitude

Gratitude nurtures a genuine sense of appreciation for the accomplishments of your organization, as well as your team’s efforts and contributions. It also encourages you to identify your areas of opportunity and recognize that those achievements are not solely your own.

Listen to this gratitude practice [3] to bolster your humility and authenticity as a leader.

Become a better leader with mindfulness!

Ethical leadership is paramount for your employees’ well-being, your organization’s success, and your wellness. Embracing humility and authenticity through mindfulness can help you nurture this capacity.

Need support? Join our next Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program for Everyday Leaders. This online training and community will help you harness these and other mindful qualities to help you become a more conscious and ethical leader.[4] 

Call 403.519.1959 or email info@sensesmindfulness.com to register today.