Blue Line

Features Health & Wellness
Ethics in leadership

December 9, 2019  By Isabelle Sauve

Leaders can be found at every level of an organization and leadership is a process, not a position. This process involves a complex interaction between followers and leaders with sensitivity to situations, workplaces and environments.

As highlighted in a previous Blue Line Health & Wellness column, despite some degree of overlap, there is a notable distinction between managers and leaders. A conclusion can be drawn that managers focus on “doing things right,” whereas leaders focus on “doing the right things.” The key question remains: what are the right things? What are the morally right things, the ethically right things, the right things that ensure an organization and its members succeed and develop?

From the moment one embarks in the recruitment process in law enforcement, it is expected a strong sense of morals and integrity will be demonstrated.

“Ultimately, ethics is important not so that ‘we can understand’ philosophically, but rather so we can ‘improve how we live’” (Lafollette, 2007). By being moral, we enrich our lives and the lives of those around us.


It is aligned with numerous research studies stressing “the centrality and importance of the moral dimension of leadership.” Indeed, a leader’s personal values and ethical code decisively affects the nature — as well as the outcome — of how they exercise the various sources of power available to them. As such, leaders are very often judged on the basis of a “framework of values” and not solely on the effectiveness of their work.

Amongst those values or qualities that foster trust, there is first the vision as it tends to draw people together on the basis of shared and respected beliefs. It also offers a joint sense of organizational purpose and belonging.

Secondly, leaders who demonstrate empathy with those around them and show they understand the complex environments others experience are more likely to be trusted.
Thirdly, consistency in leaders’ decision making and approach towards change are required to gain and maintain trust. It is critical leaders ensure a clear understanding of the process of evolution and are transparent in light of new evidence or information. Decisions cannot be perceived as being randomly based.

Trust is strongest in leaders with a high level of integrity, who demonstrate their commitment to higher principles through their own daily actions. It can be argued that, in an organization, these values can be self-serving and do not always help the individuals; nonetheless, they remain important to create a prosperous environment where individuals will be dedicated to achieving goals.

Identifying the key values that permit leaders to have the trust of followers is important. It is also vital for the same leaders to realize individuals in the same work unit can also have considerably dissimilar values. Identifying these values is complex as we cannot directly see them. It is only by interacting, communicating and interpreting behaviour that we can hope to understand what drives values. For example, some people will hold a set of values referred to as a ‘behaviour mode,’ such as courageous, responsible, honest and imaginative, just to name a few. Meanwhile, others will have values related to inner harmony, social recognition, family security, or a sense of accomplishment.

Each work environment sets varying importance on these values despite all having their own merit. It remains important for a leader to accept not everybody has the same values. Indeed, studies have shown much of the misunderstanding that may exist between leaders and follower s— especially between the older and younger — is fed by a departure from their respective values.

Recognizing the variety of values is what makes an organization intellectually and emotionally rich. Leaders failing to do so increase the likelihood they “add tension” to the interactions between them and their followers.

To conclude, police agencies traditionally follow a para-military regime and could highly benefit from an alignment with leadership that addresses the inter-dependencies between effective leadership, particular value systems and proven management methods.


Isabelle Sauvé is a 12-year veteran with the OPP, currently with the Lanark County Detachment. She has a MA in psychology and is a PhD candidate. She is also an ultramarathon/endurance athlete and the Racing the Planet/4 Deserts 2018 Series winner as well as a Guinness World record holder. She can be contacted at:

Bruno Seguin is a senior executive manager and international business consultant with experience in global operations, international business development, strategic planning, leadership and corporate governance. He is also an ultra-runner, 9th place finisher at the Racing the Planet/4 Deserts 2018 Series and fellow Guinness World record holder.


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