A summary of some key points from an article by Sonia Haq

IPANZ is committed to exploring and enhancing the ethical culture of the public service. Hence, we will be sharing information and insights about ethics in the next few months. As always, we welcome the views of IPANZ members.

This author talks of ethics as statements, written or oral, that prescribe certain behaviours for staff in an organisation. We have such statements in New Zealand, expressed in codes of conduct and shared formally and informally throughout the service.  The principles and value in our Public Service Act bring together expectations and standards that are not new, but they are now in legislation and that gives them a fresh significance.

This author points out that ethical dilemmas take place when public servants are under pressure, from a wide variety of sources, and the strength of the culture of ethics, or the norms, in an organisation has a strong influence on action at these times. The culture is primarily shaped by the quality of leadership. Hence the skills of leadership deeply impact the ethical climate.

The Author has a nice diagram (look at the fourth page of this article) which sums up how different leadership skills enhance ethics.

She talks of three leadership skills which she groups under technical, conceptual, interpersonal and then notes emotional intelligence and social intelligence making the five elements of ethical leadership. Technical skills enable a leader to detect any deception associated with technical matters. Conceptual skills particularly support judgment and problem solving thereby the ability to think through consequences and ensure reliability. Interpersonal skills assist strongly in communicating ethical values and showing compassion and sensitivity which are essential in promoting an ethical climate.

She then draws out how all these skills lead to enhanced ethics.

She makes the point that integrity in an individual is intensified by means of both self-regulation, not allowing emotions to sway decision and self-awareness, the deep knowledge of oneself.

This author just presents a framework for consideration and discussion. There is no point in having these theories or frameworks for ethics, unless all staff feel empowered to speak up when they are worried that a leader is not behaving ethically. Are public service agencies, and their leaders at all levels, open to questions, critique and challenge? The views of staff may be a perception, or may be reality, but it needs to be talked about and never pushed aside in the busyness of public sector work.

You can read the full article here

Haq, S, 2011. Ethics and Leadership in the Public Service. Procedia - Social and Behavioural Sciences, 15 (2011), pp. 2792-2796