Businesses in Greater Maryland have begun compiling submissions for the Better Business Bureau’s [BBB] annual Torch Awards for Ethics. Winners will be announced on Nov. 3; but even if your organization didn’t submit a nomination, and even if you don’t own a business, it’s a great time to take stock of the positive character traits that are essential to life and work.

Transformation at the top. No person, no company, is perfect. But great leaders — ethical leaders — are intentional. They seek feedback in order to make personal improvements. This can be achieved in a variety of ways, including formation of a personal code of ethics, participation in workshops and leadership programs, a demonstrated willingness to admit error, making a personal change and/or accepting personal responsibility.

Reinforce and build trust. Are your actions consistent with your word? Leaders should communicate with stakeholders, including employees, vendors and customers, in a manner to support the culture of their organization and create a high performance model. Communication on personal ethics starts at the time employees are brought on and reinforced through training, manuals and the way in which ethical dilemmas or breeches are approached and resolved.

Unite the team. Do you use a clear purpose and compelling beliefs to unify your organization? Great leaders work to provide clarity through their vision, mission and core values. But to be effective, leaders must practice their doctrines in all that they do.

Steer performance. High character must be supported by high competency. Leaders push performance through goal setting, measurement and rewards. How do you use performance data to encourage, guide and motivate employees? How is innovation encouraged and rewarded? What improvements can be made?

Treasure people. To become and sustain success as a leader, you need to value people. Have you adopted practices to support, recognize and provide opportunity and growth for all? Do you hire for character and competency and terminate with respect?

Enthusiastically reinvest. Engaged leaders promote best practices, return value to their communities and support programs that are consistent with organizational values with contributions, in-kind donations or service.

Even great leaders encounter unexpected challenges and experiences along the way. It’s what one does when tested that raises the ethics leader to the top.

Angie Barnett is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland. She can be reached at 410-347-3990 and [email protected].