Ethical Leadership: Perceptions of “Different” Impact Our Behavior
September 29, 2010 2 Comments
How we think as leaders directly impacts our behavior. It compels us to act based on the value judgements we make. Today’s post focuses on how we perceive “different,” how our perceptions change our leadership, and how our leadership changes the work environment in ways that may lead to unethical behavior.
Unfortunately, we don’t always use the word “different” to describe things and people and ideas that are new to us. We often use less friendly words that indicate that the person or idea is wrong, misguided or harmful. Let’s check our thinking about “different” for a moment, and consider how our perception impacts our behavior and our ethics.
If we are one of the leaders who thinks that “different” ideas and people are interesting/good/essential, then we will be open to new ideas and new information and will want to surround ourselves with people who represent different ways of thinking. We will see the value in differences of opinion. We will tolerate some level of chaos and see it as part of the natural process of getting great work done. Opportunities will be quickly recognized and acted on, leading to competitive advantage.
If we are a leader who thinks that “different” ideas and people are dangerous/bad/wrong, then we will be closed to new ideas and new information and will want to surround ourselves with people who think and act very much like we do. We will see differences of opinion as threatening the fabric of the organization. Our organization will begin to become obsolete as groupthink sets in. We will discourage new and different perspectives and will see them as blatant insubordination. Employees will leave as they find they are not able to do their best work in the “copy me” culture. Missed opportunities and complications from employee resistance to “not being allowed to think for themselves” will take a toll on the profitability and viability of the business. Employees will be more likely to make unethical decisions in the restrained environment that does not allow for discussion of grey areas during ethical challenges.
Which type of leader engages employees? Inspires the best work? Is rewarded in your organization? Which type is more ethical?
Linda Fisher Thornton is Owner of Leading in Context LLC, providing Tools for Ethical Leadership in a Complex Connected Workplace. She teaches “Strategic Thinking for Leaders” and “Leadership, Conflict Management and Group Dynamics” as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Leadership for the University of Richmond School of Continuing Studies.