Ethical Leadership Thinking: When we Attack an Issue
October 27, 2010 Leave a comment
Ethical Leadership Thinking: Attacking Issues
When dealing with a troublesome business problem, it’s easy to get carried away and begin to attack people instead of the problem. This wastes time, takes energy away from finding solutions and leaves people demoralized.
Let’s look at the important differences between attacking people and attacking issues:
When we Attack a Person our Language is Less Respectful and Our Thinking is Narrowing
When we attack people, our thinking narrows and our approach is not usually responsible. Our words may not be carefully chosen and we may speak in anger.
- We use raised voices and disrespectful language
- We accuse and blame, which leads away from solutions
- We have no tolerance for other perspectives
When we Attack an Issue, We are More Respectful and Our Thinking is Broadening
When we attack issues, we use a much more respectful approach with others. We focus on getting a more complete perspective, and seek to understand the issue more clearly.
- We are seeking information
- We are seeking understanding
- Other perspectives help us understand the issue
- We are more respectful
Examining Our Thinking and Our Leadership
If you think that as a leader you would never attack a person, ask yourself this question:
Have I ever made remarks (even if they are made privately or intended to be a joke) about a political party, person, organization, entity, club, or any other group of persons that sounded disrespectful to anyone else? How did it make them feel? Did they let me know?
When we attack a person or group, we erode trust, even if the person we are attacking is not there. If we will attack someone who is not present it raises the concern that we may berate others when they are not there to defend their reputations.
Attacking Issues or Attacking People?
- Which problem-solving approach do you think is more ethical?
- Which approach are you modeling and rewarding in your leadership?
- Which approach do other leaders in your organization use?
Linda Fisher Thornton is Owner of Leading in Context LLC, providing Tools for Ethical Leadership in a Complex Interconnected 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.