People-Based “Ethics”: The Mindset Behind it

How People-Based Ethics Plays Out in the Business World

If I interpret ethical leadership as people-based, then I will make decisions that maximize people benefits and reduce harm to people.  Using “People-Based Ethics” I may choose to help people manage workplace stress, ensure a healthy culture for them to work in, hold people accountable for good leadership and offer generous benefit and vacation programs so that employees may balance work and home responsibilities. I may offer community volunteer programs and support local programs that feed the hungry or support other human needs.

The Trouble With Using Only People-Based “Ethics”

Being concerned about people is a very important aspect of ethical leadership. The trouble with using only a people-based definition of “ethics” is that by using the impact on people as the only way to make decisions we may be ignoring these other variables:

  • The impact of our business operations on the planet
  • The long-term unintended consequences of our choices
  • The changing consumer mindset toward sustainable business and avoiding harm

Moving Beyond “People-Based” Thinking

Whenever we think about ethics in only one dimension, even though we are diligently managing that area of focus, we are always ignoring another. In order to avoid limiting our ethical thinking to “people” we need to broaden the variables that we consider when making business decisions to also include the planet and long-term consequences of our actions on society.

Linda Fisher Thornton is Owner of Leading in Context LLC. She is also Adjunct Assistant Professor of Leadership for the University of Richmond School of Continuing Studies.

Visit the Leading in Context® Digital Store for ebooks, training modules, discussion guides and graphics supporting ethical business leadership. The newest publication is a “stoplight” graphic showing “Ethical Interpersonal Behavior. “

About Linda Fisher Thornton
Author of 7 Lenses, Speaker, Bringing Out the Best in People and Organizations Through Proactive Ethical Leadership, CEO Leading in Context, 2014 Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior, Adj. Assist. Prof. of Ethics and Leadership, UR SPCS

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