Don’t Separate “Ethics” From “Leadership”

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Preparing Leaders For Ethical Leadership

Preparing leaders for ethical leadership is a long-term process.  It requires careful thought about the messages we are sending. For example, what message are we sending when we separate ethics training from other leadership training?

The Risks of “Separate” Ethics Training

I believe that we take an unnecessary risk when we separate ethics training from the rest of a leader’s development. When we separate ethics training and leadership training, we may be unintentionally sending the message that ethics is separate from leadership. What could be the harm of separating ethics from leadership?

The Impact on the Leader’s Mindset

If we separate “ethics” from “leadership” as leaders are learning, they could develop the mindset that ethics is compartmentalized and that ethical decisions are different from other decisions.

Leaders who receive separate ethics training that is not an integral component in the rest of their leadership development may think of it as they would think about a vaccination, to be tolerated once in a while, but not something that should govern their thinking, choices and behavior every day.

Leaving Leaders to Fill in the Blanks

When ethics and leadership are not integrated during the learning process, leaders may have difficulty integrating ethics and leadership themselves in day-to-day practice.

Strong Leadership Without Ethics

One of the most worrisome possibilities of teaching ethics separately from leadership is this:

If we continue to teach leadership without its governing ethics and values built in, we could unintentionally be teaching people to use strong leadership that is outside of the boundaries of ethical behavior.

About The Author: Linda Fisher Thornton is CEO/Owner of Leading in Context, a leadership development firm providing leadership consulting and learning publications that address complex ethical issues.

Current Leading in Context® Publications:

“Ethical Implications of How Leaders Perceive ‘Different’”  Training Module
“Ethical Interpersonal Behavior”  Graphic
“The Evolving Leadership Context: Respectful Workplaces”  Video
© 2012, Leading in Context LLC. All rights reserved.

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

6 Responses to Don’t Separate “Ethics” From “Leadership”

  1. Mary Warnock makes a similar contribution in a recent talk (in which she deplores the student who joined a merchant bank):

  2. I disagree that leaders left to fill in the blanks and the consequence of such being… let’s say “not good”. Are not leaders free thinkers and just spirits? Ethics are simply a component of behavior and neither valorized or devalorized by being separate. Molding other people for leadership is a privilege. We are not teaching who to be but HOW to be. I do agree that boundaries are rational and keeping ethics within those boundaries has integral effects yet keeping ethics apart reinstates it’s intrinsic value in that it is not necessary to get vaccinated every day, you get it once and your good for life.

  3. My pleasure, Diane. Thank you so much for your comments. I enjoy your perspective and your posts!

  4. leaderwalk says:

    Thank you for stopping by my blog, Linda. I am enjoying your articles and look forward to following your future posts.

  5. leaderwalk says:

    I appreciate your article, and I agree that ethics does need to be integrated into leadership training. Otherwise, as you indicate, leaders are left to fill in the blanks…with all the potential unintended consequences.

  6. Pingback: Don't Separate “Ethics” From “Leadership” « Leading in Context « Ethics Find

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