Is Your Leadership Net Positive?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Generating an intentional positive ethical impact is the successful ethical leadership of the future, and it’s already here. The Forum For the Future describes it as net positive leadership – making a positive contribution to society and leaving things better than we found them. This commitment represents a higher level of ethical leadership than just preventing harm – we are preventing harm and adding value.

“The ambition of business has to change. From doing less harm to becoming net positive.”

Net Positive: A new way of doing business, A Report by the Forum For the Future, World Wildlife Fund and The Climate Group.

The net positive leadership concept is a natural extension of our changing awareness of the purpose of leadership. In the recently published book 7 Lenses, I describe how our understanding of the purpose of leadership has evolved over time from transactions to service and more recently to the greater good.

Fully-honoring-the (1)

In The Guardian article “Can a business really be net positive, and if so, how do we judge success?” Oliver Balch writes that “Any movement needs its champions, and net positive boasts a coterie of early cheerleaders, including Kingfisher and IkeaCoca-ColaRio Tintoand BT (on carbon).” As business leaders embrace the net positive movement, Oliver explains, they may discover that it is difficult to tackle becoming net positive in every aspect of the business at once – leaders in the net positive movement start with one area that is pivotal to their brand. 

There is the danger that some companies will promote their net positive progress in one area of the business while causing harm in other areas. As explained by Steve Downing in “How net positive could turn out to be net negative” “practitioners of net positive should confront the negatives in their policies and make them part of their story.” 

An ethics award and an ethics violation don’t net out to equal good ethics. One area of positive impact and one area of harm do not add up to net positive business.

“Net Positive” gives us new terminology for understanding the positive impact of our leadership. While it will be challenging to implement, it provides us with a stretch goal that will make our leadership more impactful. 

There is a very human side to the net positive equation that includes enhancing people’s lives and helping them grow. Take a moment to think about your daily leadership. Would the people and groups you lead describe it as “Net Positive?”

 

522 For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

How to Build an Ethical Culture

 

2013-08-06 18.38.33By Linda Fisher Thornton

Today I’m sharing hand-picked resources about how to build an ethical culture. The most recent one was just published this week by Government Executive magazine. They acknowledge complexity, and are based on performance improvement and ethical principles. 

This collection provides practical advice for how to build high trust cultures and keep the ethics conversation alive. Use it to create workplaces where people thrive and where “ethical” is a way of life.

Ethical Culture Building

How to Build a Strong Ethical Culture at Your Agency Government Executive (just published this week!)

Got Ethics? Are You Positive? Leading in Context Blog

Managing Ethical Leadership as a Performance System Leading in Context Blog

How Do We Achieve Corporate Integrity? Leading in Context Blog

5 Ways CEOs can Build an Ethical Culture Leading in Context Blog

Building an Ethical Culture (Webcast), ASTD, The Public Manager Webcast (Requires entering email address)

Ethical Leadership Culture: The Case of the Dissenting Senior Leader, Leading in Context Blog

Bringing Out the Best in People and Organizations, Leading in Context Blog

Well-Being is Trending, Leading in Context Blog

Having Meaningful Ethics Conversations

What is Ethical Leadership? Leading in Context Blog

Leading the Conversation About Ethical Leadership, Leading in Context Blog 

How Current is My Message About Ethics? Leading in Context Blog

Getting Past Murky Uncertainty Leading in Context Blog

Developing an Ethical Mindset

What Ethical Leaders Believe, Manifesto via ChangeThis.com

It’s Not About Us, Leading in Context Blog

15 Ways to Encourage Moral Growth in Leadership, Leading in Context Blog

Ethics Isn’t Finite: It’s Evolving, Leading in Context Blog

Trust Building

10 Things Trustworthy Leaders Do, Leading in Context Blog

Building Trust: What to Weed Out, Leading in Context Blog

Ethics and Trust are Reciprocal, Leading in Context Blog

Developing Ethical Leaders

Dealing With Complexity in Leadership, Leading in Context Blog

5 Leadership Development Priorities, Leading in Context Blog

Developing the Ethical Leader of the Future, Leading in Context Blog

522For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses 

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

10 Things Trustworthy Leaders Do

20140323_172748By Linda Fisher Thornton

Trustworthy leaders know how to create a workplace where everyone is valued, where leadership is sincere and respectful, and where great work can get done. How do they do it? What is it in particular that trustworthy leaders do?

These 10 things are on my list of the things trustworthy leaders do. What else would you add?

What Do Trustworthy Leaders Do?

  1. Lead With Positive Values (In Every Situation)
  2. Acknowledge Complexity (And Help People Deal With It)
  3. Demonstrate and Expect Respectful Behavior (Even When It’s a Challenge)
  4. Know Their Own Mindsets and Assumptions (And Be Willing to Change Them)
  5. Show People They Care (In Big and Small Ways)
  6. Think Long Term (Always Doing What’s Most Ethical in the Long Run)
  7. Extend an Open Invitation to Talk (About Ethics, About Bad News, About Good News)
  8. Show They Care (About People and the Success of the Group)
  9. Communicate Clear Ethical Values (And Live Them Every Day)
  10. Contribute to the Well-Being of Those They Lead (Including Reducing Stress)

Trustworthy leaders also regularly weed out negative behaviors that erode the trust within the group. This careful tending lets the trust they plant and the groups they lead flourish. Your challenge? See how many of these “10 Things Trustworthy Leaders Do” you can do today.

 

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For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

Getting Past Murky Uncertainty

MurkyUncertaintyBy Linda Fisher Thornton

Workplace issues are complex and opinions vary about the right thing to do in challenging situations. This complexity and uncertainty combine to create a “murky uncertainty” that may keep people from giving us their best, most ethical performance.

Leaders may intend to create an ethical culture, but may still have difficulty getting past the murky uncertainty about what ethics means. To move beyond the uncertainty, we need to take the time to talk about ethical behavior and how we will make ethical decisions. Taking these three actions as part of our overall leadership strategy will help us clear up the conversation about ethics:

1. Make It Safe To Talk Openly About Ethics

Some people think that it’s risky to talk openly about the ethical choices we have to make. They are concerned that people will discover what they’re uncertain about.  I believe that it is much more risky NOT to talk openly about the ethical decisions we’re making. I would rather have an employee know that I am actively struggling to make an ethical decision in a difficult situation than to have them think that I make decisions without considering the ethical impact.

2. Ask People What Is Unclear 

There will always be areas where people are unclear about the most ethical course of action, and what the organization wants them to do. Just ask them. I would guess that in many organizations one of the top issues people are unclear about is how to balance out seemingly competing requests. For example, “use the highest ethics in all we do” and “reach your quarterly targets.” If sales are down, what should we do?? Which one of these goals can be bent a little short term (and please don’t say ethics).

3. Clear It Up With Clear Conversations

What is on your regular meeting agendas? Is it project reports and corporate updates? When we gather people together, we should be talking about our complex challenges and how to make ethical choices in difficult situations.

Clear EthicsWhen we make it safe to talk about our difficult challenges and how we will handle them ethically, we help people move beyond murky uncertainty.

Clear Conversations Lead to Clear Ethics

By having clear conversations about ethics. we empower people to make ethical choices when we’re not around. We prepare them for the real world challenges they’ll have to handle. We build their confidence that they can trust us to help them, and that we will uphold the highest ethics in all that we do… Now that’s clear!

 

 

 

522For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

 
 

 

 

5 Reports Say Business Ethics is Improving

5 Reports

By Linda Fisher Thornton

What do Deloitte, Strategy & PwC, Dow Jones, The Ethics Resource Center and LRN have to say about trends in business ethics? Get ready for some good news:

“A new era of the responsible enterprise may be here to stay.”

Chris Park and Dinah A. Koehler, “The Responsible Enterprise: Where Citizenship and Commerce Meet’, Deloitte University Press

 

“CEOs are increasingly seeking ‘good growth’ aligned with business ethics and sustainability.”

Dennis Nally, The Trust Agenda, Strategy and Business,  PwC Strategy& Inc.

 

“NBES 2013 reveals substantial good news about the state of ethics in American workplaces.”  “The steady and sharp drop in misconduct since 2007 suggests that something both fundamental and good is taking place in the way Americans conduct themselves at work. “

Ethics Resource Center, 2013 National Business Ethics Survey

 

“Fewer companies report ever having lost business to unethical competitors.”

Dow Jones Anti-Corruption Survey Report Results 2014

 

“Many steps forward, just a few back, and still a long way to go.”

LRN, 2014 Ethics and Compliance Program Effectiveness Report

 

While these reports hold very encouraging news, we must remember where we are. While overall business ethics is improving, it is improving from a low starting point.  It will take more time and intentional effort to get to where we need to be. 

Some business leaders have realized that proactive ethics meets constituent expectations, delights employees and leads to better overall organizational performance. These proactive ethical leaders build a culture based on high standards and positive ethical values and enable their organizations to live up to those standards every day. This is the future of business. Are your leaders ready?

Got Ethics? Are You Positive?

10 Forces Fueling the Values-Based Leadership Movement

Developing the Ethical Leader of the Future

 

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For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

 

Ethics and Trust are Reciprocal

20140323_173426By Linda Fisher Thornton

I was asked recently to explain in simple terms how ethics and trust are related. It is a great question, because we define trust and ethics in so many different ways.

Here are some observations about how trust and ethics are related, and what their relationship means for us as organizational leaders.

What is the Relationship Between Ethics and Trust?

Proactive ethics is part of what it takes to build trust.

Building trust is part of what is required to maintain good ethics.

Ethical behavior and choices help build trust.

High trust environments encourage better ethics.

When trust is lost, people are less likely to uphold the organization’s ethics.

When ethics is absent, trust is elusive.

The Positive Balance

What does all of this mean to us as leaders? It means that ethics and trust are reciprocal and mutually reinforcing. Improving one improves the other. Damaging one damages the other.

Ethics and trust are reciprocal. They are mutually reinforcing. 

If we lead in ways that are trustworthy, we are fulfilling an important part of our responsibility as ethical leaders. When it comes to leading ethically, trust is not a nice-to-have,  it’s a “must have.” If we lead ethically, that lets people know they can count on us, and being able to count on us builds trust with individuals and within the group.

Ethics and trust are inseparable. They travel together.

Trust and ethics travel together, as if tethered with a bungee cord. One will not travel far without pulling the other with it. For example, if I intentionally improve my ethics, that will also begin to improve trust. If I work on improving trust, that will also increase the chances that my team is watching out for ethics and would alert me if something happened that would put us as risk.

Exercising Ethics and Trust 

Ethics and trust act in tandem. Think of them as the respiratory system and heart of the organization. If one fails, the other follows. Keeping them in good shape requires constant attention and daily practice.

Ethics and trust are improved through intentional practice. 

The good news is that just as the human respiratory system and the heart are improved through exercise, organizational ethics and trust can be strengthened through intentional daily practice.

 

522

For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

 

10 Forces Fueling the Values-Based Leadership Movement

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I believe that values-based leadership is gaining momentum. Recently I was asked to explain why I think so, and I thought I would share my answer in today’s blog post. Here are a number of trends that I see that are working together to fuel the movement toward leading with positive values.

Values-based leadership is gaining momentum, and it’s fueled by a convergence of positive trends.

These forces are coming from various directions and perspectives, all leading toward positive, proactive values-based leadership. See if you recognize any of them, and feel free to comment with your additions to the list.

 

ValuesBased Leadership TrendsFINALCrop

 

How do forward-thinking leaders define “doing well?” They don’t define it as simply reaching financial projections and avoiding lawsuits.  They define it as always leading with values. They define success in terms of mutual benefit – creating shared value for multiple stakeholders and making a positive difference. 

 

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For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

 

Building Trust: What to Weed Out

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I was weeding in the garden this week, and I discovered two new weeds that were taller than I was. I started thinking about how quickly things can get away from us, in the garden and in our organizations. There are actions we must take to build a high trust workplace. But there are equally important things that we must prevent or weed out for trust to flourish.

What are the things that can get away from us if not corrected quickly? What can damage the trust we have worked so hard to build? What do we need to weed out for trust to flourish?

Blog Photo 4

A “Weed Out” List For Trust Building

  • Needing to be “right”
  • Being too busy to listen
  • Saying one thing and doing another
  • Treating people like “resources” rather than humans
  • Being disrespectful to any one or any group
  • Selectively praising only favorite employees
  • Blaming instead of resolving the problem
  • Correcting employees in public
  • Withholding information from people who need it to be successful
  • Asking people to do something you are not willing to do
  • Vague values
  • Mixed messages (“use the highest ethics” AND “do whatever it takes to make the numbers”)
  • Oversimplified conversations about ethics (which leaves it to individual discretion)
  • Fear-based or controlling leadership
  • Failure of leaders to learn and grow as times change
  • Not listening to employees who want to improve processes and results
  • Using profit-centered (instead of values-centered) leadership
  • Ignoring work complexity and leaving people to “figure it out”
  • Status-based communication (top down, don’t ask questions)
  • Using cause-and-effect thinking in a systems world
  • Generating high stress situations (without providing support for employee well-being)

I realize now that this list could go on… and on…. What else do you think we should “weed out” to build and nurture high trust cultures?

 

522

For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

Ethics Isn’t Finite: It’s Evolving

2013-07-05 20.36.26By Linda Fisher Thornton

As we strive to build ethical organizations, we must remember that our target is moving. As the world changes, ethical expectations change.

It would be easier to develop ethical leaders and build ethical organizations if ethics were a fixed destination. A point on the map. A line in the sand. But it’s just not that simple.

Ethical expectations are evolving.

As we learn more about the impact of our choices on others, society and the environment, ethical expectations are increasing. The changes reflect a better understanding of how we need to live on this planet we call home in ways that are sustainable in the long run.

Some leaders still mistakenly think about ethics in terms of short-term gains and losses, but the trend is toward thinking broadly and long-term about our choices.

Keeping up with evolving ethical expectations is a challenge that ethical organizations take on. They seek out information about consumer expectations and trends. They embrace meeting changing expectations as part of their leadership responsibility. They always want to know how they can improve.

The trend is toward thinking broadly and long-term about our choices.

Responding to evolving expectations helps organizations stay competitive. It helps them engage employees who want to make a difference. It helps them be ready for success in the future world of business. Because our understanding of ethics is always evolving, we must aim for where it’s headed, not where it’s been.


522

For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

Ethics Isn’t “Out There”: It’s Us And Our Choices

20140323_172700By Linda Fisher Thornton

Much attention is paid to the tactics of ethics – the ethics codes, compliance plans and such. We can easily begin to think that ethics is something we can see and touch. Something finite. Something written in stone. Something outside of ourselves.

But that’s not where ethics lives.

Our ethics doesn’t live in the codes and manuals. Ethics is in the big and small things we do each day. It’s in the time we take to teach employees about ethics and values, and the care we take to model ethical behavior so that everyone can see what it looks like in action.

Ethics is in the decisions we make. It’s in the way we resolve the tension between gaining personal benefit and creating value for others.

Ethics is not just “out there” and it’s not just what’s written down. Ethical guidelines are there to help us, but they do not become our ethics unless we choose to follow them every day.

Ethics is personal. It’s about us and our choices.

For leaders, ethics is about personal choices that set the tone for their organizations. It’s about the daily struggle to figure out “the right thing to do” in difficult situations. It’s about a deeply personal commitment to lead in ways that demonstrate:

  • the strength of our moral compass
  • the breadth of our concern and care for others
  • our understanding of how to bring out the best in those we lead
  • our awareness of responsibilities and consequences
  • our ability to think long term and across boundaries
  • our desire to do more and to be more than the minimum standards require.

Welcome to the wonderful, challenging, lifelong personal journey to leading ethically in a global society. A journey that brings out our best.


522

For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

 

 

 

The Trouble With Oversimplified Conversations

Oversimplified ConversationsBy Linda Fisher Thornton

Sometimes in the rush to make a quick leadership decision, we end up “dumbing down” an issue to speed up the process. “Dumbing down” an issue may make the decision easier to make, but it can lead us to make choices without considering current information, trends or context. Decisions made that way can cause problems.

It is particularly dangerous to oversimplify conversations about ethics.

An oversimplified message about ethics lacks traction in the naturally complex world of organizational life. 

How we talk about ethics sets the tone for the rest of the organization. That means that oversimplified conversations like “just do the right thing” and “use the highest integrity” will be spread throughout the organization. If the message is not clear, we are just spreading uncertainty.

Oversimplified conversations about ethics lead to oversimplified ethical decision-making. 

By oversimplifying the ethics message, we miss the chance to help people be successful, and increase the chances that they will make short-sighted choices.

To avoid oversimplifying the ethics conversation, use this ethics discussion guide (previously published in Training and Development Journal). It will help you have meaningful conversations about ethics in the context of your organizational challenges: Leading the Conversation About Ethical Leadership.


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For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

250th Blog Post: Beyond the Comfort Zone

250th Blog PostBy Linda Fisher Thornton

In the 200th Leading in Context Blog Post, I wrote about Learning at the Speed of Life. To celebrate the 250th post, I want to reflect on what it’s been like to work every day in the stretch beyond the comfort zone.

In the past year, I finished writing my first book 7 Lenses, editing and publishing it in paperback and three different digital formats (Kindle, iTunes and Nook). Many times during that period, I felt like I had ended up in the middle of nowhere without a map.

Embracing the Stretch

Although I knew where I wanted to end up, I had no idea how to get there. Have you felt that way as you took on new challenges? Here are some of the questions I wrestled with:

  • How do you know when a book is good enough and ready to be edited?
  • How do you choose a good book title?
  • What cover design will best catch people’s attention and convey the book’s message?
  • Which is the more responsible paper choice, recycled or sustainable forestry initiative?
  • How do you spread the word in responsible ways so people who can benefit from the book will find out about it?

I have “learned through” finding answers to hundreds of questions like these in the past year. To stay motivated, I posted this saying on the bulletin board beside my desk:

“Life Begins At The End Of Your Comfort Zone”    

Neale Donald Walsch

It reminded me that growth is good… Wouldn’t it be easy if growth happened without the need to stretch outside of our comfort zones? These song lyrics describe the simpler way we yearn for:

“Wake me up when it’s all over. When I’m older and I’m wiser.”

Song Lyrics, “Wake Me Up” by Avicii

If only it were that easy. 

The Good Stuff Doesn’t Happen on Autopilot

When we live and work on autopilot, we tend to “stick to the known,” repeating what we did last year that worked and making incremental progress.  This dooms us to only achieving what we have already imagined and set into motion. There’s so much more that we’re missing. While we’re waiting to be “older and wiser”, we miss big opportunities to learn right now.

Growth doesn’t happen by itself. It takes an effort.

Because growth can be uncomfortable, it is often tempting to stick to the known path, the usual way, the “regular things” we do. But when we do that, we get into a routine and may end up going through the day on autopilot.

Instead of being easy and comfortable, real growth requires stretching outside of our comfort zones, believing we can grow and accomplish more, and continually working to get better.

Pushing the Boundaries

Once we stretch into new capabilities, we have to keep practicing them until they become comfortable. In the process, we are expanding our comfort zone to make room for these new abilities.

When We Are Learning and Growing, Our Comfort Zone is Expanding

Instead of avoiding the stretch and getting through the day on pre-programmed autopilot, we have expanded our comfort zones to include new abilities and roles, and new possibilities.

As you read about my journey, reflect on how stretching outside of your comfort zone might be transformational for you.

What has taken me outside of my comfort zone in the past year? 

  • Finishing, editing and publishing an ethical leadership book (that recently won Bronze in the Axiom Business Book Awards!).
  • Author book signings.
  • Doing virtual booktalks, guest lectures, videos and keynotes based on 7 Lenses.
  • Keeping up with a growing and highly engaged global audience on social media.

This growth process has happened in waves, sometimes extremely difficult and other times exhilarating. That’s how growth is, like riding a roller coaster in the dark and not seeing the road ahead clearly. It’s exciting and unpredictable. I am grateful that pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone was easier with the help of a strategy coach who urged me on and asked me to continually reach higher.

When we embrace the roller coaster ride of growth, as unpredictable as it may be, we tap into our human potential and we grow into our better selves. We make a positive difference in our lives and the lives of others. 

What meaningful work have you been wanting to do? Go ahead – step outside the zone and enjoy the ride. That’s where your best work is waiting to be done.


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For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

Can a Toxic Leader Be Ethical? Yes and No.

Can a Toxic Leader Be Ethical?By Linda Fisher Thornton

A Leading in Context Blog reader requested that I address the question of whether or not someone who uses negative interpersonal behaviors can be thought of as an ethical leader.

Toxic leadership is gaining attention as we learn more about the harm that negative behaviors cause in the workplace. What kinds of behaviors could be considered toxic? I blogged about the problem in a previous post called Leadership and…The Cascade Stress Effect:

“If we use fear-based leadership, bullying, command-and-control leadership, belittling, sabotage or other forms of psychological violence, or allow them to be used by others in our organizations, we create the opposite of a supportive, productive learning organization. We create an environment of toxic stress that harms people and the organization.”

“Controlling leadership behaviors set off a cascade effect in organizations that looks like this:

  • We create a toxic, constantly stressful environment
  • which reduces people’s ability to learn and remember
  • and think creatively.
  • We get fear-based compliance
  • without engagement
  • which leaves people not doing their best work.
  • We get a low-trust culture
  • which leads to
  • people spending time worrying
  • individually and in groups.
  • We get poor individual
  • and group performance
  • and poor business outcomes.
  • We reduce the capacity of the business
  • to accomplish its mission
  • through people.”

Leadership and the Cascade Stress Effect, Linda Fisher Thornton, Leading in Context Blog, June 2011

“Can someone who uses toxic leadership still be an ethical leader?”The answer to this important question is “yes and no.”

Yes

Yes, they can be an ethical leader in some of the dimensions of ethical leadership. Toxic leaders may be model citizens when it comes to ethically protecting the financial future of the company (or other areas of their ethical responsibility). They may show concern for the environment, or be active in community service. They may look in some ways like an ethical leader.

No

No, they are not an ethical leader, because regardless of how ethical they are in some areas of their leadership, leaders who use unethical interpersonal behaviors are not ethical interpersonally. 

Ethical leadership requires that we honor many different aspects of ethics, including demonstrating respect for others and creating a high trust work environment where people are valued and can do their best work. We must honor individual, interpersonal and societal ethics.

Since toxic leaders fail to honor interpersonal ethics, no matter how ethical they are in other areas of responsibility, they are not ethical leaders.

We can no longer evaluate a person’s leadership solely on results while ignoring the negative ripple effect created by interpersonal behavior choices. It’s time to see toxic leadership for what it really is – stress creating, inappropriate, negative, unethical leadership.


522

For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
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© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

 

 

 

5 Leadership Development Priorities

5 Leadership Development Priorities

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The recent post “It’s Not About Us” set a new daily record for the most views on the Leading in Context Blog. It described how our understanding of leadership has moved beyond a focus on the leader to a focus on creating shared value for others.

 

In a human development sense, our understanding of leadership has essentially “grown up” and moved past personal ego and a self-centered view of things.

This week, I want to share how the trends in our understanding of leadership are changing the fiber of what successful leadership looks like in organizations. If our organizations are not yet ready to respond to them, these trends should become our top priorities for leadership development.

5 Leadership Development Priorities

 

1.  Progressing from compliance-based ethics to values-based ethics.

TEACHING THE BEHAVIORS  WE WANT, NOT THE ONES THAT WILL BE PUNISHED

 

2.  Getting comfortable with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (V.U.C.A.).

PRACTICING WITH COMPLEX PROBLEMS IN REAL TIME USING V.U.C.A. STRATEGIES

 

3.  Thinking like global citizens in a world of connecting systems.

MANAGING ETHICS UP AND DOWN THE SUPPLY CHAIN, UNDERSTANDING SYSTEMS, APPLYING THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE AND THINKING LONG TERM

 

4.  Embracing the responsibilities that come with leadership.

GOING BEYOND THE TRIPLE BOTTOM LINE, HONORING SEVEN DIMENSIONS OF ETHICAL RESPONSIBILITY

 

5.  Embracing the opportunities that come with leadership.

CHANGING LIVES, IMPROVING COMMUNITIES,MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD

 

While these 5 leadership development priorities may seem challenging, the good news is that by addressing them proactively we will also be enabling the overall success of our organizations.

Leading with values and taking responsibility broadly helps us adapt

The clarity we find in leading with positive values makes decision-making easier, and helps us adapt to the rising expectations in a global marketplace. We are no longer buffeted by every small change in the law, because we are aiming at a much higher level, the level of human values.

 


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For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

 

 

 

 

Ethics is Contagious

© 2014 Leading in Context LLCBy Linda Fisher Thornton

I must admit that I can’t take the credit for coming up with the catchy title of this post. A group of attendees at a recent keynote I delivered came up with it as a way to describe what they had learned. And it makes perfect sense.

Ethics is catching, and leaders set the tone for the ethics of the organization. What would happen if everyone in the organization followed our lead? Would the organization be more or less ethical?  What kind of ethics are people catching as they work in our organization?

10 Reasons Why Ethics is Contagious:

  1.  We are social creatures.
  2.  People tend to “follow the leader.”
  3.  If their leader is unethical, people may be less likely to report ethical problems.
  4.  In unethical cultures, people who speak up may be punished, which further entrenches the unethical culture.
  5.  When people fail to report ethical problems, the problems may increase and become standard practice.
  6.  In unethical cultures, people who do unethical things may be promoted or rewarded in other ways.
  7.  If their leader is ethical, people may be more likely to report ethical problems.
  8.  In a positive ethical culture, people who speak up may be rewarded, which further entrenches the ethical culture.
  9.  The choices we repeat and reward become the patterns of acceptable behavior in our culture. 
  10.  Whichever case of ethics is spreading in our organizations gains momentum over time. In unethical cultures, the momentum is toward compromising ethics. In ethical cultures, the momentum is toward acting based on ethical values.

Which direction are we leading the organization? Organizational ethics can easily can go either way. Since ethics is so contagious, we need to be sure that we help people catch a positive case of it.


522

For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

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