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.

 Linda Fisher Thornton is an author, speaker, consultant and adjunct faculty member who helps  organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™. Her new book is 7 Lenses.
 
 

 

Well-Being is Trending

Well-BeingBy Linda Fisher Thornton

Have you noticed that well-being is trending? It’s not enough just to provide fair pay and good work conditions any more. People want to participate in something meaningful and work in high-trust cultures where they can flourish. They seek out companies that care about their well-being.

Making Life Better

Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte predicts in his article The Year of the Employee: Predictions For Talent, Leadership and HR Technology In 2014 that we will need to “re-imagine employee engagement in a new, integrated way” and seek to create “rewarding, exciting and empowering” experiences.

Our workplace focus is moving toward promoting general well-being.

We are beginning to focus on the wellness and happiness of the whole person, and are more aware of the importance of measures of success that incorporate overall well-being. Gallup.com has a Well-Being Index that shows trending levels of well-being over time. OECD publishes an annual “How’s Life?” Report that goes beyond financial measures to evaluate social well-being and progress. The Happy Planet Index  rates each country in the world on aspects needed for people to live long and happy lives.

Well-being is on the minds of consumers as well. Trendwatching.com comments in Internet of  Caring Things that consumers will “lavish love and attention on products, services and experiences” that actively care for their well-being and the well-being of their loved ones.

The Ethics Factor

Positive, intentional management of ethics in organizations supports the overall well-being of employees, customers and communities. Ethics also gives organizational metrics a boost. When we treat people well, we bring out their best.

Ethical leaders support the well-being of those they lead and serve.

Happy people who trust their ethical leaders tend to be more engaged, more creative and more productive. 

Paying attention to well-being makes sense.

In this case what’s good for employee well-being is good for the well-being of the organization too. 

Linda Fisher Thornton is an author, speaker, consultant and adjunct faculty member who helps organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™. Her new book is 7 Lenses.

 

Got Ethics? Are You Positive?

Got Ethics? Are You Positive?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Is your ethics training focused on positive values? In spite of all the bad news you’ve seen in the media about ethics, we don’t build ethical cultures by focusing on the negative. Let’s face it – thinking about fraud, embezzlement and conflict of interest won’t make us better leaders. But that’s what many of us are focusing on in our organizations.

The future of ethical leadership is intentional, proactive and positive. 

We need to stop focusing on NEGATIVE examples (what we don’t want) and start focusing on what ethical leadership looks like in action (what we do want). Ethical leadership at its best looks POSITIVE. That’s where we need to be focused in our conversations and our leader development.

Only by intentionally focusing on positive ethical values are we ethical leaders. 

Only by intentionally focusing on positive ethical values do we create ethical workplaces.

Operating in the realm of values means shaking off the temptation to become fixated only on laws and regulations. Laws and regulations are there to remind us of the minimum standards. We need to focus on the higher level values that should guide our work. Operating in the realm of values includes:

  • Having a positive vision of how values can transform our leadership and our organizations
  • Clearly understanding and communication the ethical behaviors we want people to use
  • Making day-to-day decisions based on positive ethical values

Being ready for the future of ethical leadership requires shaking off a compliance based mindset and operating in the realm of values. 

Have you “got ethics?” Is your ethics based on positive values?

Linda Fisher Thornton is an author, speaker, consultant and adjunct faculty member who helps organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™. Her new book is 7 Lenses.

It’s Not About Us

By Linda Fisher Thornton 

You may have noticed that society’s expectations of us as leaders are continuing to increase. Consumers prefer to choose companies that genuinely care about their well-being. Employees want to work for companies that treat people well, do meaningful work and give back to the community. To survive in this new land where ethics is key to success, we must understand that it is not all about us.

Its Not About Us

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.

Leadership may have once been defined by eloquence, power, or charisma, but today’s successful leadership is defined by creating 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. It has progressed from being “all about us” to being about our long-term impact on others.

FROM  SELF-CENTERED VIEW             TO  OTHER-CENTERED VIEW  

FROM  DEMONSTRATING POWER      TO  CREATING SHARED VALUE

What does this less self-centered view of leadership look like in action? It looks like this in a typical day:

  • Talking with employees, customers and other stakeholders to learn their deepest needs
  • Treating everyone with respect
  • Asking how we can make things better for those we lead and serve
  • Being open to change, adapting quickly, and staying competent (because these things define how others experience our leadership)
  • Keeping ethics at the center of everything we do and every decision we make

We need to avoid thinking that it’s all about us. Today’s less self-absorbed leadership is all about proactively and ethically creating value for others.

About Linda Fisher Thornton          

As CEO of Leading in Context, Linda Fisher Thornton  helps forward-thinking leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership.™ Linda’s book 7 Lenses (with a foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey) provides a clear multi-dimensional framework for leading ethically in  a global society.

LeadinginContext.com    Linda@LeadinginContext.com   @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

                     

Case Study: Overwhelmed

OverwhelmedBy Linda Fisher Thornton

“The issue of the overwhelmed employee looms large” according to Josh Bersin, Bersin by Deloitte. (Are You an Overwhelmed Employee? New Research Says Yes, LinkedIn, March 11, 2014). Employees are having a hard time managing an overload of information and tasks, and the problem is not getting any better as technology use continues to increase.

Have you ever gone to your manager to ask for help prioritizing your tasks? Usually we try to avoid it, and do it only as a last resort when we are overwhelmed. It may surprise you to know that how managers answer gives us a clue about their priorities, ethics and values. Let’s listen in as a manager responds to an overwhelmed employee who has come to her for help. 

Take 1

Employee Request: I’m working on 10 major projects, and all of them have tight deadlines. I’m getting behind and I’m not sure which ones are the highest priority. Can you help?

Manager Response:  They’re all important. I’m sure you’ll figure out how to get them all done.

Ethics and Values Insights: This manager has probably not communicated a set of values that should guide the employee’s work. She may not know how to prioritize the tasks herself, and is therefore not able to help her employee. Worse, she shows no compassion for the stress the employee is feeling, and the courage it must have taken to be willing to ask for help. She does not demonstrate respect or care for the employee or her work.

Without guiding values and a formal way to decide on priorities, work is overwhelming and lacks meaning.

Take 2

Employee Request: I’m working on 10 major projects, and all of them have tight deadlines. I’m getting behind and I’m not sure which ones are the highest priority. Can you help?

Manager Response:  There is a lot going on. Let’s take a look at your projects and how they support our top three department goals. Projects that support our top department goals will almost always have the highest priority, regardless of the deadlines… (reviews projects with employee). So that makes these two your top priorities. Let’s go back to the internal clients on these three lower priority projects to renegotiate the time frames.

Employee: That will help a lot, but both of those top two projects are due in the next three weeks. It will still be a challenge to get everything done.

Manager:  Give it your best effort this week and keep me posted on how it’s going. If you find that you still need help, I’ll see if someone from the product team can pitch in and help you one day a week. 

Ethics and Values Insights: This manager shows compassion for the stress the employee is feeling and offers to help, showing care and concern. She clearly knows the department’s priorities and sees her leadership role as enabling the success of her employees. It is clear that she values this employee and sees enabling her success as a leadership priority. Her leadership is based on the ethical values of respect and care.

With guiding values and a formal way to decide on priorities, work seems manageable, and employees feel valued. 

Dale Carnegie’s report “What Drives Engagement and Why It Matters” (White Paper, 2012) revealed that a “caring” manager is one of the key elements that drives employee engagement. So managers, let’s remove “It’s all important. I’m sure you’ll figure it out” from our vocabularies. It not only lacks respect and care, which are important ethical values, it also signifies that we are overwhelmed and incapable of helping employees sort things out.

About Linda Fisher Thornton         

As CEO of Leading in Context, Linda Fisher Thornton helps forward-thinking leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership.™  Linda’s award-winning book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership provides a clear framework for proactive ethical leadership (foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey).  See LeadinginContext.com/7Lenses for book details.

 

In Conversation About Ethics

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This week Realizing Leadership: Everyday Leaders Changing Our World published a cover story interview that I had with Laurie Wilhelm. We talked about what ethical leadership really means, how ethics and trust are related, and how leaders can learn to be more ethical from wherever they are. Here is a shortened excerpt from that interview. Click the cover to access the full article.

LW  “The world is changing and developing so once we figure out our ethics and where we want to take them, how often should we review what we think about ethics and how we’re managing them?

Realizing LeadershipLFT You can never talk about (ethics) enough. One of the things that is startling is when you think about how often we talk about profitability in organizations – “Did we make the quarterly numbers?”….. Are we talking about ethics as much or are we sending the message that profits are more important?… If we just harp on the money and not on the ethics and don’t balance the message, then it leads people to believe that if ethics and profits seem to conflict, they need to choose based on profits. This needs to be an almost constant dialogue to say “How are we going to balance our profit goals with all of these other ethical responsibilities?” and that’s where it really comes together.

Realizing Leadership,  Realizing Leadership in Conversation: Linda Fisher Thornton, Ethical Leadership, with Laurie Wilhelm, March 2014

About Linda Fisher Thornton         

As CEO of Leading in Context, Linda Fisher Thornton helps forward-thinking leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership.™  Linda’s award-winning book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership provides a clear framework for proactive ethical leadership (foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey).  See LeadinginContext.com/7Lenses for book details.

Making Decisions Like Global Citizens

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Character is important, but leading ethically in the fullest sense requires much more than just demonstrating good character. In this 2 minute video, I describe 7 different perspectives that you may hear around the table as you discuss ethical dilemmas in your organization. Instead of being competing perspectives, each one is an important element of the full picture of what it means to lead ethically in a global society.

As you watch, see how many of these 7 different perspectives you can recognize in your organization’s dialogue about ethics.

·

About Linda Fisher Thornton         

As CEO of Leading in Context, Linda Fisher Thornton helps forward-thinking leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership.™  Linda’s book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership provides a clear framework for proactive ethical leadership (foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey).  

Linda@LeadinginContext.com @leadingincontxt @7Lenses

How Do We Achieve Corporate Integrity?

Corporate IntegrityBy Linda Fisher Thornton

To achieve corporate integrity, we must do a number of things well. We need to have a clear message about what taking responsibility for ethics means to us; clear expectations for what it looks like in our organization day-to-day; and a congruent system for managing for ethical performance. 

There is a current ethics trend away from a “push” mentality when it comes to learning about ethics (making people do it) to a “pull” mentality (making it positive so that people will want to do it). Taking on a “pull mentality” involves creating a positive ethical environment, which includes:

  • Reaching beyond laws and regulations (they represent the punishment threshold, not ethical business)
  • Reaching for ethical values – respect, care, trust, doing good and avoiding harm

There are specific actions that we must take to develop a positive ethical culture where our ethics message and our day-to-day actions are clearly aligned. The 7 actions listed below are some of the most important ones to take on the journey to corporate integrity.

Companies With Corporate Integrity Develop:

  1. An ethical leader’s mindset.
  2. A multidimensional understanding of what ethical responsibility means in a global society.
  3. An ethics message that we keep current as times change.
  4. An awareness that profitability is not an ethical value and decisions about money must always be balanced with ethical values. 
  5. A well-informed leadership team that knows what leading ethically looks like in action.
  6. A quick response to problems, and full accountability for ethical behavior. 
  7. A consistent and integrated performance system that rewards ethical behavior.

About Linda Fisher Thornton        DSC_9672  As CEO of Leading in Context, Linda Fisher Thornton helps forward-thinking leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership.™  Linda’s book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership provides a clear framework for proactive ethical leadership (foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey).  

How Current is My Message About Ethics?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ethical expectations are continually increasing, and it is not always easy for leaders to keep up with the changes. This week, I’m sharing an assessment to help you answer the question “How current is my message about ethics?” 

We convey our beliefs about ethical responsibility through leadership development, ethics training, regular communications and daily actions.  The message we send sets the tone for the ethics of our organizations.

This assessment is based on the holistic 7 Lenses™ framework described in my book 7 Lenses. It will help you identify strengths and areas for improvement in your ethics message. Notice that the assessment is organized into 7 different perspectives on ethical responsibility. Each of these 7 Lenses™ is an important part of leading ethically in a global society, from profiting responsibly to contributing to the greater good of society. 

See how many of the 21 items below are already incorporated into your message about ethics, and check those off. After completing the assessment, add any items you didn’t check off to your list of goals for this year. 

What is My Message About Ethical Responsibility?

Lens 1: Profit

___ I describe profit as the result of doing business ethically and creating shared value.

___ I talk about ethics just about as often as I talk about profits to be sure that people know that it is just as important.

___ I lead open conversations about how to balance ethics and profits, because I know that at times they will seem to conflict.

Lens 2: Law

___ I make it clear that laws are the minimum standards in society, not the expected levels of behavior. 

___ I let leaders know that we need to aim higher than laws and regulations, to the ethical values behind those laws.

___ I talk openly about how we’ll handle situations where something is legal, but may harm our constituents and is therefore unethical.

Lens 3: Character

___ I go well beyond telling people to “do the right thing” and give them details about what that means in our organization.

___ I demonstrate ethical competence and expect it from every leader in the organization.

___  I make moral awareness an important part of leader education.

Lens 4: People 

___ I don’t tolerate negative interpersonal behaviors (like teasing, blaming and belittling).

___ I ask leaders to demonstrate respect for every person, regardless of differences. 

___ I expect leaders to honor the rights and dignity of each person, and they understand what that looks like (and doesn’t  look like) in action.

Lens 5: Communities

___ I make it clear to leaders that community service and involvement are key values in our organization.

___ I offer opportunities for leaders to be actively involved in efforts to support community programs. 

___ Our message is that supporting healthy, thriving communities helps everyone, including us. 

Lens 6:  Planet

___ I make sure that leaders know that in our organization sustainability is more than a pamphlet or a report, it is the way we work every day.

___ I let leaders know that life, nature and ecosystems are silent stakeholders that we must protect.

___ Our message is consistent – actions about sustainability and protecting the planet match our words.

Lens 7: Greater Good

___ Leaders know that our organization believes in creating a better world for all.

 ___ When making decisions, I ask people to think farther ahead than 1-5 years, to consider the long-term impact of their choices 100 years or more into the future.

___ I help leaders balance short-term gains with long-term responsibilities when they make decisions.

How current is your message about ethics?

About Linda Fisher Thornton          

As CEO of Leading in Context, Linda Fisher Thornton  helps forward-thinking leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership.™ Linda’s book 7 Lenses (with a foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey) provides a clear multi-dimensional framework for leading ethically in a complex world. Linda@LeadinginContext.com @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses 

 
“Each lens is part of ethical leadership, and when any one is ignored, we fail to lead ethically in its fullest interpretation.”
Linda Fisher Thornton, in 7 Lenses

What is the Ultimate Goal of Leadership?

Goal of LeadershipBy Linda Fisher Thornton

What is the ultimate goal of leadership? This question seems simple enough at first, and then begins to get tricky because it can’t be answered in one simple statement.

  • Is the goal of leadership to provide direction and model the performance we expect from others?
  • Is it to respect and serve?
  • Is it to support others and remove obstacles?
  • Is it to teach and mentor?
  • Is it to help bring out the best in those we lead as we work toward a common purpose?

Of course, leadership is about all of those things and more. So what is its ultimate goal? Here are four very different ways of thinking about the ultimate goal of leadership.

Profit

Using the Profit perspective, the goal of leadership is to ensure that the organization makes a profit so that it can continue its work. A theme song for this perspective might be “For the Love of Money” by the O’Jays (theme song for the U.S. version of The Apprentice).

People

Using the People perspective, the goal of leadership is to bring out the best in people through respect and care, and continual support for their success.  A theme song for this perspective might be R.E.S.P.E.C.T” by Otis Redding, sung by Aretha Franklin.

Service

Using the Service perspective, the goal of leadership is to serve others in ways that uplift lives and communities. A theme song for this perspective might be Lean on Me” by Bill Withers.

Greater Good

Using the Greater Good perspective, the goal of leadership is making choices that ensure a good life for future generations. The theme song for this perspective might be We Are the World” by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie.

The question is not “Which one of these perspectives is right?” because they are all important ways of thinking about the goal of leadership. They are part of a bigger view that incorporates many dimensions of leadership responsibility. The question is “How can we honor all of them?” In my new book, 7 Lenses, I explore these concepts in a framework of 7 important perspectives on what responsible leadership includes.  A 7 Lenses Book Club Discussion Guide is available to help groups discuss what they have learned and how they can apply it for individual and organizational improvement.

7 Lenses Book

About Linda Fisher Thornton        

DSC_9672

Linda’s book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership provides a clear framework for leading ethically in a complex world (foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey).  As CEO of Leading in Context, Linda Fisher Thornton helps forward-thinking leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership.™

Linda@LeadinginContext.com @leadingincontxt @7Lenses

Success From the Field Interview – Balancing Ethics and Profits

By Linda Fisher Thornton 

This week Will Eisenbrandt posted my interview with him about ethical leadership at NetworkedWealth.com.  This interview, the Success From the Field Podcast with Linda Fisher Thornton is a great overview of the 7 Lenses™ of Ethical Responsibility. In the interview, Will asks me how to balance ethical values in day-to-day decisions – for example, balancing profits with concern for the planet.

Managing ethics is all about balancing multiple values, and making sure that the trade-offs we make don’t harm others. The table below shows the 7 Lenses of Ethical Responsibility that I introduced in the book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership.  The 7 Lenses™ together give us a multidimensional view of ethical leadership, one that represents the complexity of the challenges that we deal with on a daily basis.

Ethical leadership is not something we will ever finish, or check off a to-do list. It is an ongoing learning journey. Think about which of the 7 Lenses your organization honors in day-to-day decisions and actions, and which ones represent areas for growth and improvement.

Click here for more author interviews about balancing ethical values and economic goals.

Subscribe to the Leading in Context Blog and never miss another post!

About Linda Fisher Thornton          

As CEO of Leading in Context, Linda helps forward-thinking leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership.™ Linda’s book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership (with a foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey) provides a clear framework for leading ethically in a complex world . 

“Each lens is part of ethical leadership, and when any one is ignored, we fail to lead ethically in its fullest interpretation.”
Linda Fisher Thornton, in 7 Lenses
  
Linda@LeadinginContext.com @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses  

12 Favorite Blog Posts of 2013

ThorntonBy Linda Fisher Thornton

It is difficult to believe that I have written well over 200 weekly blog posts since 2009. In the process of writing all of those posts, I gradually sharpened my focus and found my authentic voice as a blogger. (If you are interested in reading more about the ups and downs of that journey, see 150th Blog Post: Learning Out Loud). 

Today I have chosen my annual favorites – the posts that readers enjoyed and shared and that I think best convey an important message about how to Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™ in ourselves and our organizations. See if these 12 posts that I have picked as favorites strike a chord with you as well.

Dealing With Complexity in Leadership

Which of These is Ethical Leadership?

Leading the Conversation About Ethical Leadership

Managing Ethical Leadership as a Performance System

The Leading in Context Manifesto

Modeling Ethical Leadership and Behavior

What is Ethical Leadership?

10 Ways Leading With Ethics is Transformational

Bringing Out the Best in People and Organizations (Through Ethical Leadership)

What Ethical Leaders Believe

16 Trends Shaping the Future of Ethical Leadership

10 Ethical Leadership Questions for the New Year

Subscribe to the Leading in Context Blog and never miss another post!

About Linda Fisher Thornton          

As CEO of Leading in Context, Linda helps forward-thinking leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership.™ Linda’s book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership (with a foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey) provides a clear framework for leading ethically in a complex world . 

“Each lens is part of ethical leadership, and when any one is ignored, we fail to lead ethically in its fullest interpretation.”                                              
Linda Fisher Thornton, in 7 Lenses
Linda@LeadinginContext.com @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses  

7 Lenses (via Leadership Excellence Essentials)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I am honored that my article “7 Lenses: Principles and Practices” was included on page 34 in the January issue of Leadership Excellence Essentials that features tributes to Mandela.  This issue also includes articles by Warren Bennis, Dave Ulrich, Tom Peters and many others talking about leadership, strategy and engagement. 

LE_JAN2014_Page_01

Download View New Interactive PDF

This issue of Leadership Excellence Essentials is is shared with you with the permission of the publisher, hr.com.

7 Lenses Book

About Linda Fisher Thornton        

DSC_9672

Linda’s book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership provides a 

clear framework for leading ethically in a complex world (foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey).  As CEO of Leading in Context, Linda Fisher Thornton helps forward-thinking leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership.™

Linda@LeadinginContext.com @leadingincontxt @7Lenses

Understanding (and Preventing) Ethical Leadership Failures

Ethical Failures

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Understanding What Causes Ethical Leadership Failures

Ethical leadership failures can be caused by different types of problems that may compound. Some of these problems are individual and others may be embedded in the organizational culture.

In 7 Lenses, I describe the kind of proactive ethical leadership that builds ethical cultures. The book is a road map for how to lead ethically in a complex world. While 7 Lenses is written from a positive perspective to help leaders avoid ethical problems and create ethical cultures, I often get asked “What causes ethical failures? What goes wrong?”

So this week I am exploring that question from two perspectives – that of what individual leaders do (or don’t do) and common organizational problems.

Individual and Organizational Causes

Here is a starter list of some of the factors that can lead to ethical failure. The list includes things that individual leaders do (or don’t do), and things that organizations do (or don’t do) to set a positive example and support ethical thinking and behavior.

These factors are connected, and it is often difficult to isolate just one of them when something goes wrong. See if you recognize any of these happening in your organization.

Individual

Ignoring  Boundaries (Ignoring Ethics Codes And Organizational Values That Forbid An Action)

Failing to Use Self-Control (“I Will Do This Even Though It’s Not Allowed”)

Entitlement View (“I Definitely Deserve This Even Though It’s Not Allowed”)

Prominent Personal Values (“I Think This Is Really Fine To Do Even Though It’s Not Allowed”)

Crowd Following (“Everybody Else is Doing It, So It Must Be Fine”)

Lack of Moral Compass (“Nobody Specifically Said That I Can’t Do It, So It Must Be Fine If I Do It”)

Organizational

Lack of Clarity (“What Does Ethical Mean Around Here?”)

No Ethical Leadership and Behavior Standards (“There Are No Rules About This”)

Oversimplified Rules (“Just Do the Right Thing”)

Lack of Positive Role Models (“Who Is Doing It the Right Way?”)

No Training or Coaching (“How Will I Learn It?”)

No Accountability, No Enforcement (“Nothing Bad Happens If I Do It, Even Though It’s Not Allowed”)

No Performance Integration (“We Say We Want Ethics, But We Reward and Promote Based on Sales and Output”)

When Problems Happen, Scapegoats Are Quickly Fired (Instead of Learning From Mistakes and Fixing the Culture)

Compounding Factors

Keep in mind that ethical failures may or may not be due to just one of these factors, but several that compound to create a ripple effect. Here are a few examples where the problem is worsened due to a combination of factors.

  • There are no ethical leadership standards and no positive role models (no way to be sure what to do)
  • A leader has an entitlement view and there is a lack of clarity about what ethical leadership means in the organization (it is easier to justify entitlement, when ethical expectations are unclear).
  • A leader lacks a moral compass and the organization lacks ethical leadership standards (the leader may act based on personal ethics, which may be slanted toward self-gain).
  • A leader has trouble with ethical boundaries and there is no accountability for ethical behavior in the organization (It increases the chances of ethical problems when both the leader and the organization lack clear ethical boundaries).

Problems within the ethical culture clearly make it harder for individual leaders to stay on an ethical path.

Preventing  (or Identifying and Correcting) These Problems in Your Organization

Now imagine what can happen when you have 3 or more of these factors (and perhaps others not named here) happening at the same time. Each additional factor can make it easier for problems to develop. Our goal as leaders is to prevent the problems that lead to a failure of ethical leadership. To do that we need to start talking about the dynamics that cause ethical problems and how to keep them from happening in our organizations.  How do we start the conversation? Talk candidly with leaders at all levels about issues named above that may have become a problem in your organization. For a detailed conversation guide, see Leading the Conversation About Ethical Leadership. For an understanding of how to manage ethical performance in the organization see Managing Ethical Leadership as a Performance System.

Feel free to name additional factors that you have observed that can lead to ethical failure in your comments. 

Thornton

7 Lenses Book

About Linda Fisher Thornton        Linda’s book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership provides a clear framework for leading ethically in a complex world (foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey).  As CEO of Leading in Context, Linda Fisher Thornton helps forward-thinking leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership.™

Linda@LeadinginContext.com @leadingincontxt @7Lenses

 

100 Trends For 2014 (Including Responsibility and Reputation)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Staying competent is an important part of today’s proactive ethical leadership.

As we head into 2014, these trend reports will give you a “business leader’s preview” of what to expect in sectors that range from consumer trends, human resources and leadership to food, fashion and technology. Grab your warm beverage (the temperature has been in the single digits here in Virginia this week) and as you read, pay particular attention to the growing emphasis on responsibility and reputation.

Trends to Watch 2014

Global Trends

10 Key Trends to Watch For 2014 (Trends 1-5), GlobalTrends.com

10 Key Trends to Watch for 2014 (Trends 6-10), GlobalTrends.com (Note the trend of combining profit with responsibility)

The Futurist Magazine’s Top Ten Forecasts for 2014 and Beyond, Patrick Tucker, The Futurist, wfs.org

Consumer Trends

7 Consumer Trends to Run With in 2014, Trendwatching.com (Note the trend toward ethical products and green thinking)

10 Trends Changing How You’ll Shop in 2014,  Beth Braverman, Fiscal Times, TheWeek.com

Digital/Technology Trends

7 Huge Tech Trends to Expect in 2014, Lance Ulanoff, Mashable.com

2014 Digital Trends and Predictions From Marketing Thought Leaders, Ekaterina Walter, Forbes.com

Gartner Identifies the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2014, Gartner.com

People Leadership Trends

The Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2014, Dan Schawbel, Forbes.com (Note trend #10 Reputation)

5 Trends to Watch in Human Capital Management in 2014, Team Ceridian, Ceridian.com 

The Year of the Employee: Predictions for Talent, Leadership and HR Technology in 2014, Josh Bersin, Forbes.com

More Trends!

100 Things to Watch in 2014, Ann Mack, JWT Intelligence, JWTIntelligence.com

Looking Further With Ford, 2014 Trends, Ford.com (Broad trend look, not just auto trends)

Factors Affecting 2014 Medical Cost Trend, Price Waterhouse Cooper, pwc.com

Andrew Freeman and Company Presents: 2014 Trends #Blurred Lines, afandco.com (Food and Beverage)

Food Trends in 2014: from digital dining to healthy junk food, Amy Fleming, TheGuardian.com

First Look: The New Colors For Spring 2014, Alicia Lund, Elle.com

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7 Lenses BookAbout Linda Fisher Thornton

Linda’s book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership provides a clear framework for leading ethically in a complex world (foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey).  As CEO of Leading in Context, Linda Fisher Thornton helps forward-thinking leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™. In 2013, she was named to the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America.   Linda@LeadinginContext.com @leadingincontxt @7Lenses

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