What is Positive Leadership?

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Positive leadership is a new term that is popping up regularly in articles. What does it mean? What kind of leadership do we describe as positive?

What is Positive Leadership?

Positive leaders stay grounded in ethical values and use a human growth mindset. They are fixed and flexible at the same time, never straying from ethics but always willing to change with the times. 

The Basis?    Positive Ethical Values

The Assumption?    People Will Do Amazing Things if We Intentionally Bring Out Their Best

The Goal?  Lead in Ways That Bring Out People’s Best Capabilities

The Culture?   Respectful, Transparent and Supportive

The Leadership?   Encouraging, Available, Contributing to People’s Success and Well-Being, Helping People Be Co-Owners of the Organization’s Success, Helping Them Learn and Grow, Helping Them Reach Their Potential.

The Interactions?   Net Positive (Many more positive than negative interactions)

Positive leaders extend a welcome to all stakeholders and help them discover their possibilities, capabilities and contributions.

What is the essence of being a positive leader? Focusing on the best in others while working on becoming the best of ourselves. 

Learn More: 

The Impact of Positive Leadership, Gallup Business Journal

Positive Organizational Behavior in the Workplace: The Impact of Hope, Optimism and Resilience, Carolyn M. Youssef, Fred Luthans, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, unl.edu

The Power of Positive Communication, The University of Arizona

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Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future – Help Them Learn To See Through The 7 Lenses®. 

Includes case examples and questions.

 

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©2015 Leading in Context LLC

 

Ethical and Unethical Sales Leadership: What’s The Difference?

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Unfriendly Sales Techniques 

Times are still tight for consumers and salespeople are concerned about their jobs. It seems that is more tempting now than it would be in a booming economy to use high-pressure tactics or other unfriendly approaches in order to get business.  And pushy, unfriendly sales techniques stand out even more in difficult economic times. Customers will go out of their way to avoid companies that use them.

Some unfriendly approaches that I have observed recently include:

  • More cold calls than usual
  • People ignoring “no soliciting” signs
  • People who won’t stop talking when you politely say that you’re not interested
  • People who continue to try to sell you additional services before taking the time to resolve a problem that you’ve called about

What’s the Difference Between Ethical and Unethical Selling?

See if you can relate to these descriptions of ethical and unethical selling, and take a moment to consider the important leadership questions that follow.

Unethical Selling

Selling my product (even if you don’t want it).

Ignoring the boundaries of privacy and space and being blind to our negative impact on the customer. 

Talking or pushing my way in. Lying or over promising and failing to deliver.

“You buy it and I make money. Since I was pushy, you don’t ever want to see me again.”

Ethical Selling

Meeting your need, if I can with my services.

Sharing information that is helpful to my customer. No strings.

Respecting boundaries and customer wishes.

Building trust. I meet my sales goal by how well I meet the needs of my customers.

“Since I was helpful, you are likely to buy more from me and refer friends.”

Which Kind of Selling Is My Team Using?

While pushy sales techniques may generate business in the short run, customers are quick to share negative experiences on social media and will caution their friends against dealing with people who try to “get the sale at all cost.” They realize that unethical sales people are trying to gain at the expense of their customers.

Ethical salespeople, on the other hand, focus on building trust over the long-term. They want to help their customers succeed and can see past “just the money” to provide a real service that makes people’s lives better. In taking the high road, they generate successful results for themselves, their customers and their organizations. Which sales approaches are your salespeople using?

Sales Leaders – Ask Yourselves These Important Questions:

1. Have I ever been aware of my staff using approaches that are unfriendly or dishonest, and not asked them to stop?

2. Have I set up a reward system that may lead sales people to use unethical approaches in order to get short-term rewards?

3. How can I be sure that my team understands that I want them to meet customer needs with our product instead of using unfriendly, high-pressure approaches?

4. How can I convey more clearly that being  respectful is part of the ethics of selling?

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5 Warning Signs Of Oversimplified Ethics

 

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Leaders and organizations can get into real trouble if they oversimplify ethics. Some examples of what that might look like include dormant ethics statements (that look good on paper but are not brought to life) and grandiose statements (that are vague and not well understood). 

Here are 5 warning signs to watch for that signal an oversimplified approach to ethics:

5 Warning Signs Of Oversimplified Ethics

1. Ethical values are communicated, but never explained or practiced.

2. Ethics is thought of as a program or a requirement, not a way of thinking and acting.

3. Ethical values and ethical learning are treated as separate from the core mission of the organization,

4. Discussions about ethical grey areas are quickly discouraged.

5. Ethics training and leadership training are separate (which won’t prepare leaders to make ethical decisions in their daily work).

To make the boundaries of ethics clear, we need to explore the borders and grey areas. Trying to make things CLEAR and keeping them SIMPLE are not at all the same.

 

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What is Research?

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

What is research? The answer depends on your perspective. Some people believe the definition is very narrow, and only if you “do it right” in the scientific sense does it meet the requirements of proper research. Others believe that research includes paying attention to messages from all areas of our lives and using that information to achieve insight and understanding. I believe that there is merit in both interpretations. Here are some very interesting thoughts on how to define research:

“If we knew what we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?”    

Albert Einstein

“What is research but a blind date with knowledge?”    

Will Harvey

“In true education, anything that comes to our hand is as good as a book: the prank of a page-boy, the blunder of a servant, a bit of table talk – they are all part of the curriculum.”   

Michel de Montaigne

“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying without a purpose.”

Zora Neale Hurston

“Research is creating new knowledge.”

Neil Armstrong

Why is this question important? I believe that we gain understanding of sub-parts and elements of a problem by doing formal scientific research. Limiting ourselves to formal research within one field, though, may not provide insights into solutions that work well with interconnected systems and globally compounded problems. 

When I was researching my book 7 Lenses, I didn’t find a clear definition of ethical leadership by looking within the discipline of ethical leadership. Only by looking across multiple disciplines and noticing patterns and trends was I able to find clarity. 

The word “research” originated in the late 1500’s and originally meant “to seek” or “to search” in Middle French (dictionary.com). I believe that we gain an understanding of the whole picture by taking in a broad array of information in the course of our lives. Without that kind of awareness, we are destined to understand the small pieces but miss the connections and the greater meaning. 

Think about how you would define “research.” Is your definition narrow, broad or both? 

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Hitting the High Notes

By Linda Fisher Thornton 

When I was singing with a local chorus many years ago, I took voice lessons. My teacher had me start by singing scales while she listened. After my voice cracked, I explained that I had trouble “hitting the high notes.” I explained that I was an Alto, not a Soprano and the high notes seemed way out of my reach.

Our Thoughts Drive What We Do

Listening to me try to hit those high notes, she encouraged me to stretch to reach them. But over a period of weeks of practice, my ability to reach them didn’t get much better. Then I learned a valuable lesson about how what we think determines what we do. I had a breakthrough when I realized that the piano keyboard visually has no high or low on it. It goes left to right. I started to think about my voice that way, as singing the notes from left to right instead of up and down.

Upgrading Our Mindset

That change in my thinking greatly expanded my singing range and I was no longer struggling to reach the high notes. I have learned through the years that changing our experience can be as simple as changing the way we perceive it. When our mindset changes, our actions follow.

Upgrading Our Leadership

This lesson also applies to how well we adapt our leadership as the world changes. Are we using the mindset of an ethical leader? Are we modeling full inclusion, or do we treat some types of people better than others? Are we placing a priority on our own development, or have we settled into a comfortable zone where we no longer challenge ourselves to learn and grow? 

We should never settle for a limited range and give up on adapting to change

Identify an area in your leadership where you might not be hitting the high notes, and where changing your mindset could make all the difference. 

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Webinar “Leading For the Future”

 

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Many leaders wonder how to prepare for an uncertain future – one that is filled with complexity, changing expectations and an increasing global awareness about ethical responsibility.

On October 13, 2015 I will be presenting a webinar for CUPA-HR (College and University Professional Association For Human Resources) that explores strategies for helping leaders and organizations prepare. Below is a description of the Webinar and a link for registering to attend. 

“Leading For the Future: Responding to Increasing Ethical Expectations”

Expectations for responsible leadership are increasing, and any ethical mistakes can be highly visible on social media. University administrators and faculty members must adapt to this new high-visibility environment, and HR can help through leadership development programs and by having an understanding of what it takes to sustain an ethical culture. 

During this webinar, you’ll hear about trends in ethical leadership and gain an awareness of the level of ethical leadership that is expected in a global society. You’ll get an introduction to the 7 Lenses® model — a kaleidoscopic view of ethical leadership described in Linda Fisher Thornton’s book 7 Lenses. You will learn about ethical culture as a human performance system aligned around positive ethical values. You’ll also walk away with practical strategies for building a proactive ethical culture and helping your institution’s leaders stay ahead of increasing ethical expectations.

Presenter: Linda Fisher Thornton

Chief Executive Officer, Leading in Context LLC and

Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Richmond SPCS

I hope you’ll join me to learn more about how to prepare for the future of leadership. You can register for the free webinar at this link: CUPA-HR Leading For The Future Webcast.

 

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Just Say No To 10 Behaviors That Kill Competence

20140322_142728By Linda Fisher Thornton

On the lifelong quest to become our best selves, we must stretch and grow and learn from our mistakes. Being a flexible and willing learner, we more easily stay competent as the world changes. 

Here are 10 things that we must NEVER do if we are to accomplish the elusive goal of becoming our best selves:

Just Say No To 10 Behaviors That Kill Competence

  1. Being Too Busy For Professional and Personal Development
  2. Refusing to Use Time-Saving Tools Because We Don’t Want to Learn Them
  3. Ignoring Signs That We Need to Change
  4. Thinking Current Trends Are “Just a Fad” That Will Pass
  5. Refusing to Read or Be Open To Anything That Disagrees With Our Point of View
  6. Working Harder But Never Smarter
  7. Refusing to Listen To Feedback
  8. Thinking We Can Treat People Any Way We Want To, Using Any Kind of Colorful Language 
  9. Stubbornly Clinging To An Opinion In the Face of Overwhelming Evidence To the Contrary
  10. Doing The Same Things We’ve Always Done (As the World Changes….)

Why Are These Behaviors Competence Killers?

If we say Yes to any of these behaviors, we are no longer adding value. We are no longer learning.

We have moved from being an organizational asset to being a liability.

Competence is a critical part of responsible leadership. We may miss some steps along the way and make mistakes as we learn, but we should always make it a priority to stay competent. Say NO to these 10 behaviors that kill competence.

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What is “Good Food” (In an Ethical Sense)?

20140927_160727By Linda Fisher Thornton

What is “Good” Food?

I was reading an article that ranked food products, and I began to think about how many different variables define “good” or “best” when we’re talking about food products. One variable is how good the food tastes. But there are many more. Shoppers may consider variables that include:

  • flavor
  • appearance
  • convenience
  • number of servings
  • packaging
  • cost

That list is missing something, though. What about all of the decisions that happen before the food gets to the store that also impact the consumer? Many of those decisions determine whether or not the end product contributes to our overall health. 

“Good Food” Supports Health and Well Being

There are many ethical dimensions of food products. We don’t see them – they may not be advertised, and are decided well before the product reaches us. They are determined by big and small decisions made by others, including business leaders. And they impact our health and well-being.

Consumers are frequently using widely available information and reviews when choosing foods, and they often consider ethical variables in addition to the obvious ones listed above. There is a movement toward supporting well-being, and consumers increasingly want to know that foods they buy contribute to their overall well-being.  

If we started with a blank chalkboard and listed aspects of food and food production that support well-being and represent ethical practices, what would we list? What are the variables that define “good food” from an ethical standpoint? Below is a starting list of 12 ethical dimensions of “good food.” Feel free to suggest others!

Ethical Dimensions of “Good Food”

  1. Nutritional Value (vitamins, minerals, nutrients, calories, fat, sugar, fiber, salt)                             
  2. Simplicity (how little it has been altered from its natural state – avoiding alterations that negatively affect human health)
  3. Purity (avoiding toxins, additives and filler ingredients)
  4. Growing Conditions (plants – avoiding use of suspected carcinogens and toxic pesticides; animals – avoiding using drugs or additives or feed that risk human health, humane conditions)
  5. Sourcing (ethical labor and production)
  6. Distribution (eco-transport)
  7. Brand (transparent, avoiding greenwashing and false claims)
  8. Sales and Marketing (honest and accurate, appropriate)
  9. Glycemic Index (impact on blood sugar levels)
  10. Inflammation Effect (immune system response)
  11. Avoidance of Harm (food is safe and does no harm)
  12. Wellness Impact (enhances overall wellness)

There are multiple dimensions of what “good food” means and expectations are continuing to increase.  Ideally good food would have a high nutritional value and would contribute to overall wellness, be ethically grown, produced, sourced, transported and sold. What does all of this mean for leaders? There’s a lot to consider beyond the taste test.

What other ethical variables would you add to this list?

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Forbes Business Article: “So You’d Like To Work in a More Ethical Culture?”

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Forbes published an article by Victor Lipman last week in which he responded to my post 40 Ways To Build an Ethical Culture. In the article, he discusses how leaders can use the practical list to build a better workplace. 

Why should we care about creating a proactive ethical culture? 

  • It keeps us sharp and agile and ready to respond to changing expectations
  • It makes our workplaces appealing to current and prospective employees
  • It attracts customers, suppliers and partners that care about ethics

What is the most positive reason of all to care about creating an ethical culture? We get to help people learn to make positive choices based on ethical values before they have problems (instead of just cleaning up ethical messes when it’s too late).

You can read the complete article at the link below.

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Imperfectly Human

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

We are all imperfectly human.   We make mistakes. We do things that aren’t responsible.

Yes we ALL do things that aren’t responsible at times. If you think you’re exempt, let me ask you this. Have you never crept even one mile per hour over the speed limit? Have you never crossed the street outside of the marked cross walk? Have you never said something hurtful to another person?

Yes, we’re all imperfectly human. We need to plan ahead, to prepare ourselves for the moments when we may  be tempted to fall into imperfect behavior.

When we want to learn to drive a car, we learn safe and courteous driving rules. We practice driving for many hours on the road. We get feedback from experienced drivers and improve our driving over time. We eventually pass a driving test and are cleared to drive.

That leads me to wonder if we are preparing our leaders as carefully, or if we sometimes throw them into situations they are not prepared to handle. Do we give our “new leaders” the careful preparation we give new drivers? 

Are our leaders cleared to LEAD? 

Leaders do not think they are well prepared according the Ready-Now Leaders: DDI Global Leadership Forecast 2014-2015, which reports that “the overwhelming majority of leaders are still saying they are not satisfied with their organization’s development offerings.” Only “37% of leaders rated the quality of their organization’s development programs as high or very high.”

So where do we go from here?

Failing to prepare leaders for what they’ll face is not just potentially bad for their success, it’s also an ethical problem for their employees and for the organization. Without tools for handling complex challenges, people may make more mistakes than they need to. Some of those mistakes can be costly to the leader’s future and the organization’s reputation.

If we want leaders to be ready to handle the steep learning curve and the tough challenges that come with the job, we’ll need to do these things:

  • Help them handle the complexity that is a reality in their day-to-day leadership.
  • S-T-R-E-T-C-H them to help them prepare for the challenges they face as leaders in a global society.
  • Make them aware of their own mindsets and assumptions.
  • Build a sturdy culture based on positive ethical values.
  • Teach them how to PREVENT ethical problems, not just how to cope with them if they happen.
  • Show them how to add value for multiple constituents and think beyond themselves.
  • Provide clear support for ethical choices at all levels in the organization, including the C-Suite.
  • Make trust building a leadership priority.

Ask them if they’re ready

Ask your leaders how well prepared they think they are and listen carefully to their answers. Preparing leaders for success today requires much more than simply providing a training program and a handbook. It requires leadership development designed for people who are imperfectly human. 

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© 2013 Leading in Context LLC

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Finding Meaning Requires Growth

By Linda Fisher Thornton

When Nicolae Tanase at ExcellenceReporter.com asked me to submit an entry for his Meaning of Life project, I hesitated. It was a question I had often thought about. But it was a big one, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to tackle it publicly. After thinking it over, I decided that the question was related to my work in human development and leadership, and that a clear answer could be valuable to readers. I agreed to participate and submit an entry.

What is the Meaning of Life?

After pondering the question for a couple of week, I realized that the way we interpret the meaning of life depends on our perspective, our stage of life and our level of human development. The link below takes you to my answer to Nicolae’s question that was published on June 17th. As you read, think about how you would have answered his question. 

Linda Fisher Thornton: The Meaning of Life and Human Development

Questions to Ponder:

1. What makes your life and leadership meaningful and fulfilling?

2. How might your answer change as you go through the different stages of your life?

3. How could your answer impact how you lead others?

 

Follow @leadingincontxt and @7Lenses for insights into leading through complexity without losing sight of ethical values.

 

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Which Values Are Ethical Values?

Tell-me-what-you-payBy Linda Fisher Thornton

My Applied Ethics students asked a great question that I want to answer in today’s post:  “Which Values Are Ethical Values?”

Quick Overview

Not all values are ethical values. Some values, such as efficiency, do not have an ethical component. Some ethical values involve qualities of an ethical self (such as honesty and integrity). Others describe positive and ethical behavior toward others, the environment and society.

Ethical values by definition are positive and they often require that we stretch outside of our own interests to respect, protect, serve and help others.

A (Starter) List of Ethical Values

  • Accountability
  • Altruism
  • Avoiding Harm
  • Benevolence
  • Care
  • Citizenship
  • Collaboration (See also Mutual Benefit)
  • Competence (Ethical)
  • Confidentiality
  • Doing Good
  • Fairness
  • Global World View
  • Greater Good
  • Honesty
  • Inclusion
  • Integrity
  • Justice
  • Kindness
  • Long-Term Thinking
  • Moral Awareness
  • Mutual Benefit
  • Open-Mindedness
  • Personal Congruence (Thoughts, words and actions aligned)
  • Positive Intent
  • Precaution (Choosing safe, healthful ingredients in food products, for example)
  • Preventing Harm
  • Respect For Boundaries
  • Respect For Others
  • Respect For Human Rights and Dignity
  • Service
  • Support For Well-Being of Others
  • Sustainability
  • Taking Responsibility
  • Transparency
  • Trustworthiness
  • Valuing Differences

Our values define who we are and drive the choices we make. Don’t let your daily decisions be made on autopilot. Choose the ethical values that will guide your life and your leadership.

 

For more on ethical values, see ChangeThis.com publication “What Ethical Leaders Believe” and Linda’s leadership book 7 Lenses, which gives a clear picture of ethical values through 7 Lenses and 14 Guiding Principles. 

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If Every Leader Cared

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I wonder what our workplaces would be like if every leader cared. Most leaders care about their own well-being. But what if every leader cared about others? How would things be different?

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In an organization where every leader cared, wouldn’t we experience improved employee engagement and customer retention? Wouldn’t it be easier to recruit and retain talented and dedicated employees? Wouldn’t we be able to get more done? 

If Every Leader Cared

  • Employees would pass the care they received on to coworkers, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders.
  • Those happy coworkers, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders would pass the care on…
  • And we would all approach our work with more empathy and understanding
  • Each worker could accomplish more with caring support
  • And the organization would be more efficient and effective
  • Attracting customers, suppliers, and partners who cared…

This video is a great conversation starter about the importance of care and empathy for others. Use it to have conversations today about what it means to provide caring leadership in your organization.

 

I’ve named some scenarios that could happen in an organization where every leader cared. What would you add?

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How Does Struggle Shape Us as Leaders?

20150502_100843By Linda Fisher Thornton

On the journey to ethical leadership, we all struggle.

We struggle to make ethical choices when there are multiple stakeholders to consider. 

We struggle to balance competing interests, high expectations, information overload and overbooked schedules.

We struggle to be at our best in difficult circumstances.

This struggle is often seen as negative – something that pulls us down and keeps us from succeeding. But what if we looked at it another way? Isn’t the struggle, this personal growth journey, this quest to achieve when the odds are against us, the same thing that enables our success?

If we see the struggle as a brick wall that we can’t get past, though, it stops us. Rejected 10 times? It’s not going to work out. Group experiencing chaos during a big change? We must be failing as a leader.

If we see the struggle as a natural part of the journey, it fuels us. Rejected 10 times? We’re that much closer to a “yes.” Our group in chaos during a big change? We’re on the verge of progress. 

In Marcia Reynold’s book The Discomfort Zone, she points out that “the discomfort zone is the moment of uncertainty when people are most open to learning.” Reynolds acknowledges that this is a vulnerable state to be in, but points out that “when you’re vulnerable, that’s when radical growth happens.”

We choose our response to the struggle. If we choose a GROWTH mindset, we see struggle as a natural part of our leadership journey. The growth mindset most closely matches the difficult long-term process of human growth that is a critical part of good leadership.

While it may feel like climbing straight up a steep cliff, growth is necessary for good leadership. 

How does this struggle shape us? It helps us develop the capacity to handle increasingly difficult challenges. It helps us stay open to new possibilities. It helps us become the best possible version of ourselves.

Choose to take on this journey, the struggle for growth that helps us become authentic leaders.

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The Power of Trustworthy Leadership

 

When-people-trust-theirBy Linda Fisher Thornton

Why is trustworthy leadership so powerful? How does it set a positive tone and lead organizations to better performance? These 5 reasons quickly come to mind.

 The Power of Trustworthy Leadership

1. Leading with values creates a safe work environment and builds trust.

2. When people trust their leaders, they are free to create amazing work.

3. When people trust their leaders, they are also more likely to trust each other.

4. Organizations with high trust release the natural creativity and potential of the people who work there.

5. The transformational effects of #1-4 above propel high-trust organizations to greater performance.

Leading in ways that build trust releases the inherent potential within the organization and its people. It brings out everyone’s best. And it’s gaining momentum. Are you part of the Trust Movement?

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