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.
 
 

 

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.

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

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

 

10 Ethical Leadership Questions For the New Year

10 Questions

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ethical leadership is evolving, and expectations are increasing. Will we be ready? As we go into the New Year, here are some questions to ponder:

1. What does “ethical” mean to me?

2. Would someone observing my leadership know that I intend to be an ethical leader?

3. If so, how would they know? If not, what could I do differently so that they would know?

4. How broadly am I considering what happens to my constituents?

5. Where could I be more proactive and intentional about my ethics?

6. How carefully am I managing my ethical competence?

7. How consistently do I show respect when my views don’t align with someone else’s views?

8.  How well do I seek solutions that are mutually beneficial, not just self-serving?

9.  How well do I model the highest ethical values so that others can learn from me?

10. How am I using my leadership and service to make a positive difference?

In the New Year, let’s be intentional about our learning journey, and seek ways to improve in all of these aspects of our leadership. If you’re feeling especially open to learning, ask your team to help you answer these questions about yourself. The insights you gain could be amazing.

7 Lenses Book

About Linda Fisher Thornton

As CEO of Leading in Context, Linda Fisher Thornton helps forward-thinking leaders and organizations bring out their best by developing ethical leaders and aligning ethical leadership performance systems. In 2013, she was named one of the Global Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America. Linda’s new book is 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership


Leading in Context is a leader in providing clear tools for businesses of all sizes for implementing “ethical leadership future.”   

16 Trends Shaping the Future of Ethical Leadership

Thornton

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Today, I want to share with you the picture of the future that I see, based on a powerful movement toward positive, proactive ethical leadership. As a global community, we are increasingly aware of the impact of our choices on others.  We are more aware of our human connection and our responsibilities to one another. 

There is a trend toward considering our responsibilities broadly, beyond making profits to also making a difference. 

Here is my list of 16 trends shaping the future of ethical leadership. 

As we head into the New Year, let’s help our leaders be ready for this positive, proactive “ethical leadership future.”

16 Trends Shaping the Future of Ethical Leadership

To learn more about the future of ethical leadership, see the “What Ethical Leaders Believe” Manifesto by Linda Fisher Thornton at ChangeThis.com.

7 Lenses Book

About Linda Fisher Thornton

As CEO of Leading in Context, Linda Fisher Thornton helps forward-thinking leaders and organizations bring out their best by developing ethical leaders and aligning ethical leadership performance systems. In 2013, she was named one of the Global Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America. Linda’s new book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership provides a clear framework for learning to lead ethically in a complex world. 

Leading in Context is a leader in providing clear tools for businesses of all sizes for implementing “ethical leadership future.”   

Ethics is About What’s Right (Not Who’s Right)

What's RightBy Linda Fisher Thornton

If you’ve read the news lately, you’ve noticed that there is a lot of discussion about who is right. Each person has an individual perspective that seems to be “right” from where they sit.  Each group has values and norms that seem right to its members. How can we make sense out of it all? When we need to make a critical decision, and everyone around us is arguing passionately for a different approach, how will we know which one is most right?

Moving Beyond Who’s Right to What’s Right 

In order to move beyond who’s right to what is ethically right, we’ll need to consider multiple questions when we evaluate our choices. Here are five important elements that make up the concept of “ethically right”:

CHARACTER

Which approach best demonstrates a strong character and moral awareness?

THINKING BEYOND SELF

Which approach demonstrates the most care and concern for others?

DOING MORE THAN THE MINIMUM

Which approach advocates the highest moral principles?

DOING GOOD (AND AVOIDING HARM)

Which approach does the most good (and the least harm)?

MUTUAL BENEFIT

Which approach benefits the most stakeholders?

Moving the Conversation From Who’s Right to What’s Right

Ethics has been getting a bad name in the press lately, because almost all of the coverage about ethics is about the lack of it.  I think it’s time we stopped talking about failures, and started talking about what ethics is really all about. It’s about demonstrating moral awareness and grounding, caring for what happens to other people, and doing good in the world. Are you suprised? Ethics is not about power or punishment. It’s about doing what’s right.

How can we move from a who is right discussion to a what is right discussion?

I suggest that we think about that question from a learning perspective. When we approach ethics as something we need to learn, the conversation changes in powerful ways:

  • Ethics becomes personal, about us and our choices, not about impersonal rules and regulations.
  • Since the world is always changing, we approach ethics as an ongoing learning journey.
  • We are open to other people’s ideas and that helps us resolve problems and make ethical decisions.

Being open to learning completely changes the conversation. When we use a learning mindset, the “debate” about who is right becomes a dialogue about how we can all do better.

About Linda Fisher Thornton

7 Lenses BookAs CEO of Leading in Context, Linda Fisher Thornton helps forward-thinking leaders and organizations bring out their best by developing ethical leaders and aligning ethical leadership performance systems. In 2013, she was named one of the Global Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America. Linda’s new book is 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership

“What Ethical Leaders Believe” Manifesto, ChangeThis.com

Leading in Context is a leader in providing clear tools for businesses of all sizes for implementing “ethical leadership future.”   

The 7 Lenses Story – A Closer Look Radio Interview

By Linda Fisher Thornton

ThorntonI am honored to have had the opportunity to do a radio interview last week with Pam Atherton of A Closer Look Radio. She invited me to talk with her about my new book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership. In the interview she asked questions that many of you may have about ethical leadership, and I walked listeners through the book’s framework for leading ethically in a complex world (click below to listen).

Ethics in business – The 7 Lenses of ethical responsibility

with Linda Fisher Thornton

7 Lenses

It has been wonderful to hear from so many of you in the past week about how 7 Lenses is helping you, and your plans to use it for leader learning in your organizations.

7 Lenses clarifies what it means to lead ethically in the fullest sense of what that means in a complex world. I am enjoying receiving many unsolicited comments from readers. Here are some of my favorites - “It’s about time!” “I wish I’d had this book years ago…” If you haven’t read it yet, it is available at Amazon.com and 800-ceo-read, with digital versions for Kindle, iPad and Nook available soon. 

About Linda Fisher Thornton

Linda was named one of the 2013 Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America. Her new book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership is a clear framework for leading ethically in a complex world (Foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey). In addition to her role as CEO of Leading in Context LLC, a leadership development consultancy, she also teaches as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Leadership for the University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies. 

Bringing Out the Best in People and Organizations

7 LensesBy Linda Fisher Thornton

After 4 years of researching and writing, I am proud to announce that my new book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership is launching this week.

7 Lenses proposes a framework for learning the kind of ethical leadership that brings out the best in people and organizations. It is written for leaders who want to build ethical companies and cultures, stronger communities and a better world.

It provides a road map for learning how to lead in ways that fully honor personal, interpersonal and societal dimensions of ethical responsibility. The four-quadrant model and case studies give readers a clear picture of the kind of ethical leadership we need.

In the foreword, Stephen M. R. Covey writes “Use this wonderful book as a guide on your ethical leadership journey, and you will deeply engage your workforce and build enduring trust.”

Thornton_01v3

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC

7 Lenses is organized in three parts. Part One answers the question “What is ethical leadership?” from 7 different perspectives that together form a multidimensional model I call the 7 Lenses™. Part Two guides leaders in applying 14 Guiding Principles that honor all 7 Lenses. Part Three explores how ethical expectations are changing, and describes six connected trends shaping the future of ethical leadership.

This book was written to answer these questions:

1) What is ethical leadership in a complex world?
2) Why don’t ethics experts agree about it?
3) What is the framework we should be using to guide our day-to-day leadership?
4) How can we stay ahead of changes in ethical expectations?

While 4 years ago, I did not have answers to these questions, now 7 Lenses answers them clearly and practically. It is no longer enough to honor the triple bottom line. This book will help you reach for the highest level of ethical leadership, honoring all 7 dimensions of ethical responsibility. See LeadinginContext.com/7 Lenses for more information. 

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC

About Linda Fisher Thornton

Linda was named one of the 2013 Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America. Her new book is 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership. She also teaches as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Leadership for the University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies. 

The LeadinginContext Manifesto is a statement of belief about ethical leadership that is behind the book 7 Lenses and Thornton’s movement to bring out the best in people, organizations and communities. www.LeadinginContext.com

What is Ethical Leadership?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

What is ethical leadership? I have been exploring that question on the Leading in Context Blog for the last four years. This week, I’ve chosen some highlights from popular posts to illustrate what leading in a complex world requires of each of us.

Leading ethically in a global society requires much more than following laws and regulations. We must take on a global mindset, maintain an openness to learning, actively build trust, and so much more.

We must move away from a compliance mindset, and reach for a values-based mindset that considers much more (see the highest level on this three-level graphic).

Which of These is Ethical Leadership

Expectations Beyond Compliance and Laws

“Following laws and regulations is just above the punishment threshold for ethical leadership. Expectations are moving to a much higher level, a level at which we are expected to do much more. Look at the third level, the highest level of the graphic. Aren’t transparency, sustainability and honoring human rights now expected of all businesses? I believe they are, and there are other factors we need to consider that are not on this list. The minimum standard is gradually moving to a higher level as we better understand the impact of our choices on others in a global society.”       

Linda Fisher Thornton, Which of These is Ethical Leadership?

Openness to Learning

“When we are not open to learning, we can easily misinterpret another perspective that does not match our own as a threat. That perspective that we are actively arguing against may in fact reflect a more current, more advanced, or more ethical perspective than ours. Failing to acknowledge that there are other perspectives on an issue (and that the people who hold them have a right to their views as much as we do) shows a lack of respect, and a lack of awareness…”

Linda Fisher Thornton, Civility and Openness to Learning

Inclusion

“Managing diversity without inclusion as the ultimate goal can make a big difference in the way employees experience our organization. We choose a way of thinking that represents what we’re trying to do and then build a process/program/structure or measurement based on that foundation. If diversity is our way of thinking, we may get an approach based on “differences,” rather than one based on creating an inclusive culture where a diverse group of people can do their best work.”

Linda Fisher Thornton, Differences or Inclusion: Which Are We Focusing On?

Service and Care

“One of the elements of ethical leadership that may be overlooked when we view ethics using a “legal lens” is supporting and developing the potential of the people we lead. While many leadership ethics programs focus on the risk side of ethics – compliance with laws and regulations, avoiding lawsuits, etc., there is an equally important side of ethics that involves care.” Linda Fisher Thornton, Ethical Leaders Care

A High Trust Environment

“On the surface, it doesn’t seem that curiosity and imagination are related to ethics. But think about what would happen in an environment where people were not able to use them. Could employees still be relied on to consistently behave ethically in an environment where they were not engaged in their work, and where they did not feel respected or fairly treated?”

Linda FIsher Thornton, Curiosity and Imagination Necessary Ingredients in Ethical Business

A Global Mindset

“When we see the world as a global society, we see that we need to act as if what happens to others, even people we may never meet, matters. We all share space, food and natural resources. We also share international communication and transportation systems and a global economy. Thinking about our planet as home to a global society, it is clear that we must act as if what happens to the environment matters. Our survival is dependent on the limited resources we have available and how responsibly we use them.” 

Linda Fisher Thornton, Ethical Leadership and… a Global Society

Honoring Human Rights

“As leaders, we are expected to protect human rights in all that we do. In our quest to lead responsibly, we must continually consider the question “How do we need to change in order to better honor human rights?” If you are in the process of developing a corporate human rights policy, A Guide for Business: How to Develop a Human Rights Policy (UN Human Rights, Global Compact) is helpful in beginning the discussion.”

Linda Fisher Thornton, Honoring Human Rights is Essential

Staying ready to lead ethically in a globally networked world will require continual learning and a broad understanding of what ethical responsibility includes. Let’s get started…

About Linda Fisher Thornton Linda Fisher Thornton is the author of  7 Lenses, a guide for learning how to bring out the best in people, organizations and communities through ethical leadership (available for pre-order on Amazon.com, due out November 7th). Linda was named to the 2013 Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America. As CEO of Leading in Context, she helps organizations learn to Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership.™ For more information, visit leadingincontext.com. 

Ethical Leadership is a Journey

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ethical leadership is a journey, not a destination.  Imagine walking for hours toward the distant horizon. No matter how fast or how far you walk, the horizon will always be out there, some distance away from you. The same is true for ethical leadership. No matter how far we go, we never “arrive.”

Change and global connectedness are both accelerating. It is naïve to think that we will ever completely master ethical leadership. No matter how much we learn and how much we do, we will always be learners.

A Learner’s View

When we think about ethical leadership as a journey, our mindset shifts from “knowing” to “learning.” This subtle but powerful shift keeps us open-minded and nimble. It helps us consider multiple options and make ethical choices as we encounter challenges on the journey.

Imagine the difference between taking a multiple choice test to prove you know the answers, and staying open-minded and aware as you solve an ethical dilemma. In the first case, you are focused on making quick decisions and marking your responses. In the second, you are focused on bringing your best thinking to the challenges at hand.

Bringing an openness to learning to the challenges we face helps us see that:

  1. Our first reaction is not always the most ethical choice.
  2. Other perspectives (especially those that differ from ours) provide information and insight that will help us make good choices.
  3. Ethical leadership itself is a moving target as societal expectations change.

From wherever we may be on the ethical leadership journey, we need to keep the horizon in our sights and remember that we are a work in progress.

About Linda Fisher Thornton

As CEO of Leading in Context, Linda Fisher Thornton helps forward-thinking leaders and organizations bring out their best by aligning ethical leadership performance systems and developing ethical leaders. In 2013, Linda was named one of the Global Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America.

Leading in Context is a leader in providing clear tools for businesses of all sizes for implementing “ethical leadership future.”  For more information, visit leadingincontext.com.

The Ethics and Self-Interest Paradox

Ethics and Self-Interest ParadoxBy Linda Fisher Thornton

There was a lively discussion on LinkedIn in response to my post “Ethics Means Acting Beyond Self-Interest.” Readers joined in the discussion and came up with a number of very interesting observations.

The Discussion

The observations taken together form a paradox. Here are some discussion highlights:

  1. “Beyond self-interest” has personal and interpersonal aspects
  2. We must let go of the idea that we already “know” in order to be open to learning what we don’t yet know
  3. We need to balance the interests of self, other and the larger environment since they are connected
  4. When fear is involved, decisions can be short-sighted, self-serving and reactive
  5. Some people refer to “beyond self-interest” as the “social contract”
  6. You don’t need to talk about “beyond self-interest” in ethics if you believe that what is good for others helps you too. In that case, you will do what is ethically right, and it will be mutually beneficial
  7. Self-interest must contain the interests of others (and vice versa)
  8. Ethics includes acting with human dignity and that always includes acting beyond self-interest
  9. At the highest level, ethics embraces self-interest as well as the interests of many other constituents
  10. A better term than “beyond self-interest” would be “enlightened self-interest” to indicate a higher level of ethical awareness that meets the needs of self and many other constituents

The Paradox

This discussion revealed that the post’s title “Ethics Means Acting Beyond Self-Interest” is true if you are thinking of ethics, yourself and your interests in isolation.

If you broaden your view enough, and use a higher level understanding of ethics, the same statement is false when you interpret ethics as being inherently mutually beneficial to self and others.

As often happens, those who commented took the conversation well beyond the scope of the article. Many thanks to all who joined the conversation!

Linda Fisher Thornton is CEO of Leading in Context LLC, a leadership development consulting firm. Linda was named one of the 2013 Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America.

Visit the Leading in Context® Blog Index for more articles about how to lead ethically in a complex world.
© 2013 Leading in Context LLC. All rights reserved.

8 Posts (And a Trend Report) On Global Thinking

thinkglobal

By Linda Fisher Thornton

As leaders, we do not operate in isolation. We are part of a busy global marketplace with a global economy and global communication. Because we are part of a larger global community, we need to think carefully about how our choices impact that broader community. Just as a butterfly flapping its wing in one side of the world impacts the weather on the other side, small decisions we make as leaders have ripple effects on the global economy and on the well-being of individuals, environments and societies.

This week, I decided to corral a collection of posts that help us understand ethical leadership in a global context. Ethical leaders think about their responsibilities on a global scale. Using global thinking helps us succeed in a connected economy and a global society. As you read these posts about global thinking in leadership, consider how using global thinking could transform your organization’s leadership.

8 Posts on Global Thinking

Here are 8 Leading in Context® Blog posts (and a trend report) that will help you get into the global leadership mindset:

  1. Redefining Ethical Leadership in a Global Society illustrates how our level of connected information illuminates global ethical issues.
  2. Developing Globally Responsible Leaders describes the thinking process of a globally responsible leader.
  3. Twitter Helps Leaders Think Global discusses how embracing social media helps us build a global mindset.
  4. Collaborative Leadership in a Global Society describes what collaborative leaders do.
  5. Ethical Leadership and…a Global Society explores ethical leadership trends in a global context.
  6. Global Ethics and Integrity Benchmarks describe the ethical qualities that customers, suppliers, partners and job-seekers will be looking for in your organization.
  7. C-Suite Leaders: Are You Using the Global Principles of Responsible Business? provides information about the Caux Roundtable Principles for Responsible Business.
  8. Shared Ethical Values: Global Consensus? explores whether or not there are universally shared global values.

And a Global Trend Report

You may also find Global Trends for 2013: A Top Ten for Business Leaders (Economist.com) to be an interesting read.

“Thinking global” is:

  • a critical ability for the leader of the future
  • a way to understand our leadership responsibilities on a global scale
  • a way to make ethical choices that work in a global society.

Global thinking is emerging as a critical ability that the leader of the future must have. Are we ready?

Linda Fisher Thornton is CEO of Leading in Context LLC, a leadership development consulting firm helping business leaders lead responsibly in a complex world.  Linda was recently named one of the 2013 Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America.

How to Use the Leading in Context® Website

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC. All rights reserved.

When is a Decision an Ethical One?

When is a Decision an Ethical One?By Linda Fisher Thornton

As we make leadership decisions, do we actively think about which ones are “ethical” decisions? Do we recognize the “ethical” decisions easily? Complying with laws and ethics codes clearly has ethical implications. But what about day-to-day decisions like these?

  1. “Who should we promote to a leadership position?
  2. “What kind of paper should we buy?”
  3. Which suppliers should we choose?”

These questions may seem routine, but they also have ethical implications. Let’s look at some of the ethical issues that we need to pay attention to when making these three decisions:

1. “Who should we promote to a leadership position?”  What are some of the ethical issues that we need to consider?

  • We should only reward ethical behavior during the promotion process.
  • We should only promote ethical employees to leadership positions, so that they can model the behavior that we want employees to use.
  • We should choose someone to promote who knows how to balance the needs of multiple stakeholders.
  • We should promote someone who uses respectful interpersonal behavior and knows how to build trust, so that they can help us build an ethical culture.

2. “What kind of paper should we buy?”  What are some of the ethical issues that we need to consider?

  • Should we buy recycled or partly recycled paper to reduce our environmental impact?
  • If we don’t use recycled paper, is the paper we choose sustainably harvested?
  • How does our choice need to support the sustainability goals of our organization?

3. “Which supplier should we choose?”  What are some of the ethical issues that we need to consider?

  • Does each supplier that we are considering use fair labor and honor human rights?
  • Does each supplier that we are considering use sustainable business practices and minimize environmental impact?
  • Does each supplier that we are considering demonstrate transparency about leadership practices?

The ethical issues listed above are only a sampling of the kinds of ethical issues involved in making these three decisions. Choosing suppliers, for example, requires checking reputation in more areas than just the ones mentioned here.

Ethical leadership in a global society incorporates so many broad elements of responsibility that most of our decisions will touch at least one of them. “Ethical” isn’t just a kind of decision-making. It is the way we need to think about all of our choices,  today and every day.

Linda Fisher Thornton is CEO of Leading in Context LLC, a leadership development consulting firm helping business leaders lead responsibly in a complex world.  Linda was recently named one of the 2013 Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America.

How to Use the Leading in Context® Website

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC. All rights reserved.

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