7 Definitions of “Good” (Why We Disagree About Ethics)

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Why is it so difficult to agree on the right thing to do? One of the reasons we may not agree is that each of us may be using a different definition of what is “good.” Here are 7 different interpretations of what is ethically good, based on the framework in 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership (2013). Which ones are you using in your leadership?

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC

1 – Profit

Using the Profit Lens, we see what is “Good” in a money sense. Good means what is good for economic growth, good for income growth, and good for organizational growth.

2 – Law

Using the Law Lens, we see what is “Good” in a legal sense. Good means following all laws and regulations.

3 – Character

Using the Character Lens, we see what is “Good” in a morally grounded sense. Good means demonstrating character and integrity, and showing a high degree of moral awareness.

4 – People

Using the People Lens, we see what is “Good” for people’s well-being. Good means supporting people’s success and bringing out their best.

5 – Communities

Using the Communities Lens, we see what is “Good” for the health and well-being of communities. Good is what supports thriving families and provides needed community services.

6 – Planet

Using the Planet Lens, we see what is “Good” for the planet and nature. Good means protecting plants, wildlife and natural lands, and treating the planet and ecosystems that we depend on for our lives with care.

7 – Greater Good

Using the Greater Good Lens, we see what is “Good” in the broadest sense, at the highest level, for the longest-term. Good is what creates a peaceful, global society where people can thrive.

Which of these 7 Lenses do you use in your daily leadership? Hint: They’re all important for intentional ethical leadership.

 

Follow the Leading in Context Blog for weekly posts that help Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™ 

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For more, see 7 Lenses (foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey). This practical guide to the future of ethical leadership takes us well beyond the triple bottom line to 7 different perspectives on ethical leadership, and provides 14 Guiding Principles that help us honor them all in daily leadership.

21 Question Assessment Based on the 7 Lenses™ Framework: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

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

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

Leading For Ethics Future? (Or Ethics Past?)

Ethical Leadership FutureBy Linda Fisher Thornton

We are expected to make ethical decisions in a rapidly changing global society, where there is increasing awareness of what “ethical” means. The question of where ethics is headed has been the focus of my research over the last four years.

I have learned that to be considered ethical, we must consider more constituents, honor more dimensions of ethics, and lead ethically through higher levels of complexity. How do we prepare for that? We reach higher and think longer-term.

Aim Higher and Farther Ahead

Strategies that may have worked in ethics five years ago will not help us now. To succeed, we need to broaden our worldview and expand the scope of what we consider to be “ethical territory.”  

We need to aim higher than legal requirements, in the direction that ethical expectations are moving, so that we can avoid falling behind. 

To keep up with rapid change, we need to aim higher and farther ahead.

When we aim higher, we reach for ethics of care, respect and inclusion, sustainable business and corporate social responsibility.

It is easiest to stick to “what has always worked,” but organizations that are doing well in ethics are intentionally adapting to the future as it unfolds. They are staying ethically competent through a commitment to continual (individual and organizational) learning.

Learn Faster Than the Pace of Change

We aren’t going to stay on top of changes in ethical expectations by just doing what we’ve always done. Keeping up requires constant vigilance.

Some people are still leading using the ethics of yesteryear. And that has consequences.

We can discuss and learn from the many ethical issues in the news. We can put preventive measures in place to be sure the mistakes of others don’t happen in our organizations. But we will need more than just negative examples to succeed.

The scope of what is considered “ethical territory” is broadening, so we need to advance our ethical competence faster than the pace of change. Let me repeat that – faster than the pace of change. 

We can never stop learning. We may become unethical just by doing “what we’ve always done” as the world changes.

When we stop learning, we may quickly become unethical by not changing as the world changes around us. Are we just working on our individual ethics (moral awareness, character and integrity), but not paying attention to interpersonal and societal ethics (respect, inclusion and care, service in communities, sustainability and the greater good)? Ethics is not a simple one-dimensional challenge, so to be ethically competent, we must stretch and learn every day.  

Successful ethical leaders are proactive about ethics and adapt to changing ethical expectations. They aim for ethics future, not ethics past.

Want to learn more?

Please join me, @leadingincontxt, as I guest host the #LeadWithGiants Tweetchat with @DanVForbes on Monday, September 8th at 7:00 pm EDT on the topic of Ethical Leadership.

Follow the Leading in Context Blog for more articles that help you Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™ 

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For more, see the new guide book to ethical leadership future called 7 Lenses and the related 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

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

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

Ethics and Trust are Reciprocal

20140323_173426By Linda Fisher Thornton

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

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

What is the Relationship Between Ethics and Trust?

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

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

Ethical behavior and choices help build trust.

High trust environments encourage better ethics.

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

When ethics is absent, trust is elusive.

The Positive Balance

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

Ethics and trust are reciprocal. They are mutually reinforcing. 

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

Ethics and trust are inseparable. They travel together.

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

Exercising Ethics and Trust 

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

Ethics and trust are improved through intentional practice. 

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

 

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

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

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

 

10 Forces Fueling the Values-Based Leadership Movement

By Linda Fisher Thornton

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

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

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

 

ValuesBased Leadership TrendsFINALCrop

 

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

 

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

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

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

 

Building Trust: What to Weed Out

By Linda Fisher Thornton

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

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

Blog Photo 4

A “Weed Out” List For Trust Building

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

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

 

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

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

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

The Trouble With Oversimplified Conversations

Oversimplified ConversationsBy Linda Fisher Thornton

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

It is particularly dangerous to oversimplify conversations about ethics.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

Can a Toxic Leader Be Ethical? Yes and No.

Can a Toxic Leader Be Ethical?By Linda Fisher Thornton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes

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

No

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

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

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

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


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

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

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

 

 

 

5 Leadership Development Priorities

5 Leadership Development Priorities

By Linda Fisher Thornton

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

 

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

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

5 Leadership Development Priorities

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

4.  Embracing the responsibilities that come with leadership.

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

 

5.  Embracing the opportunities that come with leadership.

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

 

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

Leading with values and taking responsibility broadly helps us adapt

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

 


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

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

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

 

 

 

 

Ethics is Contagious

© 2014 Leading in Context LLCBy Linda Fisher Thornton

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

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

10 Reasons Why Ethics is Contagious:

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

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


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

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

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

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


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

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

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

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?

 


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For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses  and Making Decisions Like Global Citizens.

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

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

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.


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

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

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

 

 

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. 


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

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

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

 

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.

 

 

522

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

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

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 

 

16 Trends Shaping the Future of Ethical Leadership

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.

 

522

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

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

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 

 

 

 

 

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