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.

 

LeadinginContext.com   Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2015 Leading in Context LLC

 

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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©2015 Leading in Context LLC

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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©2015 Leading in Context LLC

 

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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©2015 Leading in Context LLC

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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©2015 Leading in Context LLC

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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300th Blog Post: Answering Big Questions About Ethical Leadership

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I have spent the last six years answering the big leadership question “What does it mean to do the right thing?” The support, the unsolicited testimonials and the social shares of this work have been widespread and global. Could it be that the world is ready for a clear answer to this important question? 

I wrote 7 Lenses because I believed that we needed a clear answer to what it means to “do the right thing” in a global society. I believed that the answer was there, somewhere, and could be found by researching across disciplines, religions and geographic boundaries. It was a question well worth exploring. With a clear understanding of leadership responsibility and a framework for talking about it in all of its complexity, we could do business in ways that would also improved lives and communities. We could make a powerful positive difference through our leadership. 

Over three years of research and writing, I learned that “doing the right thing” means honoring 7 dimensions of ethical responsibility in leadership, not just one at a time, but all at the same time

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC

 

Using these 7 Lenses (and the 14 Guiding Principles in the book for honoring them in daily leadership) gives us a holistic picture for leading ethically and teaching others. It gives us a high bar to reach for – the aspirational level of ethical leadership in organizations. It prepares us for the future as ethical expectations continue to increase.

Thank you for your feedback on 7 Lenses and for sharing the importance of proactive ethical leadership with your social communities. 7 Lenses is now being used by public and private universities to teach ethics and ethical leadership on three continents (if you are using it to teach, feel free to let me know!). Its message is reaching leaders across industries and around the world.

I enjoy blogging about the big ethical leadership questions, and welcome your input about what you want to read about that would further your leadership development. Below are some of the big questions I have been blogging about (and answers for today’s leaders). It is my hope that this blog will help you “do the right thing” on your journey to ethical leadership future.

What is Ethical Leadership?

How Are Ethical Leadership Expectations Changing?

What Does it Mean to Take Responsibility in Leadership?

Why Do People Often Disagree About The Right Thing To Do?

What is the Ultimate Goal of Leadership?

What is an Ethical Workplace?

What is Integrity?

What is Conscious Capitalism?

What is the Greater Good?

What is Authentic Leadership?

This blog has come a long way since the 150th Blog Post: Learning Out LoudThank you for making the Leading in Context Blog #37 on the Top 100 Most Socially-Shared Leadership Blogs of 2014!

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There Are No Quick Fixes For Ethics

 

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

I have been thinking about how lightly some leaders take the subject of ethics. Some ignore ethical issues altogether or think ethical issues are unimportant compared to concerns about profitability. It’s a risky choice to take ethics lightly. Why? Unlike heart or kidney transplants, there are no “ethics transplants” for people who have made bad ethical decisions.

We are responsible for our choices. If an ethics transplant did exist and we could easily start over, imagine how long the waiting list would be for that procedure! Since there is no quick fix for failed ethics, we need to protect our ethical reputations carefully, and choose to stay on an ethical path.

In our global society, where almost anything can be obtained for a price, you can’t buy ethics.

While people can recover somewhat from ethical failures, it takes them a long time to earn back people’s trust, if they ever do. In the meantime, they have to pay the price for failing to make ethical choices.

Our choices are very much ours to live with, good or bad, for the rest of our lives. 

The journey to an ethical life and ethical leadership is rewarding but it takes personal effort. Plato believed that we should make ethics more important than silver or gold. Silver and gold, after all, are commodities that can be bought, sold or traded at will. Ethics (on the other hand) requires personal effort and growth over time.

Ethics cannot be bought, sold, traded or transferred. It can only be learned, taught and encouraged. You can’t buy it. No one can give it to you, and you can’t replace yours when things go wrong. That makes ethics priceless.

 

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5 Ways To Bolster Your Organization’s Ethical Immune System

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

I was thinking about organizational culture recently, and noticed an interesting parallel. Actions such as eating healthy foods, exercising and getting enough sleep all boost our individual immune systems. What actions can we take to boost our ethical immune systems? And how could doing that help us create more ethical organizations?

Building a healthy ethical culture where people take steps to protect ethics and reputation takes intentional effort. It requires regular attention, similar to the way we must eat healthy foods and exercise daily to maintain our individual health.

An ethical organizational culture doesn’t just “happen” without leadership support. To support the overall ethical health of your organization, I recommend taking these 5 important leadership actions (and avoiding the corresponding DON’TS that undo the positive effects of ethical immunity).

1. DO Intentionally Ground Every Aspect Of Your Culture in Positive Ethical Values

(DON’T Leave ethics vague and just expect people to “do the right thing”)

2. DO Clarify Exactly What Ethical Leadership Looks Like in Action 

(DON’T give people ethical guidelines and leave them to figure out how to apply them to their ethical challenges)

3. DO Provide Resources For Ethical Thinking and Decision Making

(DON’T assume that people can make sense out of highly complex situations and choose the most ethical choices)

4. DO Create a Safe Environment For Talking About Ethical Challenges and Questions

(DON’T let the conversations happen only in ethics training – that’s not where people struggle with getting ethics right)

5. DO Model Ethical Leadership From The Top Down*

(DON’T Exempt the CEO and Senior Leadership from accountability for ethical leadership)

 *Failure to model ethical leadership at the highest levels of leadership is a common problem, and it destroys ethical immunity. 

For more guidance on ethical culture building, see these related articles:

7 Questions For Ethical Culture Building

Critical Roles of the (Ethical) CEO

How to Build an Ethical Culture

 

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Linda Fisher Thornton’s book 7 Lenses is your guide to proactive ethical leadership (in 7 dimensions that are all important).

 

 

 
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Leaders: Is Respect Enough?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Respectful behavior makes it possible for people to work together successfully. But when we ask the teams we lead to be respectful, I wonder if we’re aiming too low. Shouldn’t we be asking for more? 

Are we just settling for “avoiding conflict and tension?” Are we missing an opportunity to teach those we lead that respect is the minimum standard for workplace behavior, and that there is so much more?

Respect is incredibly important. In the quest to create workplaces where people can find meaning and do their best work, I believe that we need to aim much higher. We need to teach people what it means to genuinely care about others and support their success. We need to show them how to be in service in the world. That’s real ethical leadership. Are you aiming high enough?

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Trust is a Relationship (Not a Commodity)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Waiting For Trust to Be Earned

I sometimes hear leaders say that they think “trust is earned” and that we should not trust others until they have earned our trust through their behavior and choices. I see several big problems with this way of thinking about trust.

1. This way of thinking about trust is narrowly focused on the leader, implying that trust is “someone else’s responsibility.”

2. This perspective imagines trust as a commodity, something that can be exchanged transactionally at will. 

3. The leader is not expecting trustworthy behavior, and withholds trust accordingly. This negative expectation may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There is a better way of thinking about trust that leads to more positive leadership outcomes.

Thinking About Trust As a Relationship

Trust is reciprocal, requiring relationship. It is something that must be built over time for mutual benefit, not just the leader’s benefit.

In a trust relationship, all parties are responsible for being trustworthy (personally) and trusting others (interpersonally). If we remove the interpersonal aspects of trust, what we are really saying is “I have all the power here. I’ll decide when you’ve been trustworthy.” That detached perspective is controlling and judgmental, and controlling and judgmental leadership is not effective leadership.

Why is controlling and judgmental leadership not effective? Because leadership (like trust) is all about building positive relationships.

 

 
7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics 41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
  2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner “7 Lenses” 
  Your Roadmap For The Journey to Ethical Leadership (Foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey)  
 
 
Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™                                                                                                

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©2015 Leading in Context LLC

Prepare Now For The Future of Leadership

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Leading with positive values and demonstrating care are becoming expected ways of doing business. Leading now is not as much about leaders as it is about bringing out the best in those they lead and serve.

Part 3 of my book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership tells the story of how our understanding of the purpose of leadership is evolving.

Excerpt from 7 Lenses (Chapter 8 – Getting Ready For the Future of Ethical Leadership):

Our understanding of ethical leadership is continually evolving due to changes in the world and to the efforts of champions of responsible business. This evolving understanding incorporates the natural complexity of the challenges of leadership and the broadening scope of the constituents that leaders serve. As we move from thinking about leadership as “transactional” to thinking about leadership for the “greater good,” we increase our understanding of our moral responsibilities to others, our companies, our societies and our world…

Leadership was once considered transactional, without much of a human element in it at all. This one-way mindset was essentially based on “Tell people want you need them to do.” Fortunately, the general thinking about leadership shifted to include a service role, which brought the all-important human element into it. Later, we began to understand leadership as having a positive and transformative effect on individuals, groups and organizations. In this evolution, leadership had moved from being about self to considering self and others.

After incorporating others in our understanding of leadership, we began to add a consideration of society. Through the Corporate Social Responsibility movement, leadership responsibilities are seen to include sustainability and community well-being. We are currently experiencing a powerful leadership movement to support the greater good of society…

These changes in our understanding of the purpose of leadership have happened slowly over time. Understanding them helps us stay ahead of the curve, to be better prepared to lead in ways that meet future expectations.

Thornton, L. F. (2013). 7 Lenses: Learning the principles and practices of ethical leadership. Richmond, Va.: Leading in Context.  (© 2013 Leading in Context, All Rights Reserved)

If we focus on meeting current leadership expectations, we may be caught off guard. Don’t wait. Prepare now for the global-minded, values-driven future of leadership.

Special Event:

On Monday January 19th, 2015, I am the Guest Co-Host for the #LeadWithGiants Tweetchat with @DanVForbes. Our topic is The Future of Leadership

Join us at 7:00 pm Eastern Time on January 19th!

               

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@leadingincontxt  @7Lenses
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  7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
  2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
  About 7 Lenses
 
 
Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™   
© 2015 Leading in Context LLC

 

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