We’re All Padawan Learners

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

With the new Star Wars movie being released this month, my family and I recently watched all six of the original Star Wars movies in one week. It was an intense movie marathon, and watching them all in the order they were released gave us a unique perspective. 

Have you ever noticed that no matter how many times the forces of good overcome the forces of evil in the Star Wars movies, there is always another challenge? There is never a moment when the characters “arrive” and are exempt from ethical challenges. They can never let down their guard.

Why? Because power can corrupt or it can be used for good. In the six original Star Wars movies, we see what happens when a Padawan learner (Luke) is humble and stays the course, always open to learning. We also see what happens when a Padawan learner (Vader) thinks he has “arrived” and is no longer willing to learn from others. 

We are all Padawan learners on the ethical journey. We are subject to making mistakes, and we must continually learn to stay ahead of our ethical challenges.

The surprising truth is that we are all also teachers. Others are watching our choices and learning from us. 

As others observe our choices, how will they see us choosing to use our power?

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Being Thankful is a Virtue

A-thankful-heart-is-not

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Cicero’s quote reminds us that if we want to act on the important virtues that create a just society, we must first see the world with a thankful heart. 

Why is seeing the world with a thankful heart so important?

It helps us think beyond ourselves.

It keeps us aware of the good that others do for us.

It helps us consider our wants and needs with an attitude of plenty.

Today, may you go about your appointed rounds with a thankful heart. 

If you want to learn more about how thankfulness can be transformational, Jeff Haden shares 40 Inspiring Motivational Quotes About Gratitude with us at Inc.com.

 

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What is Ethical Thinking?

FINAL CHANGE THIS MANIFESTO_Page_01By Linda Fisher Thornton

Today I’m taking you inside the mind of the ethical leader to explore ethical thinking

What do ethical leaders think about?

  • They are guided by a desire to have a positive impact.
  • They think about what’s best for others, and seek mutual benefit. 
  • They think about ways to demonstrate their values in day-to-day leadership, even when faced with difficult challenges.

Here are some ways that ethical leaders think about ethical responsibility:

Inside the Mind of an Ethical Leader

“I make decisions based on values, not money pressures.”

“I need to constantly learn in order to stay ethical.”

“I can learn something from you, even if we disagree.”

“Leadership means creating value for others.”

“Understanding multiple perspectives helps us find mutually beneficial solutions.”

 “Respect is the minimum standard.”

Excerpted From Inside The Mind of An Ethical Leader by Linda Fisher Thornton, Guest Post on Management Excellence by Art Petty.

The real test of our ethical thinking is in how we choose to handle our day to day challenges. 

Are we being dragged through the day reacting to the chaos, or are we making intentional, values-based choices? Are we the sum of our challenges, or of our choices?

Are We Our Challenges?

TIME PRESSURE

MONEY PRE$$URE

INFORMATION OVERLOAD

COMPLIANCE

STRESS

RISK

Or Our Choices?

RESPECT AND CARE FOR OTHERS

COMMUNITY SERVICE

ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

FOLLOWING LAWS

PROTECTING FUTURE GENERATIONS

RESPONSIBLE PROFITABILITY

Excerpted From ChangeThis Manifesto “What Ethical Leaders Believe” By Linda Fisher Thornton

The bottom line? Ethical thinking means we never lose sight of our positive purpose. We choose to be the sum of our values, not our challenges.

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Do Differences of Opinion Set Off Your Threat Detector?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Differences of opinion can be inconvenient and uncomfortable. We may be in a discussion with someone who has very different views from ours, on a topic of great importance to us. How we handle it shows others the inner workings of our character.

We have all been in conversations with people who are open to hearing what we have to say and those who are not. When we perceive an idea as a threat, it may be a signal that we are CLOSED to learning. And that may lead us right into unethical territory, to disrespectful interpersonal behavior. 

As you review these descriptions, think about your recent conversations. Was the other person OPEN or CLOSED to learning? Did they perceive a difference of opinion as a threat or an opportunity to learn?

Sees a Difference of Opinion as a Threat

  • Different ideas are direct threats to my position
  • When we disagree, only one of us can be right
  • Listening to dissenting opinions is dangerous and should be avoided
  • People who disagree with my position should be belittled and put in their place to reduce their power

Sees It as a Learning Opportunity

  • Different ideas are opportunities to learn
  • When we disagree, we might both be describing different parts of a bigger concept
  • Listening doesn’t mean we have to change our beliefs, but we are open to that if it happens
  • Listening to dissenting opinions increases our understanding of issues we care about

Ethical leadership requires us to respect people and differences of perspective even when those differences may make us uncomfortable. 

Override your threat detection system when you hear information that goes against your current views.

If differences of opinion set off our “threat detection” system and make us angry, that may be a sign that we are closed to learning. I have noticed over the years that perceiving the ideas of others as a threat is signal that we need to listen. 

This week, notice what sets off your threat detection system, and see what you can learn when you choose to override it and remain open to learning.

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“Is It Ethical?” (Decision Tool Based on the Book 7 Lenses)

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

A new ethical decision-making tool is available for readers of 7 Lenses! If you have read the book and want to take your decision-making to a higher level of complexity, visit the new 7 Lenses Tools page. You’ll find the decision-making worksheet “Is it Ethical?” based on the book.

So often decisions are made based on cost or convenience without considering the full ethical impact. This new 7 Lenses® decision-making worksheet guides you through all 7 Lenses of Ethical Leadership to get the full picture.

It’s important to think long term about our leadership impact (from 7 different perspectives). When we fully consider the impact of our choices, we can make decisions that meet our own needs and the needs of others and society.

Use this tool for informing:

  • your individual decisions
  • group decision-making conversations
  • coaching and mentoring other leaders

My hope is that “Is It Ethical?” will help you honor all 7 Lenses in your daily leadership. Leaders who are using the 7 Lenses® framework tell me that there is a startling clarity in this approach and that having this framework for understanding ethical responsibility is transforming their leadership and changing their lives in positive ways.

Please share your story with other readers – How is the 7 Lenses® framework helping you stay grounded in ethical values? How is it improving your decision making? How is it changing your daily leadership? 

 

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Is Ethics a Body of Knowledge? (No! It’s a Process of Human Growth.)

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

If you think ethical awareness is about knowledge and learning, think again. Knowledge and learning are only useful in ethics if we are open to receiving them, open to shifting our perspective, and open to changing our minds.

Famous thinkers have long tied ethics to human growth.  Immanuel Kant believed that is “Man’s duty is to improve himself; to cultivate his mind; and, when he finds himself going astray, to bring the moral law to bear upon himself.” John Dewey said that “Growth itself is the only moral end.”

Why does human growth matter to us as ethical people? Take a moment to think about how we prepare ourselves for ethical living and ethical leadership. If we’re not pushing ourselves to become better people, and intentionally raising our level of ethical awareness, we’re probably stuck in the “ethics is a body of knowledge” mentality. 

Growth may be difficult, but there isn’t any other way to fully embrace ethics. We must grow into our ethical competence…intentionally…over time. When we are tempted to take a shortcut and think about ethics as a class or a theory, we should remember this: The “body of knowledge” isn’t going to need to make tough ethical choices. We are. 

 

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Leaders: Check Your Motivation, Your Authenticity and Your Ethics

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

If we are leading others, we need to be asking the questions of leadership – about our motivation, our authenticity and our ethics.

Continually asking ourselves these questions keeps us sharp, focused and aware of our greater impact on others, organizations and society.

The Questions of Leadership

What are some of the deep questions that we should be asking ourselves if we are leading others? This list includes a handful of the questions we may wrestle with on our leadership learning journey. Knowing the answers can keep us aligned with our greater mission, supporting not only our own success, but also the success of other individuals, groups and organizations.

Click on each question below for a blog post exploring the question:

1. Why do I want to lead?

2. How can I get past ego and self-interest to become an effective leader?

3. What does authentic leadership require?

4. How do I balance profits with other leadership outcomes?

5. What does it mean to be an ethical leader in a global society?

 

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Where Is Ethical Leadership Found?

 

By Linda Fisher Thornton

While it may be convenient to think about ethical leadership as a task, a program, or a rule book, that’s not where it lives. It lives in our big and small choices. It lives in our decision-making. It lives in our organizational culture. It lives in our deep commitment to working for good.

We can’t get away with “externalizing” ethics because ethical leadership is much closer to home than we may readily admit. It isn’t somewhere “out there” at all – it is us, right here and right now. 

It is in our deeply-held values. It is in our day-to-day choices.  It is in our quest for good.

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Reader Question: Why Did You Include Profit as One of the 7 Lenses?

7 Lenses

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Recently, a 7 Lenses reader told me she loved my leadership book but she had one question – “Why did I include Profit in the 7 Lenses?”  

This is a question that has come up before, so I will answer it in today’s post.

Profit is Included in the 7 Lenses® of Ethical Responsibility Because:

 

  • I wanted to help leaders get past thinking that profit and proactive ethics are mutually exclusive.

 

  • I wanted to help leaders move beyond the Triple Bottom Line (Profit-People-Planet) which many people have mistakenly interpreted as the full scope of ethical business responsibility.

 

  • I wanted to help leaders realize that Integrity, Profitability, Sustainability and Community Service can be accomplished simultaneously.

 

  • I wanted leaders to see all the dimensions of ethical responsibility that they would be missing if they stopped after considering profit alone. 

The question about profit’s place in ethical leadership is a good one. At its best, ethics requires setting aside concerns about money and personal gain and doing what is best for others.

But business leaders also have to keep their organizations afloat, and that requires thinking about money.

Have you read 7 Lenses yet? What are your thoughts about its holistic approach to balancing ethics and profit?

 

 

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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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5 Warning Signs Of Oversimplified Ethics

 

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

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

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

5 Warning Signs Of Oversimplified Ethics

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

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

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

4. Discussions about ethical grey areas are quickly discouraged.

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

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

 

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What is Research?

SAMSUNG

By Linda Fisher Thornton

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

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

Albert Einstein

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

Will Harvey

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

Michel de Montaigne

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

Zora Neale Hurston

“Research is creating new knowledge.”

Neil Armstrong

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

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

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

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

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Hitting the High Notes

By Linda Fisher Thornton 

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

Our Thoughts Drive What We Do

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

Upgrading Our Mindset

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

Upgrading Our Leadership

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

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

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

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Webinar “Leading For the Future”

 

By Linda Fisher Thornton

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

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

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

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

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

Presenter: Linda Fisher Thornton

Chief Executive Officer, Leading in Context LLC and

Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Richmond SPCS

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

 

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Just Say No To 10 Behaviors That Kill Competence

20140322_142728By Linda Fisher Thornton

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

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

Just Say No To 10 Behaviors That Kill Competence

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

Why Are These Behaviors Competence Killers?

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

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

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

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