Ethics Isn’t “Out There”: It’s Us And Our Choices

20140323_172700By Linda Fisher Thornton

Much attention is paid to the tactics of ethics – the ethics codes, compliance plans and such. We can easily begin to think that ethics is something we can see and touch. Something finite. Something written in stone. Something outside of ourselves.

But that’s not where ethics lives.

Our ethics doesn’t live in the codes and manuals. Ethics is in the big and small things we do each day. It’s in the time we take to teach employees about ethics and values, and the care we take to model ethical behavior so that everyone can see what it looks like in action.

Ethics is in the decisions we make. It’s in the way we resolve the tension between gaining personal benefit and creating value for others.

Ethics is not just “out there” and it’s not just what’s written down. Ethical guidelines are there to help us, but they do not become our ethics unless we choose to follow them every day.

Ethics is personal. It’s about us and our choices.

For leaders, ethics is about personal choices that set the tone for their organizations. It’s about the daily struggle to figure out “the right thing to do” in difficult situations. It’s about a deeply personal commitment to lead in ways that demonstrate:

  • the strength of our moral compass
  • the breadth of our concern and care for others
  • our understanding of how to bring out the best in those we lead
  • our awareness of responsibilities and consequences
  • our ability to think long term and across boundaries
  • our desire to do more and to be more than the minimum standards require.

Welcome to the wonderful, challenging, lifelong personal journey to leading ethically in a global society. A journey that brings out our best.


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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 

 

 

 

Well-Being is Trending

Well-BeingBy Linda Fisher Thornton

Have you noticed that well-being is trending? It’s not enough just to provide fair pay and good work conditions any more. People want to participate in something meaningful and work in high-trust cultures where they can flourish. They seek out companies that care about their well-being.

Making Life Better

Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte predicts in his article The Year of the Employee: Predictions For Talent, Leadership and HR Technology In 2014 that we will need to “re-imagine employee engagement in a new, integrated way” and seek to create “rewarding, exciting and empowering” experiences.

Our workplace focus is moving toward promoting general well-being.

We are beginning to focus on the wellness and happiness of the whole person, and are more aware of the importance of measures of success that incorporate overall well-being. Gallup.com has a Well-Being Index that shows trending levels of well-being over time. OECD publishes an annual “How’s Life?” Report that goes beyond financial measures to evaluate social well-being and progress. The Happy Planet Index  rates each country in the world on aspects needed for people to live long and happy lives.

Well-being is on the minds of consumers as well. Trendwatching.com comments in Internet of  Caring Things that consumers will “lavish love and attention on products, services and experiences” that actively care for their well-being and the well-being of their loved ones.

The Ethics Factor

Positive, intentional management of ethics in organizations supports the overall well-being of employees, customers and communities. Ethics also gives organizational metrics a boost. When we treat people well, we bring out their best.

Ethical leaders support the well-being of those they lead and serve.

Happy people who trust their ethical leaders tend to be more engaged, more creative and more productive. 

Paying attention to well-being makes sense.

In this case what’s good for employee well-being is good for the well-being of the organization too. 


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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 

Success From the Field Interview – Balancing Ethics and Profits

By Linda Fisher Thornton 

This week Will Eisenbrandt posted my interview with him about ethical leadership at NetworkedWealth.com.  This interview, the Success From the Field Podcast with Linda Fisher Thornton is a great overview of the 7 Lenses™ of Ethical Responsibility. In the interview, Will asks me how to balance ethical values in day-to-day decisions – for example, balancing profits with concern for the planet.

Managing ethics is all about balancing multiple values, and making sure that the trade-offs we make don’t harm others. The table below shows the 7 Lenses of Ethical Responsibility that I introduced in the book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership.  The 7 Lenses™ together give us a multidimensional view of ethical leadership, one that represents the complexity of the challenges that we deal with on a daily basis.

Ethical leadership is not something we will ever finish, or check off a to-do list. It is an ongoing learning journey. Think about which of the 7 Lenses your organization honors in day-to-day decisions and actions, and which ones represent areas for growth and improvement.

Click here for more author interviews about balancing ethical values and economic goals.

Subscribe to the Leading in Context Blog and never miss another post!


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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 

 

12 Favorite Blog Posts of 2013

ThorntonBy Linda Fisher Thornton

It is difficult to believe that I have written well over 200 weekly blog posts since 2009. In the process of writing all of those posts, I gradually sharpened my focus and found my authentic voice as a blogger. (If you are interested in reading more about the ups and downs of that journey, see 150th Blog Post: Learning Out Loud). 

Today I have chosen my annual favorites – the posts that readers enjoyed and shared and that I think best convey an important message about how to Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™ in ourselves and our organizations. See if these 12 posts that I have picked as favorites strike a chord with you as well.

Dealing With Complexity in Leadership

Which of These is Ethical Leadership?

Leading the Conversation About Ethical Leadership

Managing Ethical Leadership as a Performance System

The Leading in Context Manifesto

Modeling Ethical Leadership and Behavior

What is Ethical Leadership?

10 Ways Leading With Ethics is Transformational

Bringing Out the Best in People and Organizations (Through Ethical Leadership)

What Ethical Leaders Believe

16 Trends Shaping the Future of Ethical Leadership

10 Ethical Leadership Questions for the New Year

Subscribe to the Leading in Context Blog and never miss another post!

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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 

 

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.

 

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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

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 

 

 

 

 

Bringing Out the Best in People and Organizations

7 LensesBy Linda Fisher Thornton

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

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

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

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

Thornton_01v3

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC

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

This book was written to answer these questions:

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

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

 

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For more, see the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics
7 Lenses is a 2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner   About 7 Lenses
  
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 

200th Blog Post – Learning at the Speed of Life

Linda Fisher Thornton

By Linda Fisher Thornton

In my 150th Blog Post, I wrote about starting a blog and being new to the process of Learning Out Loud. To celebrate my 200th post, I want to reflect on what it’s been like to learn new things faster than I ever thought possible. It seems especially clear to me now that we all have capabilities we’re not using in our day to day lives. But imagine what could happen if we believed we could make a difference, lurched toward that goal unsteadily, and then just held on for the ride.

The dream for Leading in Context LLC started small, with a passion for responsible leadership, an intense curiosity and a question – “What does it mean to lead ethically in a complex world?”

Taking on that question brought this response on Twitter – “Good luck with that. Let us know when you get there!” Knowing that the question was too big to answer and that people didn’t think I could do it just made me work harder. In the process, I tapped into potential I never knew I had.

As you read about my journey, reflect on what you’re curious about, and how seeking the answer might be transformational.

What has stretched me in the past year? 

  • Winning a thought leader award connected me with a wonderful new global group of people, many of whom were already well-established in their areas of expertise. I had to step up.
  • Leading an Innovations in Teaching project for the University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies had me looking at Innovation in an educational setting. I had to step up.
  • Working with a thought leader strategy coach put a viable long-term business based on my question within reach. I had to step up.

What phrases are no longer in my vocabulary?

  • “What I have is working”
  • “I don’t think I can do that,” and
  • “There isn’t enough time.”

What challenges will the next year bring?

  • Implementing the new business strategy built earlier this year
  • Launching a new and improved website, and
  • Launching a practical book about how to lead ethically in a complex world

What mindset will I bring to my work?

  • Each time I reach the top of a mountain, I will be able to see the next one more clearly
  • The resources and support I need for success will be there when I need them, and
  • This is the most challenging work I’ve ever done, and it’s the most fun I’ve ever had.

What are you curious about?


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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

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 

 

10 Favorite Quotes From the Leading in Context Blog

10 Quotes

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I noticed that Jesse Lyn Stoner’s Blog Post Celebrating the 2nd Anniversary of My Blog included her favorite quotes from her blog. Her post appeared in the Mini-Carnival of HR at CostofWork.com along with my 150th Blog Post Learning Out Loud .

This week, I thought I’d share 10 of my favorite quotes from the Leading in Context Blog. Clicking on each quote takes you to the full post that includes the quote.

Visit the Leading in Context® Blog Index for more articles about how to lead ethically in a complex world.


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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

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 

 

Leading Ethically and The Control Trap

042313ControllingLeadership

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Why is controlling leadership so harmful in organizations? There are a number of powerful reasons that have ethical implications:

1. Controlling leadership generates stress and fear

2. Controlling leadership reduces productivity, innovation and engagement

3. Controlling leadership takes the meaning and fun out of doing a job

4. Controlling leadership does not consider or respect employees’ knowledge and abilities

5. Controlling leadership creates a toxic work environment and a low-trust culture

People who are fearful and stressed cannot do their best work. Controlling leadership violates many of the principles of ethical leadership. What is the control trap? When a leader tries to control the actions of employees to make sure that they “do it right,” that controlling behavior takes away their natural ability to do good work. 

Here are some ways that we can bring out the best in our people and honor what they know how to do:

  • Extend Trust – We need to let people know that we trust them to do good work 
  • Remove Barriers – We need to remove barriers to effective work (even if we are part of the problem!)
  • Support  Interests – Ask people what they most want to learn and consider that when assigning projects

“A leader is not an administrator who loves to run others, but someone who carries water for his people so that they can get on with their jobs.” — Robert Townsend

Good performance is not something that you can control – but you can release it by the way that you choose to lead.


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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

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 

 

Leading the Conversation About Ethical Leadership

Leading the Conversation

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Dialogue is a powerful tool for developing ethical organizations. Workplace issues are complex and opinions vary about what ethical leadership means. This combination creates a kind of “murky uncertainty” that keeps leaders from giving us their best, most ethical performance.

To move beyond this “murky uncertainty,” we need to take the time to talk about what ethical behavior means. Use the twelve questions in the discussion guide below to start building a shared understanding of your organization’s definition of ethical leadership behavior.

LEADING THE CONVERSATION IN OUR ORGANIZATIONS

Here are some questions that may help you define ethical issues and appropriate leader behaviors in the context of your organizational values:

  • What are the specific ethical behaviors that are required of all organizational leaders?
  • What are the consequences if they don’t behave ethically?
  • What are the situations that people encounter that could lead them into a grey area?
  • How should those grey areas be handled?
  • What does it look like when leaders perform according to the organization’s stated values?
  • What does it look like when they don’t?
  • How should people make decisions when they encounter difficult situations?
  • Where might our leaders fall into grey areas while implementing our goals and values?
  • What are areas where we will not tolerate compromise?
  • What are areas of flexibility?
  • Where do we need to clarify our mission and values, to make it clear that we are an ethical organization, and ethics is not negotiable?
  • How can we more effectively recruit, recognize, and retain ethical leaders?

Linda Fisher Thornton, “Leadership Ethics Training: Why is it So Hard to Get it Right?”  reprinted in Training and Development: The Best of Leadership Development, American Society for Training and Development. (March, 2010)

Without a clear picture of what ethical behavior means in our organizations, we’re unlikely to achieve it.  While the conversation may take some time, it will take less time than dealing with the problems that happen when leaders work in “murky uncertainty.”

Let’s get the conversation started.


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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

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 

 

When is a Decision an Ethical One?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 

 

Which of These Is Ethical Leadership?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Which levels shown in the graphic below represent ethical leadership?

Is Just Following Laws Ethical Leadership?

The first level on the left, sidestepping laws and ethics codes, is clearly not ethical leadership. This self-focused, opportunistic approach to leadership represents a leader operating below the law or seeking loopholes for personal gain.

Which of These is Ethical Leadership

What about the second level, in the middle? Is complying with laws and ethics codes ethical leadership? When leaders and businesses operate below the level of  laws and regulations, they are punished.

The punishment threshold, though, is definitely not the same as the level of ethical leadership that we need in organizations. If we settle for leadership at this level, we will be missing many other important aspects of ethical leadership that are well above the punishment threshold.  

Increasing Expectations

Following laws and regulations is just above the punishment threshold for ethical leadership.

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

There are more ways of interpreting ethical leadership than just the three shown in this graphic, but the graphic illustrates the point that leaders are interpreting “ethical leadership” at very different levels. 

As we understand our global interdependence more clearly, the expectations for leading ethically will only increase. Aiming for the principled level of ethical leadership, the highest level, prepares us to meet our challenges as responsible global citizens.

Questions For Reflection

  1. Which of the three levels shown in the graphic best depicts my perception of what ethical leadership includes?
  2. How can I convey the message to those I lead that expectations for ethical leadership and ethical behavior are increasing?
  3. How will I systematically learn what I’ll need to know in order to respond to the higher expectations of ethical leaders?
  4. How will I share what I learn with others?


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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

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 

 

5 Things It’s Safe to Say To An Ethical Leader

By Linda Fisher Thornton

5 Leaf Clover

St. Patrick’s Day is coming up, and today I offer some food for thought (with a 5-leaf clover thrown in).

You would need the 5-leaf clover pictured above to keep you out of trouble if you were to say these things to someone without strong ethical leadership. But these 5 things are pretty safe to say to an ethical leader.

5 Things It’s Safe to Say to An Ethical Leader

.

1. Just be yourself.

2. Do whatever it takes to get the job done.

3. Take whatever you need.

4. Let me know what I can do to help.

5. Do what you think is right.

.

Ethical leaders have their own internal moral compass and an awareness of the ethical impact of their choices. You can trust them to make decisions that honor people, laws, the environment and workplace boundaries. When you tell them to “just be themselves” or “do what you think is right” you can be confident that they will consider the ethical impact of their behavior and make responsible choices.

What would you add to this list?


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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

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 

 

Dealing With Complexity in Leadership

SAMSUNGBy Linda Fisher Thornton

Dealing with work complexity has become a major leadership development issue. And it is a challenge that has ethical implications. As our work becomes more complex, so do our ethical dilemmas.

What is Thinking Complexity?

We may want to lead responsibly but still struggle to make ethical decisions in highly complex situations. It would help if we could develop the thinking skills to navigate those situations more easily. If we were prepared to think at a high degree of complexity, we would be better able to understand the organization and its challenges from multiple perspectives when making difficult decisions.

“If managers and leaders are to scratch beneath the surface and delve into the substance of their organizations, what is needed is “cognitive complexity” which can be defined as “the intellectual ability of a manager or leader to envision the organization from multiple and competing perspectives so as to develop a depth of organizational understanding that is at least equal to the factors impacting its functioning.”

Richard Jacobs, Analyzing Organizations Through Cognitive Complexity, Villanova University

Considering multiple perspectives in decision-making provides an advantage to leaders and organizations as they juggle competing demands. How can we prepare leaders to do that?

Preparing Leaders

We are going to need to improve our thinking skills to be ready to deal with the increasing complexity of work in our networked global society. According to Nick Petrie, Center for Creative Leadership, we will need a completely new approach to developing leaders in order to deal with the level of change that is coming.

“There is one thing that I have become certain of and that is that the methods that have been used in the past to develop leaders really, truly, categorically will not be enough for the complexity of challenges which are on their way for organizations (and broader society).”

Nick Petrie, Future Trends in Leadership Development, Center for Creative Leadership

The ability to think through complex problems clearly is an asset to individual leaders and to the organizations they serve. We need to find ways to help leaders develop this ability, and to do that, it helps to understand what it is that leaders with a high degree of thinking complexity do.

What Do Leaders With High Thinking Complexity Do?

As you review this list, consider how you can seek meaningful leadership development experiences that support these practices.

Think in Multiple Dimensions and in Relationships

“Persons who are high in cognitive complexity are able to analyze (i.e., differentiate) a situation into many constituent elements, and then explore connections and potential relationships among the elements; they are multidimensional in their thinking.”

Streufert, S., & Swezey, R. W. (1986). Complexity, managers, and organizations. New York: Academic Press, online at The College of St. Scholastica

Deal Well With Ambiguity and Contradictory Findings 

“There are numerous studies which suggest that individuals who have high cognitive complexity tend to be more tolerant of ambiguity, more comfortable not only with new findings but even with contradictory findings. Moreover, such individuals have a greater ability to observe the world in terms of grey rather than simply in terms of black and white.”

J. Rogers Hollingsworth, Knowledge, Communication and Creativity, University of Wisconsin-Madison, online at wisc.edu

Use Systems Thinking

“To meet the needs of requisite complexity, Knowledge Era leadership requires a change in thinking away from individual, controlling views, and toward views of organizations as complex adaptive systems that enable continuous creation and capture of knowledge.”

Uhl-Bien, Marion & McKelvey, Complexity Leadership Theory: Shifting leadership from the industrial age to the knowledge era, University of Lincoln-Nebraska

Intentionally Seek and Integrate New Information

“Complex people tend to be more open to new information, rely on their own integrative efforts than new information, seek more novel information, search across more categories of information, and are less externally information bound. They tend to take in more information and form more well rounded impressions than less complex persons.”

Streufert, S., & Swezey, R. W. Complexity, managers, and organizations. New York: Academic Press, online at The College of St. Scholastica

Connect Employees, Processes and Tools to Meet Goals

Ultimately, these women and men – armed with cognitive complexity and the skills and techniques associated with best practice – will manage and lead their organizations to achieve their goals by uniting people, technology and process in a more efficient and effective human way.

Richard Jacobs, Analyzing Organizations Through Cognitive Complexity, Villanova University

Simplify Complexity For Those They Lead

Those leaders of the units judged to be ‘most successful’ were not those who demonstrated the higher levels of systemic thinking but, rather, seemed able to simplify complexity for their teams.

Keith Normal Johnston, Complexity of thinking and levels of self-complexity required to sustainably manage the environment, thesis submitted to Australian National University

Leaders who develop a high level of thinking complexity will be better able to help our organizations understand and work through a wide variety of challenges, problems and opportunities. They will make sense out of issues and problems that are multidimensional and connected. And they will be prepared to do what all great leaders do – help those they lead deal with increasing complexity.
To Learn More:
Capitalizing on Complexity (and Other CEO Reports), The IBM C-Suite Studies, ibm.com


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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 
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