It’s Not About Us

By Linda Fisher Thornton 

You may have noticed that society’s expectations of us as leaders are continuing to increase. Consumers prefer to choose companies that genuinely care about their well-being. Employees want to work for companies that treat people well, do meaningful work and give back to the community. To survive in this new land where ethics is key to success, we must understand that it is not all about us.

Its Not About Us

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

Leadership may have once been defined by eloquence, power, or charisma, but today’s successful leadership is defined by creating value for others.  In a human development sense, our understanding of leadership has essentially “grown up” and moved past personal ego and a self-centered view of things. It has progressed from being “all about us” to being about our long-term impact on others.

FROM  SELF-CENTERED VIEW             TO  OTHER-CENTERED VIEW  

FROM  DEMONSTRATING POWER      TO  CREATING SHARED VALUE

What does this less self-centered view of leadership look like in action? It looks like this in a typical day:

  • Talking with employees, customers and other stakeholders to learn their deepest needs
  • Treating everyone with respect
  • Asking how we can make things better for those we lead and serve
  • Being open to change, adapting quickly, and staying competent (because these things define how others experience our leadership)
  • Keeping ethics at the center of everything we do and every decision we make

We need to avoid thinking that it’s all about us. Today’s less self-absorbed leadership is all about proactively and ethically creating value for others.

About Linda Fisher Thornton          

As CEO of Leading in Context, Linda Fisher Thornton  helps forward-thinking leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership.™ Linda’s book 7 Lenses (with a foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey) provides a clear multi-dimensional framework for leading ethically in  a global society.

LeadinginContext.com    Linda@LeadinginContext.com   @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

                     

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!

About Linda Fisher Thornton          

As CEO of Leading in Context, Linda helps forward-thinking leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership.™ Linda’s book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership (with a foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey) provides a clear framework for leading ethically in a complex world . 

“Each lens is part of ethical leadership, and when any one is ignored, we fail to lead ethically in its fullest interpretation.”                                              
Linda Fisher Thornton, in 7 Lenses
Linda@LeadinginContext.com @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses  

Wishing You Joy

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Joy tagxedo

Extending Joy to You This Holiday Season

Joy is not something we simply hope for or wait for. It’s something that we create through our everyday actions and relationships.

As we celebrate the Holidays and enter the New Year, I hope that you enjoy the timeless quotes about joy that follow. Notice how these reflections on joy tend to focus on gratitude, imagination, open-mindedness and service

Many thanks to all of you who have reached out this year to share ideas about leading ethically in a complex world.

Have a Joyful Holiday Season!

“Joy blooms where minds and hearts are open.”
― Jonathan Lockwood Huie

“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.”
― Marianne Williamson

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”
― Rabindranath Tagore

“An infinite question is often destroyed by finite answers. To define everything is to annihilate much that gives us laughter and joy.”
― Madeleine L’Engle

“Scatter joy!”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Music… will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being,the more joy you can contain.”                                                                              ― Kahlil Gibran

“A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love. She gives most who gives with joy.”
― Mother TeresaIn the Heart of the World: Thoughts, Stories and Prayers

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

7 Lenses Book

About Linda Fisher Thornton

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

Linda’s new book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership provides a clear framework for learning to lead ethically in a complex world. 

 

10 Ethical Leadership Questions For the New Year

10 Questions

By Linda Fisher Thornton

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

1. What does “ethical” mean to me?

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

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

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

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

6. How carefully am I managing my ethical competence?

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

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

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

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

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

7 Lenses Book

About Linda Fisher Thornton

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


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

The 7 Lenses Story – A Closer Look Radio Interview

By Linda Fisher Thornton

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

Ethics in business – The 7 Lenses of ethical responsibility

with Linda Fisher Thornton

7 Lenses

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

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

About Linda Fisher Thornton

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

Leadership Responsibility: The Movement

LeadResponsMovement

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Taking Responsibility is “In”

We have reached a point in business where proactively taking responsibility as leaders has become a movement in its own right. We use many different words to talk about our leadership responsibilities.

Corporate Social Responsibility        Trust Building

          Sustainability             Character          Integrity

     Care                        Profitability                 Community Service      

Greater Good                  Ethical leadership        Compliance   

       Boundaries                 Impact                        Avoiding Harm

Leadership responsibility is multidimensional, and cannot be described in one or two words. It is personal, interpersonal, environmental and societal. Fortunately, that level of complexity is not stopping  leaders and organizations from taking the lead in demonstrating what it means to take responsibility in leadership. These articles describe the powerful movement toward proactively taking a high level of responsibility for our choices and our impact:

Understanding Our Impact

Our understanding of the purpose of leadership has evolved to include responsibility for a broad array of stakeholders over the long term. We have moved way beyond the command-and-control model. We now understand that our role includes bringing out the best in others and helping them achieve their potential while we all work toward the organization’s goals.

“Leaders of the future unleash human potential by instilling trust through authenticity, clarity of purpose and openness to continual learning. “

–Giles Hutchins, Leadership for the future: diversity, creativity and co-creation, thegaurdian.com

We now are beginning to see the powerful impact that responsible leadership has on organizational performance, employee engagement and other important metrics. In the process of creating responsible organizations, we also help employees find meaning in their work.

“Values-led leaders help create emotionally and mentally healthy organisations, where business goals are met without sacrificing personal values.”

Corporate Social Responsibility: How the Movement Has Evolved Since the 1990′s by Paul Monaghan

We understand the importance of leading for the long-term and taking responsibility for our impact on others, the environment and society.

“If capitalism is to remain a healthy, vibrant economic system, corporations must participate in taking care of the society and the environment in which they live.”

Simon Mainwaring

Learning For Life

It is becoming increasingly clear that responsibility is not optional in a global society – it is at the heart of our leadership when we lead well.  Leadership development has become a critical priority as executives acknowledge the increasing complexity of leading in a global society. Leaders need help learning through this maze of terminology and leadership expectations.

This is an ongoing quest for leaders and for students preparing to be our future leaders. As Thomas Paine said, “When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary.”

¤

About Leading in Context and Linda Fisher Thornton

In 2013, Leading in Context CEO Linda Fisher Thornton was named one of the global Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America.  Linda’s new book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership is due out in early November. 

 

Making a Difference in the World

Making a DifferenceBy Linda Fisher Thornton

One Person Can Make A Difference

I believe that there is much more to leadership than going through the daily tasks and assignments on our to-do lists. In my Manifesto about ethical leadership, this is how I defined the importance of leaders making a positive difference:

“We make a difference in the world. We realize that the planet, our communities, and the long-term good of world are also our constituents. We know that our role is to think and act in ways that honor our planet, our communities and our world. We do good without doing harm.”

The Leading in Context® Manifesto

There is More to Leadership

There is much more to leadership than just being at the front of the room during a meeting, or working with the team to make the big decisions. I find that the most rewarding part of leadership is making a difference – in people’s lives, in the community, or in the world. While making a difference may seem like a lofty goal, consider these examples of how much difference one person on a mission can make:

How ‘Difference Makers Think’ — The Single Greatest Secret to Personal and Business Success, David Sturt, Forbes.com

How to Change the World, John-Paul Flintoff, in Utne Reader

I can think of several leaders who changed the course of my life through their support, example and teaching. Today, in your daily leadership, choose to be that kind of leader – the kind who makes a lasting difference.

About Linda Fisher Thornton

In 2013, Linda was named one of the Global Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America. Linda’s new book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership is due out this fall.

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

 

Global-Minded Ethical Leadership

On a Global ScaleBy Linda Fisher Thornton

Why We Need to Be Global-Minded

How do we need to think about global citizenship in ethical leadership? Ten years ago, “thinking global” may have only been considered the concern of multinational companies, but today it is something we all need to do. Here is how today’s ethical leaders think about their global responsibilities:

“We demonstrate care and concern for all of our constituents, and think on a global scale. We consider the needs of multiple stakeholders when making even routine decisions. We include the planet, communities and our global society among our stakeholders.”

The Leading in Context® Manifesto

Questions For Global Thinking

Because we are part of a connected society, we cannot think about ethics on a small scale. Our daily choices can have a global ripple effect, and that effect can be either positive or negative depending on our choices. We need to consider the long-term impact of every decision.

What kinds of questions should we ask ourselves to make sure we are thinking on a global scale? Here are some to get you started:

What impact will this choice have on silent stakeholders (who are affected, but not involved in the decision)?

How will it impact people around the world (even though we may never meet them)?

How will it affect the long-term health of the environment (which cannot speak for itself)?

What if every leader used long-term, global thinking?

About Linda Fisher Thornton

In 2013, Linda was named one of the Global Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America. Linda’s new book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership is in final editing and due out in October, 2013. Contact Info@LeadinginContext.com for information about book launch incentives.

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

Previous Posts in This Series:

Improving Lives and Organizations

A Learning Journey That Brings Out Our Best

Proactivity, Performance and Potential

Possibility, Service and Making a Difference

 

A Learning Journey That Brings Out Our Best

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The Manifesto

How is ethical leadership a learning journey?

“Ethical leadership transforms profits, people, the planet, communities and the world. Ethical leadership is not something on our to do list that we can check off as completed. It is an ongoing individual and organizational journey. This learning journey will bring out the best in all of us.”

The Leading in Context® Manifesto

Learning Journey

The Ethical Leadership Learning Journey

We live in a changing world. To keep up with those changes as leaders requires a commitment to learning. And in ethical leadership, the stakes are high. We need to honor human rights, ensure product safety, and serve our customers in ways that add value without harm. It’s a lot to do.

Once we decide to learn to lead ethically, though, it is a very different challenge. It stops being something to deal with “out there,” and it starts being about us. And that’s where ethical leadership really lives. It is in the small things we do every day just as much as it is in our major decisions. Once we realize that we never “arrive” as ethical leaders, we begin the journey.

About Linda Fisher Thornton

In 2013, Linda was named one of the Global Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America. Linda’s new book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership is due out this fall.

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

 

Proactivity, Performance and Potential

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The Manifesto

This week, I want to continue to explore the mindset behind The Leading in Context® Manifesto. Here is an important quote from it about the positive impact of ethical leadership:

“Imagine the potential. What could we accomplish if we proactively developed ethical leaders and an ethical culture? Unleash the performance potential of our people? Transform our organizations? Improve lives and communities? Change the world?”

“Take on the mindset: We believe that ethical leadership drives business metrics including employee engagement, customer retention and innovation. Ethical leadership creates great places to work, and gives us staying power in a global marketplace.”

The Leading in Context® Manifesto

Proactivity, Performance Potential and Improving Business Metrics

Improving Organizations Through Proactive Ethical Leadership

Three important concepts in the quote above are:

Proactivity

Performance Potential 

Improving Business Metrics

Proactivity means not waiting for someone to direct us to do something. It means doing things before we have to, in order to make them better. How does being proactive about ethical leadership impact our business metrics?

When we lead proactively and seek to improve, we intentionally make changes in our leadership that improve our character, and build trust with others. We choose to continue to be better every day. Applied to ethical leadership, proactivity includes intentionally demonstrating respect and care for others, building trust, and making learning a leadership priority. That continual commitment to organizational excellence releases the performance potential of our organizations. Over time, these small daily choices that bring out the best performance in our organizations begin to improve business metrics.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. Are we more likely to lead ethically when we take a proactive (rather than reactive) approach?
  2. How do the small things that we do proactively to improve our leadership help bring out the best in those we lead?
  3. What is the positive ripple effect of many small leadership improvements on our organization’s overall performance?

About Linda Fisher Thornton

In 2013, Linda was named one of the Global Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America. Linda’s new book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership is due out this fall.

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

 

The Leading in Context® Manifesto

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This week, I am sharing The Leading in Context® Manifesto – a clear statement of what I believe, and the movement I lead. It is a stake in the ground, a powerful statement of how we can build the kind of ethical leadership that builds successful companies, successful communities and a better world.

Please forward the movement by spreading the word!

About Linda Fisher Thornton

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

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

Top 10 Benefits of Working For an Ethical Leader

Benefits of Working For an Ethical Leader

By Linda Fisher Thornton

When people change jobs, how often do you think it is because of poor leadership? Job seekers look for places to work where they can find meaning and add value. It takes more than a paycheck to keep them engaged in their work and bringing their full potential to it.

In my experience, ethical leaders are much easier to work for. They have a certain way of making work fun, and keeping us challenged. They care what happens to us. They think long-term and support our learning and growth.

What are the top 10 benefits of working for an ethical leader? Here is my starter list. What would you add?

  1. They provide a low-stress work environment (even if it’s really busy)
  2. They listen well
  3. They support and encourage
  4. They use open and honest communication
  5. You know that you can count on them to honor their word
  6. They treat you with respect
  7. You can ask them any question (without feeling stupid)
  8. The work is meaningful
  9. You always feel valued and appreciated
  10. Their companies perform better (job security)

Anyone who has had the opportunity to work for an ethical leader will smile just remembering the experience.

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

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC. All rights reserved.

Leading in a Systems World

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Our leadership decisions create repercussions that reach far beyond the spaces where we work. The choices that we make may impact people, communities, the environment and society for weeks. months or generations.  This is why systems thinking is such an important  part of ethical leadership. Meg Wheatley speaks eloquently about the connectedness of the society and our ethical responsibility as leaders:

“Ethical leadership means seeing ourselves as part of the connected society, as part of multiple connected systems, and as responsible for our impact on the world. It also means seeking out opinions that differ from ours, because those opinions shed light on the parts of a system or problem that we may not yet understand.”                                                        

                                                                                 Margaret J. Wheatley

systems

We must use a systems view in day-to-day leadership because we lead in a systems world. The systems we touch are connected and inseparable.

Think for a moment about the impact of  changing one ingredient in a food product. That one change impacts the ingredients list on the packaging, it changes the way the food is prepared, it requires a changed production process, and perhaps additional equipment and training. It may require a new supplier,  and a new food storage and delivery schedule. It may change the advertising and website. It may require an allergy warning.

Now let’s take a regional example. What if you are a shipping company and you change your routes?  That would change services and delivery times for some of your customers. What if your customers are counting on fast deliveries and the change in schedule means that they can’t get their shipments out on time in the week of the change? What if you are delivering medical supplies to them that don’t reach a hospital in time?

Our Choices Have Impact 

We cannot make decisions without considering systems, because we live and lead in a systems world.  The systems in our world are multicultural, global and complex.

       “Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Peter Senge

Leading ethically requires that we do the hard thinking required to honor multiple constituents. It requires always remembering that we lead in a systems world – made up of human, economic, environmental, and societal systems. We must stretch our thinking until it is broad enough to encompass all of those systems.

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

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC. All rights reserved.

Responsibility and Respect (The 4th and 5th R’s)

Moral educationChildren Need to Learn Responsibility and Respect

In addition to the 3 R’s, two key principles that children need to learn in order to to live a successful life are responsibility and respect. As we teach knowledge and information, these areas need to be taught through an ethical frame of reference.

Not all information is equally helpful in learning to become a good citizen. While we encourage good thinking, we also need to encourage good behavior in order to provide a well-rounded education.

“Responsibility and Respect – known among proponents as the fourth and fifth R’s – are increasingly being taught alongside academic subjects as schools try to address what many see as the declining moral fiber of the country’s youth.”

Lori Miller Kase, Reading, Writing, & Respect, Parents Magazine

Wouldn’t it be helpful if we taught subjects like these along with the traditional classes?

  • Learning Self-Control (When What You Want to Do Seems Really Fun, But You Shouldn’t Do It)
  • How to Be a Responsible Thinker (Thinking Beyond Yourself)
  • How To Treat Other People (What Respect Looks Like)

What is the Role of K-12 Education in Moral Education?

Moral education is the key to helping students become responsible citizens. Shouldn’t it be more important to know how to treat other people than to know the exact date something happened in history? One you can look up. The other is harder to learn, but is critical for a civil society.

“Character education has taken many different forms, and has varied monikers- moral reasoning, moral education, character development, and civic education- but the substance behind the names has a common thread. The need for children to become productive citizens in American society is the heart of character education. Moral reasoning is imperative for schools to incorporate to truly reach this mission: an educated citizenry.”

Dolph and Lynca, Moral Reasoning: A Necessary Standard of Learning in Today’s Classroom, Journal of Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives in Education

Throughout history, morality transmission has been present in education. Furthermore, many people believe that there is a connection between learning academically and the development of mental power, and the learning of moral values and the development of strength of character. The development of the intellect and of moral character are intimately related. Just as there is an order in nature (the laws of science), in reason (the laws of logic), and in the realm of numbers, so too is there a moral order. One thing we need to do is recover the belief that there is a transcendent, unchanging moral order, and restore it once more to a central place in the educational process. (Nash)

Morality in Education, University of Michigan Department of Psychology, sitemaker.umich.edu

Teaching students how to research, read, write and do math is only part of the picture. Let’s make responsibility and respect equally important components of childhood education – then we’ll be developing the ethical leaders of the future.

Character Education Programs Designed for Children:

http://www.aaeteachers.org/index.php/character-education-programs

http://www.character.org/

http://charactercounts.org/sixpillars.html

http://www.wingsforkids.org/files/WINGS-Learning-Objectives.pdf

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

How to Use the Leading in Context® Website

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC. All rights reserved.

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?

Linda Fisher Thornton is CEO of Leading in Context LLC, a leadership development consulting firm helping business leaders lead responsibly in a complex world.  She is also Adjunct Assistant Professor of Leadership for the University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies. Linda was recently named one of the 2013 Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America.

How to Use the Leading in Context® Website

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC. All rights reserved.

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