150th Blog Post – Learning Out Loud

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Humble Blog Beginnings

The journey to a 150th blog post starts with a single post.

This ethical leadership blog had a very humble beginning back in 2009. I had decided to start a blog and took a WordPress class at the University of Richmond.  The possibilities were promising.

Then came those nagging thoughts…

  • what should I write about?
  • who will read it?
  • what if I make a mistake?
  • what if it’s not good enough?
Other bloggers may be able to relate to these initial thoughts.
Finding the Courage to Learn Out Loud
My doubts were powerful, but I had decided to do it, so I gathered the courage to post something on my new blog, found a link to share and composed a draft! It was May of 2009.
After posting the very simple link, I expected that the sky would fall in. Why in the world would I have any business blogging? I’d been writing corporate training materials for over 25 years, I’d been writing articles and teaching, but blogging felt different – more raw, more personal, more exposed somehow… way out of my comfort zone. I was thoroughly amazed when a week went by and nothing bad happened.  So I started working on another short post. Most of the early posts on this blog were just links to good resources for leadership developers and human resource managers.
It was 6 months later in November when I learned how to upload an image to go with the post (and the first image was pretty dismal).  To see the progression yourself, here is the Leading in Context Blog Index, with the oldest posts listed at the bottom.
Being Transformed
Since the humble beginnings of this blog in 2009, I have grown into being comfortable with learning out loud.  The journey has transformed me. This work,  helping leaders understand what it means to lead ethically in a complex world, has become my life’s work.
Over time I have found the courage to question and explore the meaning of ethical leadership out loud. With time and practice, I have learned to express that meaning more clearly.
Yes, now I can own it – in addition to being a leadership development consultant, publisher, teacher, facilitator and speaker, I have learned my way through and now I am an ethical leadership blogger.
Special thanks to all the people who have encouraged me, shared resources, connected, followed, retweeted, commented and otherwise engaged in learning around the important issues that this blog explores. Thanks also to those who disagreed with me at times. You helped me grow as well.
The journey to a 150th Blog Post starts with a single post and the courage to learn out loud.
What are you waiting to do? What’s stopping you?

About The Author: Linda Fisher Thornton is CEO/Owner of Leading in Context, a leadership development firm providing leadership consulting and learning publications in an ethical context. She publishes compelling workshop materials that help leaders understand complex ethical issues. For more information and sample content, see “Ethical Implications of How Leaders Perceive ‘Different’.”

You are invited to access the full benefits that Leading in Context provides to customers and subscribers:

Complexity and Childhood Education

We are Beginning to Understand the Kind of Educational Leadership that Prepares Young Students for Success in Our Complex World. Many forward-thinking leaders are advocating the following educational approaches and roles that lead to creativity, learning, growth and innovation:

The Teaching Approach is more organic, flowing, rather than rigid and fixed. It is responsive and based on where the learners and learner groups need to go to take their learning to the next level.

The Teacher functions more like the “media specialist” – a supportive, human hub of information used when needed as learners explore subjects in their own way to integrate information. A human guide to “how to learn what you need to know to succeed in tomorrow’s world” and not “how to memorize” or “how to pass a test.”

The Measurement considers individual and group progress and learning, not just measurement to a “minimum standard.” We measure what we want them to do – grow, learn, deepen knowledge and understanding, think about and solve complex problems, and treat one another respectfully. Discussion of “right” and “wrong” answers is avoided. Complexity is embraced and discussed openly – when could something be right and when could it be wrong? How does thinking about the question in terms of “right and wrong” oversimplify it?

The Environment is respectful, safe, engaging and low-stress. The joy of learning is apparent and anything that can make students feel “not good enough” has been removed. People support each other’s learning and place that first, ahead of any other external measures of success. Students are encouraged to find out what they love to learn about and pursue that learning with a passion. Movement and music are used as ways to explore learning and sitting still is not considered necessary for learning to happen.

The Leadership puts the well-being of the whole child in first position when making decisions, and one of the top goals is to nurture a love for learning, fun, exploration and wonder. Leaders understand that learning is an organic process and that memorization alone does not prepare learners for life and work in our complex world. Technology and social media are embraced for their ability to help meet learner’s needs but not used as an “end” in themselves. Grades are considered a form of judgement and are used minimally or phased out in favor of measures of learning progress.

The Learner is engaged in following curiosity, developing individual gifts and talents, respecting and helping others and preparing to use individual gifts and talents in service to others as healthy and productive citizen of our global society. Basic skills are learned in that context, providing meaning and the intrinsic motivation for learners to excel. In this scenario, homework gradually becomes an outdated construct and learners have more time to explore the natural world, stay physically active and participate in community service.

The Possibilities

I believe that students are capable of achieving much more than we realize when the restrictions on learning are removed and they are free to explore our complex world with their own curiosity and love for learning. There are many courageous principals and teachers who are making these changes in their classrooms and schools, even within an educational infrastructure that is struggling to adapt to a new model of learning.

When we believe that innovative educational leadership is attainable – instead of accepting things as they are – everything changes.

Sources for Learning:

Linda Fisher Thornton is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Leadership for the University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies. She is also CEO/Owner of Leading in Context LLC, a consulting firm helping business leaders lead responsibly in a complex world.  Her background includes:

  • Executive Leadership Experience as Chief Learning Officer of a Virginia Bank
  • 26 Year Record of Engaging Training Design, Curriculum Planning and Group Facilitation 
  • Bachelors Degree in Communication and Linguistics from the University of Virginia
  • Masters Degree in Adult Education and Human Development from George Washington University
  • Award-Winning History of  Community Service and Training Relevance

You are invited to access the full benefits that Leading in Context provides to customers and subscribers:

  • Subscribe to the Leading in Context® Blog, which addresses ethical leadership issues in engaging weekly posts designed for business leaders
  • Access selected publications via Slideshare
  • Develop ethical leaders using materials purchased from the  Store
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  • Contact Linda Fisher Thornton about your consulting, custom design, group facilitation, research or writing projects at Linda@LeadinginContext.com

Understanding Leader Bias: 5 Sources

5 Sources for Understanding and Avoiding Leader Bias

1. “The Vision Renewal Process: How to Achieve Bias-Free Leadership” Sondra Thiederman, Ph.D. Worforce Diversity Network

2. “Your Leadership Bias” Dave Jensen, Dave Jensen on Leadership

3.  “How do Leaders Avoid Bias?”  Richard Charkin, Common Purpose Blog

4. “Avoiding Bias” Bob Korn, Responsible Thinking: Principles

5. “APA Stylistics: Avoiding Bias”  Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL)

Linda Fisher Thornton is CEO/Owner of Leading in Context. She can be reached at Linda@LeadinginContext.com.

Her leader module titled “Ethical Implications of How Leaders Perceive ‘Different’” includes a framework for thinking about the impact of leadership bias and includes a case study for discussion.

You are invited to access the full benefits that Leading in Context provides to customers and subscribers:

Leading Ethically is the New Leading

All of us who lead and develop leaders need to be tuned in to the “New Leading.”  To embrace the “New Leading,” we need to realize that leadership and ethics are joined in important ways.

Many leaders have traditionally thought of ethics and leadership as separate. That fragmented way of thinking is part of why we’ve reached a point where there are so many examples of ethical violations in the news.

What Really Happens When We Separate “Leading” From “Ethically?”

When you separate “leading” from “ethically,” you get a form of  “leadership” that ignores responsibility to others and would look like this:

  • greedy
  • callous
  • harmful
  • insensitive
  • controlling
  • lax about safety
  • overly demanding
  • refusing to change
  • and other unsavory things.

…and a general lack of concern for…

  • other people
  • the community
  • the environment
  • natural life
  • responsible business practices
  • and the long-term good of society

How Is “Leading Ethically” Different From “Leading” in General?

Leading Ethically isn’t different from “Leading” at all.

It’s an integrated view of leadership that incorporates ethical thinking and ethical behavior.

It’s a view that keeps the “responsibility” in leadership.

It’s a kind of leadership that acknowledges that there are other constituents that matter and that how we treat them defines us as leaders.

It’s a broad set of evolving expectations for how to lead responsibly in a global society.

It’s not different from leadership.  It is the new leadership. It’s leadership done responsibly in a global society.

© 2011 Leading in Context LLC. All rights reserved.

Linda Fisher Thornton is CEO/Owner of Leading in Context, a leadership development firm providing leadership development materials in an ethical context.

You are invited to access the full benefits that Leading in Context provides to customers and subscribers:


Highlights From The Donchian Symposium: Evolving Perspectives on Ethics

Tree-Lined Road The Donchian Symposium: Evolving Perspectives on Ethics, held recently at the University of Richmond, was a groundbreaking cross-disciplinary look at how cultural perspectives on ethical leadership are changing. Presenters raised emerging issues and cultural challenges related to ethics in ways that made them clear and compelling.

I thoroughly enjoyed the event, and especially appreciated the fact that scholars, interested citizens and business people sat side by side and shared their reactions to what they were learning.

If you did not attend, it would be well worth your time to review the highlights from the Symposium, which are available online.  The Donchian Symposium: Evolving Perspectives on Ethics held at the University of Richmond on September 20, 2010.

Where do you learn about ethical leadership? What information are you having trouble finding? What would be helpful to you?

Linda Fisher Thornton is Owner of Leading in Context LLC, providing Tools for Ethical Leadership in a Complex Interconnected Workplace.  She teaches “Strategic Thinking for Leaders” and “Leadership, Conflict Management and Group Dynamics” as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Leadership for the University of Richmond School of Continuing Studies.


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