Ethical Leadership is a Journey
July 10, 2013 Leave a comment
By Linda Fisher Thornton
Ethical leadership is a journey, not a destination. Imagine walking for hours toward the distant horizon. No matter how fast or how far you walk, the horizon will always be out there, some distance away from you. The same is true for ethical leadership. No matter how far we go, we never “arrive.”
Change and global connectedness are both accelerating. It is naïve to think that we will ever completely master ethical leadership. No matter how much we learn and how much we do, we will always be learners.
A Learner’s View
When we think about ethical leadership as a journey, our mindset shifts from “knowing” to “learning.” This subtle but powerful shift keeps us open-minded and nimble. It helps us consider multiple options and make ethical choices as we encounter challenges on the journey.
Imagine the difference between taking a multiple choice test to prove you know the answers, and staying open-minded and aware as you solve an ethical dilemma. In the first case, you are focused on making quick decisions and marking your responses. In the second, you are focused on bringing your best thinking to the challenges at hand.
Bringing an openness to learning to the challenges we face helps us see that:
- Our first reaction is not always the most ethical choice.
- Other perspectives (especially those that differ from ours) provide information and insight that will help us make good choices.
- Ethical leadership itself is a moving target as societal expectations change.
From wherever we may be on the ethical leadership journey, we need to keep the horizon in our sights and remember that we are a work in progress.
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