How Current is My Message About Ethics?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ethical expectations are continually increasing, and it is not always easy for leaders to keep up with the changes. This week, I’m sharing an assessment to help you answer the question “How current is my message about ethics?” 

We convey our beliefs about ethical responsibility through leadership development, ethics training, regular communications and daily actions.  The message we send sets the tone for the ethics of our organizations.

This assessment is based on the holistic 7 Lenses™ framework described in my book 7 Lenses. It will help you identify strengths and areas for improvement in your ethics message. Notice that the assessment is organized into 7 different perspectives on ethical responsibility. Each of these 7 Lenses™ is an important part of leading ethically in a global society, from profiting responsibly to contributing to the greater good of society. 

See how many of the 21 items below are already incorporated into your message about ethics, and check those off. After completing the assessment, add any items you didn’t check off to your list of goals for this year. 

What is My Message About Ethical Responsibility?

Lens 1: Profit

___ I describe profit as the result of doing business ethically and creating shared value.

___ I talk about ethics just about as often as I talk about profits to be sure that people know that it is just as important.

___ I lead open conversations about how to balance ethics and profits, because I know that at times they will seem to conflict.

Lens 2: Law

___ I make it clear that laws are the minimum standards in society, not the expected levels of behavior. 

___ I let leaders know that we need to aim higher than laws and regulations, to the ethical values behind those laws.

___ I talk openly about how we’ll handle situations where something is legal, but may harm our constituents and is therefore unethical.

Lens 3: Character

___ I go well beyond telling people to “do the right thing” and give them details about what that means in our organization.

___ I demonstrate ethical competence and expect it from every leader in the organization.

___  I make moral awareness an important part of leader education.

Lens 4: People 

___ I don’t tolerate negative interpersonal behaviors (like teasing, blaming and belittling).

___ I ask leaders to demonstrate respect for every person, regardless of differences. 

___ I expect leaders to honor the rights and dignity of each person, and they understand what that looks like (and doesn’t  look like) in action.

Lens 5: Communities

___ I make it clear to leaders that community service and involvement are key values in our organization.

___ I offer opportunities for leaders to be actively involved in efforts to support community programs. 

___ Our message is that supporting healthy, thriving communities helps everyone, including us. 

Lens 6:  Planet

___ I make sure that leaders know that in our organization sustainability is more than a pamphlet or a report, it is the way we work every day.

___ I let leaders know that life, nature and ecosystems are silent stakeholders that we must protect.

___ Our message is consistent – actions about sustainability and protecting the planet match our words.

Lens 7: Greater Good

___ Leaders know that our organization believes in creating a better world for all.

 ___ When making decisions, I ask people to think farther ahead than 1-5 years, to consider the long-term impact of their choices 100 years or more into the future.

___ I help leaders balance short-term gains with long-term responsibilities when they make decisions.

How current is your message about ethics?



For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses  and Making Decisions Like Global Citizens.

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  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 


  1. Well said, Markus. The expectations are increasing as we better understand our connectedness and common humanity. The need to honor ethics at the highest level has always been there, we are just now beginning to understand it clearly on a global scale.


  2. Is it accurate that ethical demands (rather than expectations) are continually increasing or do we – at least in the so called free world – just rediscover what ethical demands (basics!) are all about in expanding and intensifying relationships (e.g. globalisation)? The basic ethical demands themselves are in my view neither increasing nor strengthened but need to be more consequently considered and respected while pursuing our daily activities be it doing business or other.


  3. Owen, It is definitely a human process, isn’t it? One that requires a high level of self awareness. When we intentionally aim for the highest levels of ethical behavior, we end up bringing out the best in ourselves and others.


  4. One thing that I recently read is fascinating: that we tend to want to act like others, but that we also underestimate positive qualities in others and overestimate the negative qualities. So when we ‘think’ we’re acting as ethical as someone else, we’re not because we’ve underestimated their normal ethical standards. And when we think we’re not acting as badly as someone else, ethically we are because we’ve overestimated their unethical qualities. So we cannot leave responses based on these false beliefs on auto-pilot because we will NOT be acting as ethical as others and we will be acting as badly if not worse than others … and if everyone is doing this … So, to conclude then, we must become mentally and emotionally aware of our assessments of others and attempt to act better than and far less worse than them … then we have shone above the heads of others as ethical moral beings. (But if we’re only acting ‘like them’ we are not behaving particularly well at all!)


Join the Conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: