Ethical Leadership is About Service, Not Privilege


By Linda Fisher Thornton

I was noticing how many drivers seem to be in a hurry, and I realized that some people are rushing so quickly that they don’t stop to consider their impact on others (on the road or elsewhere).  They just want to get wherever they’re going as quickly as possible.

Some leaders act this way, too. While their purpose should be to enable the success of those they lead, they stop their circle of purpose at themselves and don’t let concern for anyone else’s well-being slow them down. I wonder what values are at the center of that kind of leadership? Speed? Money? Power? Efficiency?

If someone were to shadow you for a day, what would they say that you value? Would it be Supporting Others? Building Mutually Beneficial Relationships? Respect? Care? Or would they name Speed, Money, Power and Efficiency?  Who’s well-being do you consider to be part of your leadership responsibility? 

Ethical leaders don’t play favorites. They consider their impact broadly. They think before they act, and their thinking includes a wide circle of constituents. Besides the broad view they take of their constituents, there is another important way ethical leaders approach their role that sets them apart and helps them bring out the best in people and organizations. 

Ethical leaders understand that their role is one of service and not of privilege, and that informs every choice they make. 

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  1. Linda, I think the problem — for leaders and for drivers — is that they 1) fail to examine themselves and what is required to achieve their goals, and 2) define self-interest in the wrong way.

    My co-author and I have recently proposed that the Ethic of Self-Interest should be defined as t “the ethical perspective wherein an individual seeks his or her long-term desired outcomes based upon his or her values, self-perception, and sense of personal responsibility to self and others.”

    When we honor ourselves and honor others, I think we become better leaders and better drivers — better persons really!



  2. Excellent as usual. Thank you Linda for presenting this information. Every time read your material when it comes out, it makes me glad that there are people like you working hard to continue to remind us of the important things in life. A long time ago, I found that the more people I help the easier things seem to be to get folks to follow your lead. This is how I have run culturalpatina since I started in some 3 years ago. Today, I have over 15,000 followers in some 180 countries.


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