Leaders: Is An Insider Mindset Ethical?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Leaders focus on the good of their teams, organizations and communities. They work to achieve challenging goals and outcomes and they handle day-to-day crises. HOW they do that is shaped by their mindsets.

What Is An Insider Mindset?

One leader mindset that does not guide leaders to ethical choices is the “insider mindset.” When we think of the word “insider,” we may think of “insider trading” (having an unfair advantage) or “insider information” (possessing knowledge that provides a special advantage). According to Merriam Webster, the word “insider” means “special privilege or status” and has these synonyms: connection, contact, big shot, bigwig, somebody, VIP.

At the core of ethics is thinking beyond ourselves. When we use an insider mindset, though, we place ourselves in the “special seat” and from that point of view it is easier to discount the needs and concerns of others. Applying an insider mindset, it is tempting to ignore the laws and protections that keep us from taking advantage of others.

What Does It Lead To?

Using an “insider mindset” a leader might think it perfectly fine to share “insider” information with a select few in the inner circle for their own benefit. The leader might refuse to share the information publicly even when confronted, since sharing it would take the leader out of the “special seat” and spread the VIP advantage around to everyone else.

Is It Ethical?

Good leaders know that the power of leadership is in its ability to bring out the best in others, which in turn brings out the best in the leader. The leader’s power, then, is not reliant on any special inside information or advantage since it resides in the potential of every member of the team.

An insider mindset has a critical flaw when it comes to ethics. It conveniently “overlooks” the leadership responsibility to protect and serve others before ourselves. It “looks away” from responsibilities that are at the core of good leadership. For these reasons, there is no place for an “insider mindset” in ethical leadership.

About Linda Fisher Thornton
Linda Fisher Thornton is Founder and CEO of Leading in Context, and author of the award-winning book 7 Lenses. She teaches as Adjunct Assoc. Prof. for University of Richmond SPCS. She is leading a movement to help leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership.

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