Ethics is Actionable

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Some people think about ethics as a theoretical concept that lives in procedures and regulations, but they’re missing the point. Ethics is not just an esoteric concept. It’s an actionable responsibility.

Ethics requires moving beyond convenience and concern for self to concern for others.

Our ethics doesn’t live in the codes and manuals… Ethics is in the decisions we make. It’s in the way we resolve the tension between gaining personal benefit and creating value for others… Ethical guidelines are there to help us, but they do not become our ethics unless we choose to follow them every day.

Linda Fisher Thornton, Ethics Isn’t “Out There”: It’s Us And Our Choices

Leaders bear an even greater responsibility for ethical action because they must lead others to ethical performance through their guidance and example.

When an action is convenient and not appropriate, don’t call it leadership. Leadership is about moving beyond concern for self to also consider the well-being and success of others.

Linda Fisher Thornton, Leaders: What’s Missing in Convenient Actions? Values, Leading in Context Blog

As leaders, our ethical values show up when we take action that is grounded in ethical values:

  • Make important decisions
  • Choose employees to recognize, reward and promote
  • Model expected ethics for others to emulate
  • Treat others with respect and care

It’s in the time we take to teach employees about ethics and values, and the care we take to model ethical behavior so that everyone can see what it looks like in action.

Linda Fisher Thornton, Ethics Isn’t “Out There”: It’s Us And Our Choices

Now is a great time to move well beyond the ethics manual on the shelf and offering ethics training to “check off the box.” It’s time to move from insight to action – from what we know is important to what we actually do every day.

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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