Ethical Awareness is a Moving Target

By Linda Fisher Thornton

How well is your organization navigating the ethical pitfalls of the working world? If you’re finding it to be a major challenge right now, you’re not alone.

Why is it so hard to navigate ethical minefields now?

There is currently a “toxic soup” of factors at play, including:

  • Life and death pandemic safety issues, requiring full cooperation and adherence to safety protocols
  • Continuing pandemic restrictions, isolation, and restriction burnout
  • Racial tension and a renewed focus on real (not just “marketing level”) inclusion
  • Political tension, polarity, disagreement, and blame
  • Worker fears about COVID-19 combined with large-scale vaccine distribution challenges
  • Rampant misinformation-spreading makes it difficult to identify the truth, and even harder to talk about it
  • Financial challenges, with some workers and businesses living on the edge day to day
  • Inability to get on top of putting out fires to see the big picture, combined with a critical need to adapt
  • Concerns about what work will look like after the pandemic combined with a growing awareness that some things will never go back to the way they were

Five years ago, we didn’t imagine that this was where we would be. We should have seen it coming, because we were warned by plenty of experts, but that’s the topic of another post. Looking at the multiple challenges we’re facing now, I see that there is a great need to sharpen ethical awareness, and that organizations that don’t embrace this challenge will be assuming major unnecessary risks.

How do we sharpen our ethical awareness?

Since starting this blog and authoring 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership, I have taken on the mission of providing practical guidance on ethical leadership. The book provides a coherent, easy to apply 7-Lens schema for tackling ethical problems with a high level of awareness. But I have also written short practical posts for leadership development and education, and below I share a selection of those that will be helpful to you now as you navigate these multiple challenges.

What is Ethical Awareness?

Ethics is Action Beyond Self-Interest

Leadership: Evaluating Ethical Awareness

How Current is My Message About Ethics? (Assessment)

How Do We Develop It?

Seeing the Nuances of Ethical Leadership: A Developmental Model

Mindset or Competency: Which is More Important?

Uncomfortable Learning

What is Ethical Thinking?

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Series)

Rethinking “Smart” Leadership in an Ethical Context

How Do We Navigate Our Current Complex Challenges?

Pandemic Leadership

10 Leadership Strategies For Thriving in 2021

A COVID-19 Leadership Reset: Moving Beyond Paradox

COVID-19: Our Inner Space

Perspectives on a Future With COVID-19

Pandemic Leadership: 3 Questions to Ask in the New Year

Leading During National Unrest and Division

How to Be Human Together

Seeing Beyond Borders and Walls

Pluralism: 9 Elements Required for Ethical Leadership

On Patriotism, Nationalism, Globalism and Ethics

Great Leaders Unite

Labels Divide: Values Conquer

Moving From Putting Out Fires to Seeing the Bigger Context

Prevention or Cure: Your Choice

The Evolving Purpose of Leadership: Why More is Expected Now

9 Ethical Roles: Is Your Leadership Team “All In?”

Talking About What Matters (Series)

10 Tricky Questions About Ethics and Leadership: Answered

Finding the Truth and Avoiding Misinformation

Beliefs Are Complicated

Truth and Misinformation: How to Spot False Narratives (Series)

Reflections on Truth: Why is it So Elusive?

Digital Deception: Unethical Sleight of Hand

Unethical Leadership: Beliefs of Convenience

Ethical awareness isn’t a destination. It’s a moving target. We’ll have to intentionally stretch to meet it. That stretch helps bring out our ethical best, which is what our employees, partners, colleagues and customers deserve.

People will remember how we handled things on their behalf during this time of multiple catastrophes. Let’s make sure what they remember is that we took the time to consider the impact of our choices, took responsible actions, and also provided guidance as they struggled to do the same.

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