Adaptability is an Ethical Issue

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ego-driven leaders want to be “right” even when the evidence shows otherwise. They see rightness as something fixed that they can control. Of course, it isn’t fixed and they can’t control it, but they may not want to be confused with the facts. Conversely, when ego is not driving the thinking process, leaders can adapt to changing information and circumstances and change their minds.

Changing Circumstances, Changing Minds

I have written before about the ethical issues involved in trying to be “right” in a changing world. If we watch a time-lapse video of a beach, over time we’ll see the tides, rain and winds move the sand and shift the dunes to new positions. Trying to be “right” is like putting a flag on top of a big sand dune and expecting it to stay there in spite of the constantly changing wind, rain, and tides.

The context in which we lead is changing continually. Every time the context changes, the best decisions change and the ethical choices change. For this reason and others, adaptability has ethical implications.

Why Adaptability is an Ethical Issue

  1. Failing to change as the world changes means staying in a fixed place as ethical expectations move beyond that place.
  2. As the definition of competence in a particular field or profession changes, the required ethical behaviors will also change.
  3. When the context changes, the ethical decisions change.

Ethical Leaders Adapt and Help Others Adapt

Ethical leaders stay adaptive. They realize that any sense of “rightness” will be short-lived as the world changes. They are open to learning from others including others they disagree with. And they help their teams stay adaptive while dealing with catastrophic change.

“Behind every new future of work framework, three fundamental tenets should be evident: trust, autonomy, and ensuring the worker can continue to adapt to a rapidly changing future.”

Keith, Manzati, Pagnutti, Guziak, Mantovani, & Frigenti, First comes the workforce: The human-centric future of work, Deloitte

Adaptability is an important competitive advantage. Don’t get caught planting your flag on a sand dune and thinking that you’re “right.” When that sand dune moves due to factors beyond your control your “rightness” won’t lead to good decisions, only decisions that are out of date.

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership  

© 2009-2023 Leading in Context LLC

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