What is an Ethical “Win?”

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This post is an update of a previously published post.

What it means to “win responsibly” in business has changed. 

Driving this change is a greater awareness of the impact we have on each other:

  • A better understanding of our global connectedness
  • An awareness that laws aren’t ideal ethical standards, just punishment thresholds
  • A greater focus on human rights and dignity and human well-being
  • Increased attention on the well-being of communities

When we consider our interdependence and the leadership context, the way we think about a “win” changes. 

The message used to be “WIN at all cost” to achieve strong financial performance. Then we began to consider what happened to  other people when we “won at all cost” and “Win-Win” became the mantra. As we gradually became aware of our many stakeholders, “Win-Win-Win” looked better – paying attention to the triple bottom line, our impact on Profits, People and the Planet. 

Driving this change is also a greater awareness of the global context:

  • Our constituents are global, and our impact is global
  • We are part of a connected, global economy
  • We are experiencing dwindling natural spaces and increasing demand for natural resources
  • Global citizenship is a growing issue as we deal with border management and complex social issues
  • Leadership and ethical duties are inseparable if we are going to create a positive environment, locally and globally

The triple bottom line, a great improvement over “win at all cost,” is only the beginning. The future of work will require much more. Taking extended stakeholders and the broad responsibilities of corporate social responsibility into account, we are ultimately looking for a 7 Way Win. To learn more, see The Triple Bottom Line is Just the Beginning and 7 Definitions of “Good” (Why We Disagree About Ethics).

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership


© 2022 Leading in Context LLC

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