The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 6)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This series has explored 5 important spheres of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making. 

This week I’m summing it up in a checklist that will help you apply all 5 to your daily choices. When you are making a key decision, run it through the checklist to be sure you have considered all 5 important dimensions. 

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 4)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Who we include in our ethical thinking, and how broadly we consider our responsibility to others are important elements of ethical leadership. In Part 1 of this series, I explored the Depth of our thinking, and in Part 2, I broke down issues related to understanding Context. In Part 3, I looked at Complexity. In Part 4, we’ll dig into the importance of Inclusion.

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 3)

Embracing Complexity is Part of Leadership

Complexity has become a way of life. To make ethical decisions, we must embrace it and incorporate it into our thinking process. That means digging in to issues until we understand their multiple dimensions, connections and contradictions. It means being intentional about decision making and avoiding making snap judgments.

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 2)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

In Part 1 of this series I looked at the importance of Deep Thinking. In Part 2, we’ll be considering the Context. No matter how much effort it takes to understand the context (whether we like it or not) we can’t expect to make an ethical decision without it. 

Understanding the Context

Without seeing the context – a broad and sweeping view of the issues we are discussing or trying to resolve – we are describing or trying to solve a SUBSET of the real issue. To use ethical thinking and decision-making, we must always remind ourselves that the SUBSET is not the whole. 

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 1)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

When Thinking is Starved For Context and Complexity

Think about how easy it is to start using shallow breathing without being aware that we’re doing it. This can happen when we’re stressed or anxious, and it can impact our well-being. We may be unaware that we are using shallow breathing until someone notices we’re turning pale and tells us to BREATHE.

When we use shallow thinking, that similarly impacts the “well-being” of our decision making, leading us to false conclusions and ethically problematic decisions. It’s almost as if when we use shallow thinking, our decision making is getting less oxygen. We can medically treat people who are having trouble breathing. But what do we do about thinking that is starved for context and complexity?

How Do You Make Better Decisions?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

How do you make decisions? Do you consider a series of important questions? Do you find out the needs of the people involved? Do you consult a diverse group of advisors? Or do you just wing it? Some of the ways we may be tempted to think through our challenges (how to stay within budget or how to be most profitable, for example) leave ethical values out of the equation.

Ethical thinking helps us make good leadership decisions. When we use intentional ethical thinking, we make decisions based on ethical values. Using ethical thinking doesn’t just help us do the right thing. It also helps us resolve our most difficult leadership problems by broadening our awareness.

Every Decision Changes The Ethical Culture Equation

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ethics has a compounding effect on culture, and our leadership choices determine whether that effect will be positive or negative. Being diligent about ethics in every decision brings the culture ethics dividends. Being careless about ethics brings ethics penalties.

The tricky part about managing ethical culture is that every leader decision and action throughout the organization is changing the equation. The “ethical culture equation” is changing in real time, every day.

Making Decisions Like Global Citizens

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Character is important, but leading ethically in the fullest sense requires much more than just demonstrate good character. In this 2 minute video, I describe 7 different perspectives that you may be hearing around the table as you discuss ethical dilemmas in your organization. Instead of being competing perspectives, each one is an important element of the full picture of what it means to lead ethically in a global society.

When is a Decision an Ethical One?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

As we think about our decisions, which ones do we recognize as “ethical?” Complying with laws and ethics codes clearly has ethical implications. But what about these decisions?

Seeing Past Our Point of View

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Have you noticed the steady increase in the complexity of navigating our daily lives? It feels like we have too many choices, too much information, and not enough time. More information and more choices would be great if we had the time to research and decide, but the reality is that it’s difficult and time consuming to sort out which information is reliable and which is not.

Seeing and appreciating other ways of doing things is not just a nice-to-have ability. In a connected global society, it’s an essential skill. To achieve mutual benefit and collaboration, we will need to see the world from other perspectives that differ from our own, respect those perspectives, and work together toward shared goals. Leaders who don’t know how and don’t make the effort to change can be thought of as intentionally “unseeing” important aspects of the context and their leadership responsibility.

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.

Don’t Let Your Ego Undermine Your Leadership

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ego has a way of undoing even our best intentions as leaders. We have to be aware of our ego and manage it to avoid getting off track. In a world that requires rapid adaptation to changing events and circumstances, ego tries to maintain the status quo and works against our ability to pivot in response to change. Think of the adaptable leader as piloting a boat, able to turn at a moment’s notice as the situation warrants it. The ego-driven leader, in contrast, is living in a fortress with a moat around it, protecting status and the status quo at all cost. The fortress can’t move, can’t pivot, can’t adapt to changing circumstances.

Ethical Culture: The Business Case For Prevention

By Linda Fisher Thornton

After I published “Prevention or Cure: Your Choice” about reducing ethical risk and creating a positive culture a reader asked for more information about the business case for prevention. Here are some compelling reasons why the prevention approach is a better business decision than waiting for ethical problems and applying a “cure” after the organization is already in trouble.