Inclusion: The Power of “Regardless”

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Some inclusion statements begin with “we respect all people and treat them fairly, regardless of…”  and then include a long list of differences that we should overcome. These lists are hard to communicate, difficult to remember and ever-changing as we expand our understanding of human rights. 

Why not aim for where the statement is going, rather than where it’s been? We can keep adding to that “regardless” list until it becomes too unwieldy to use, or we can simply say now:

“We respect all people and treat them fairly, regardless.”

That’s the message behind the UN Global Declaration of Human Rights, championed by Eleanor Roosevelt. 

I know what you might be thinking. Not everyone is ready to make this big leap all at once. What we can do is make sure that we are moving our organizations in this direction with all due haste, knowing that this is the leadership mindset that is required of us in a global society, regardless.

 

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Differences or Inclusion – Which Are We Focusing On?

by Linda Fisher Thornton

A Diversity Focus Can Be Divisive

When we talk about diversity, we are noticing differences. That may not seem like a profound statement at first, but think about it for a moment. In a work environment, diversity is about having different types of employees, right? And that’s a good thing for productivity and innovation, isn’t it? It is a good thing. But it’s not enough.  

Managing diversity without inclusion as the ultimate goal can make a big difference in the way employees experience our organization. We choose a way of thinking that represents what we’re trying to do and then build a process/program/structure or measurement based on that foundation. If diversity is our way of thinking, we may get an approach based on “differences,” rather than one based on creating an inclusive culture where a diverse group of people can do their best work.

How we Perceive “Different” Has Ethical and Organizational Implications

“There are a number of ways to perceive people who are different from us and ideas that are different from ours. Some are more positive and productive than others” (Linda Fisher Thornton, “Ethical Implications of How Leaders Perceive ‘Different'”).”

As leaders, how we choose to handle people who are “different” from us in some way shapes our organizational culture in important ways. Tamara Erickson, McKinsey award-winning author, calls for a higher level of diversity understanding in organizations:

“There is a third stage of diversity, perhaps aspirational for most today, represented by a fundamental shift in attitudes toward people who are in any way different… My wish for 2011 is that more organizations will include programs aimed to reach this stage as an important component of their diversity goals.”

Tamara J. Erickson in Level Three Diversity: Moving Beyond Political Correctness,” Diversity Executive, January/February 2011

As leaders, we need to understand our choices and the potential ethical impact of those choices on our employees and our organizations. Honoring human rights fundamentally means honoring everyone, regardless of background or perspective. Are we living that every day in our organizational leadership?

In Inclusive Organizations, Differences are Seen as Enhancing Organizational Innovation

The excerpt below is from Leading in Context® Training Module “Ethical Implications of How Leaders Perceive Different” which provides a framework for thinking and talking about how we handle “different” in our organizations.

Perceptions of “Different” Impact Our Behavior

“How we think as leaders directly impacts our leadership behavior.  It compels us to act and to make decisions in the context of the value judgments we make.”

“Unfortunately, we don’t always use the word “different” to describe things and people and ideas that are new to us. We often use less friendly words that indicate that the person or idea is wrong, misguided or harmful. When we are perceiving “different” as wrong, misguided or harmful, we are more likely to treat people in ways that are not respectful. When we are open to hearing “different” perspectives we are more likely to lead in responsible, inclusive ways.”

“Because our thinking process shapes our decisions, as leaders we must be careful to use thinking processes that are inclusive and that respect the rights of other people to have their own perspectives and opinions.”

Excerpts from “Ethical Implications of How Leaders Perceive Different” by Linda Fisher Thornton

As Howard Winters said, “Civilization is the process in which one gradually increases the number of people included in the term ‘we’ or ‘us’ and at the same time decreases those labeled ‘you’ or ‘them’ until that category has no one left in it.”

“The ‘different’ perspectives and opinions of those we lead do not undermine our leadership position. In fact, it is those new ideas and perspectives that will help us keep our company adaptable, engaging and competitive in a global marketplace.”  (Linda Fisher Thornton, “Ethical Implications of How Leaders Perceive ‘Different'”).

At its highest level, inclusion is about honoring human rights. Consider whether you are managing diversity or working toward full inclusion in a way that respects human rights. These resources will help you explore the differences between leading with a diversity-based approach and leading for full inclusion.

Resources for Moving From Differences to Inclusion

ILR Impact Brief: Diversity and Inclusion: Is There Really a Difference? Cornell University, ilr.cornell.edu

The Netter Principles, glaxdiversitycouncil.com

A Framework for Building Organizational Inclusion, Working Paper Number 2, Bormann and Woods, The Workplace Diversity Network, Cornell University, ilr.cornell.edu

What is Inclusion? Inclusion Network, Inclusion.com

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For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
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Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

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Unethical Thinking Leads To Unethical Leadership

By Linda Fisher Thornton

As humans, we are flawed thinkers who easily fall victim to biases and traps. The biases and traps we so easily fall into reshape our thinking in ways that can lead us to make bad decisions.

As you review the list of leadership traps below,, think about how each can lead to unethical thinking and actions.

Cause-and-Effect Thinking in a Systems World

Polarities and Dichotomies

Isolated (Top Down)

Fearful

Passive

Fragmented

Incompetent

Blinded By Profitability

Quick Fix

Controlling

Divisive

Oversimplified

Shallow

“Right”

Closed to Learning

Exclusive

Not Trusting

Not Trustworthy

A popular post I wrote on the subject of unethical thinking years ago that is still relevant today is 10 Thinking Traps (That Ethical Leaders Avoid)

Ethical leaders know they are subject to flawed thinking and use an intentional process to overcome biases and traps. To learn how to take charge of your thinking, see 22 Resources For Ethical Thinking.

 

 

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16 Answers To What is Good Leadership?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The theme I noticed in the most viewed posts on this blog in 2018 was Looking For a Better Kind of Leadership. Google reported that the most popular Google searches in 2018 were about how we can be good people. It sounds like it’s a great time to explore the question “What is Good Leadership? 

While it’s tempting to over simplify leadership and think about it as any one thing, good leadership can only be fully understood by thinking about it in multiple ways. Here is a starter list of 16 defining characteristics of good leadership:

  1. Purposeful

  2. Ethical 

  3. Intentional

  4. Thoughtful

  5. Meaningful

  6. Respectful

  7. Caring

  8. Open

  9. Invites Dialogue

  10. Globally Responsible

  11. Up-to-Date

  12. Trustworthy

  13. Culturally Inclusive

  14. Ethically Inspiring

  15. Embraces and Adapts To Context and Complexity

  16. Continual Learner

This list of 16 is designed to get you thinking. There are many more characteristics we could add. Think about great leaders you’ve had in the past (or not). What defining characteristics of good leadership would you add to this list? Share your ideas in the comments!

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Ground Rules for Talking About Controversial Topics

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Talking about controversial topics has become a daunting task. There are some things we can do, individually and collectively, to improve those difficult conversations. The important points below may be useful to review as ground rules for discussing potentially emotionally charged issues:

CHARACTER

  • Agree on the values that are important to honor. Stay centered in that list of ethical values, not the opinions and wants of each “side” 

TEMPERAMENT

  • Follow ground rules that include mutual respect, listening and avoidance of blaming, labeling or attacking

JUDGMENT

  • Use good thinking, actively questioning your own assumptions, biases, and motives

INCLUSION

  • Consider all humans equally important with equal rights

CARE

  • Demonstrate care for all others involved in the conversation, and really listen to what they think is important

CONSTITUENT – AWARENESS

  • Consider the full impact on all constituents, paying special attention to those constituents not represented in the conversation

LONG-TERM IMPACT

  • Think about the long-term impact of decisions, in addition to the short-term benefits

EXPLORING MULTIPLE VARIABLES

  • Avoid oversimplifying issues by exploring many different variables related to the issue 

USING A SYSTEMS APPROACH

  • Move beyond simple cause-and-effect thinking when discussion solutions. Think about the issue in terms of how it fits into bigger systems, and how other variables beyond those in the conversation can impact outcomes

Are you able to keep conversations civil and productive? Share your tips in a comment below!

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A Message About Togetherness

By Linda Fisher Thornton

In What is Meaningful Leadership Part 5 I wrote about building a better society together for future generations. When I really stop to think about what it means to live and work together, here are some of the things that come to mind:

  1. Together can imply simply being side by side or near others, but there is much more to its meaning when we live in a globally connected society.
  2. Together in a global society includes living in ways that enhance other people’s lives.
  3. Together in a global society includes standing up for fairness and inclusion even when taking that stand is difficult or unpopular.
  4. Together in a global society means caring about what happens to others – all others, regardless of who they are and where they come from.
  5. Without a global world view, “together” can be reduced to meaning “us and whoever else is along for our ride.”
  6. Life is better when we lead as if global togetherness matters.

During this holiday season, take time to reflect on how you are called to enable and amplify global togetherness.

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Human Rights: 70 Years

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I had the privilege of hearing best-selling author Blanche Wiesen Cook speak at The University of Richmond last night. Her topic was “Toward an Inclusive Democracy: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Legacy.”  Cook has spent many years researching and writing about Eleanor Roosevelt’s life and journey. During the inspiring talk, Cook noted that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Eleanor Roosevelt championed, is turning 70 this month.

Now is the perfect time to learn about Eleanor Roosevelt’s human rights journey and the Universal Declaration she championed. It is timely for us to reflect now on how far we have left to go on the journey toward honoring the rights and dignity of every human who resides in our global village. 

Cook shared Eleanor Roosevelt’s sage advice to “BE BOLD” and “Talk to one another when we disagree.” That advice will  serve us well as we work to overcome differences and uphold ethical values. Why is this 70 year human rights journey so important now? The baton has been passed to us, and we must run the next lap. 

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Ethical Thinking Requires Dialogue

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ethical leadership requires us to understand the context and embrace the natural complexity of issues. One of the pieces that we can’t be successful without is learning from the widely varying perspectives of others.

“Kohlberg believed, as did Piaget, that most moral development occurs through social interaction.”

Robert N. Barger, Ph.D., University of Notre Dame, A SUMMARY OF LAWRENCE KOHLBERG’S STAGES OF MORAL DEVELOPMENT

Thinking in a vacuum without considering the needs of others we may forget important elements of the decision-making process. Have you heard the expression “There’s no ‘I’ in team?” Maybe there’s also (metaphorically) no ‘I’ in ethical thinking when we need to understand complex issues.

In highly complex situations we need to listen to and learn from each other to get ethics right.

One person will be the most knowledgeable about laws governing our work, another will understand the trends and consumer expectations, yet another will ask hard questions to make sure we consider our constituents’ needs. Dealing with particularly complex issues demands an inclusive thinking process. Without any one of these important voices we may lose our way.

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Seeing Beyond Borders and Walls

By Linda Fisher Thornton

When you make a commitment to ethical values and ethical choices, boundaries and walls only indicate the boundaries of new places to apply those ethical values and choices. Beyond them, ethical values matter just as much as they matter within your own walls. You could argue that they matter more, because you are stepping into other cultures and ways of life and need to take special care to show respect.

Any argument that we can be disrespectful or harmful to others who live outside of our borders is based on flawed thinking, self-interest, myopia and a lack of moral awareness.

Ethical leaders see beyond walls. They don’t dehumanize people to improve their own position.

Ethical leaders think beyond themselves on a global scale. They don’t excuse their own or anyone else’s bad behavior or unethical choices.

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Also see:

Yes, Leaders. Behavior Matters

Just Say No to 10 Behaviors That Kill Competence

Inclusion: The Power of Regardless

Leaders: Can You Control Ethics?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The question for today is “Can we control ethics?” Leaders have tried to control ethics with compliance-based systems (based on rules and penalties) but that does not tend to inspire people to ethical action. Leaders have tried to control ethics by running a tight ship, closely managing workers, but that does not bring out the best in people and may lead to workers not caring about protecting the company’s reputation. 

How Can We “Control” Ethics?

The catch about ethical performance and action are that they are driven by a performance system, and a system cannot be “controlled” in the literal sense. Systems are complex, and one action does not necessarily generate a particular desired reaction. In other words, the performance context and leadership matter greatly in the results a company will get. 

Thinking Drives Behavior

Another complicating factor in the ethical performance system is that thinking drives behavior. Ethical thinking is a competence that many leaders have not yet mastered, and the gap is evident in the headlines about ethical scandals in the news. We cannot let reflexive thoughts drive our choices or we may only look out for our own interests and ignore a wide array of complex ethical issues. 

Does Control Have Any Place in Ethics?

I do believe that control has an important place in an ethical system. I’m talking about the important role of self-control. Self-control can be thought of as a “moral muscle” that improves with practice, according to Roy F. Baumeister

“Philosophers and psychologists have been discussing the importance of self-control for ages. Plato, for example, argued that the human experience is a constant struggle between our desire and rationality, and that self-control is needed to achieve our ideal form.”  

Kai Chi (Sam) YamHuiwen LianD. Lance FerrisDouglas Brown, Leadership Takes Self-Control. Here’s What We Know About It, Harvard Business Review

When leaders try to “control” others to manage ethics, their efforts are misplaced. Only by controlling themselves and carefully managing the ethical performance system will they be supporting ethical choices and building an ethical organization. 

Ethical leaders model self-control, putting in the effort to make tough ethical choices instead of making easy unexamined decisions.

Ethical leaders control their thoughts, intentionally aligning decisions with ethical values.

Ethical leaders control their actions, taking care that those actions are ethical and appropriate.

Ethical leaders control their tongues, aligning what they say with respect, care and inclusion. 

Leaders who commit to continual learning will see that they must

  • Support continual learning and demonstrate it for others
  • Manage their own ethics carefully and set an example for others
  • Hire ethical people
  • Manage the ethical performance system carefully, aligning expectations, training and support, feedback and rewards with ethical values

These leadership actions help create the conditions for ethical success. It all starts with the leader demonstrating self-control. 

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Special 5 Post Series Celebrating the Second Printing of 7 Lenses

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 5)

 

 

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

To celebrate 7 Lenses going into its second printing (big news!), this is the first post in a special series focused on Why Ethical Thinking Matters. I’m hoping the strategies shared in this series will give you a fresh perspective on your talent development plans for 2018.

Ethical thinking drives ethical choices and behavior. Marcus Aurelius said “Our life is what our thoughts make it.” According to Buddha, “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” I believe that leadership development efforts must address the values-based thinking behind good leadership, or it will not lead to good leadership. If we just teach people skills, without upgrading their thinking, we are not preparing them for success in the real world.

Evidence Of The Gap: While most companies have stated values, one recent survey found that less than half of them actively lead with those values. According to Salesforce.com, The Impact of Equality and Values Driven Business, “Although 10 out of 18 senior executives surveyed at the 2017 New York Times New Work Summit said that their companies clearly define their values, only 40% of business professionals say their company leads with its values.”

You may already realize that ethical thinking is important, and if you do, I ask you to spread the word. To help you champion the cause in your organizations and on social media, I have included the business case below.

Leaders need to learn how to think WITH values so they can APPLY them to their daily challenges. 

We need to help leaders ramp up their thinking skills to be able to successfully APPLY positive ethical values to increasingly complex situations. If we don’t, they’ll still have to make leadership decisions every day, but those decisions may not align with our organization’s ethical values. They may not meet the ethical expectations of customers, employees and other key stakeholders. And even though they’re in leadership positions, they won’t be ready to teach the organization’s values to their teams. 

Helping leaders learn ethical thinking means they will be able to APPLY ethical values in their daily decisions and actions. That ability brings many positive benefits to the organization, including: 

Improved Positive Outcomes, Reduced Risk

“Ethical leadership has been shown to cause a host of positive outcomes, and to reduce the risk of many negative outcomes. Leadership may therefore be the most important lever in an ethical system designed to support ethical conduct.”

EthicalSystems.org, Leadership

 Competitive Advantage

“Virtuous organizations, like virtuous people, outperform their peers over time. The ethical values guiding the world’s most successful organizations are cheap but powerful sources of competitive advantage.”

SHRM, Shaping an Ethical Workplace Culture

Improved Connection With Customers and Employees

“Business leaders who take the next step to not only define but actually lead with values are better positioned to connect with their customers and employees.”

Salesforce.com, The Impact of Equality and Values Driven Business

Improved Trust, Which Drives High Performance

“Simply put: High ethics creates high trust. High trust creates high performance.”

SHRM, Shaping an Ethical Workplace Culture

Only when leaders learn to think using ethical values will they be able to successfully apply those ethical values to their decisions and action, every day.

Read the next post in the series: Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)Top 100 Leadership Blog

 

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Are You Leaving a Positive Legacy? (10 Questions Across 5 Dimensions)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

When we think about leadership in the “here and now” we tend to think about what will be most effective in the short run. When we think about our leadership over decades, though. we can turn our attention to the longer-term impact we have on others – our positive legacy. 

Long-term thinking (or the failure to apply it) can make or break our efforts to leave a positive legacy. In effective leadership, we look beyond our own interests and reflect on how we will generate a positive impact on others over time through our daily decisions and actions. 

5 Dimensions Of Our Leadership Legacy

Our positive legacy is typically discussed as a “thing” but there is more nuance than that descirption implies. This post explores five dimensions that help us understand and improve our leadership legacy. 

Reflect on the legacy you are leaving by asking yourself these 10 questions across 5 important dimensions of leadership. 

1. Personal Legacy

How am I having a positive impact on individuals through my leadership now?

How do I improve the lives of those I lead?

2. Interpersonal Legacy

How do I model the positive interpersonal behavior that leads to better workplaces and communities?

How do I teach others to promote respect, inclusion and a peaceful global society?

3. Organizational Legacy

How do I set high standard for leadership in the organizations I serve?

How do I solve problems, remove roadblocks and otherwise improve the organizations I serve?

4. Community Legacy

How do I magnify and support the positive impact of other people’s contributions to communities?

How do I leave communities better than I found them?

5. Greater Good Legacy

How do I influence the course of human events in a positive way?

How do I make life better on our planet for future generations, leaving a positive legacy long after I am gone?

Our Legacy Compounds

As we lead, we should not overestimate our own importance. The greatest leadership legacy is achieved by preparing others to do great things. This generates a positive ripple effect that multiplies and compounds the positive impact of our leadership. 

Don’t leave your legacy to chance as you manage the many tasks of the new year. Take a moment to reflect on your leadership strengths and choose a dimension (of the 5 above) where you can improve your leadership this year. 

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Ethical Leaders Take Time To Think

By Linda Fisher Thornton

What sets ethical leaders apart from other leaders? They take the time to THINK before making decisions. And that’s not all they do that sets them apart. While they’re thinking:

  • They’re listening to those they lead and seeking input
  • They’re intentionally learning about the nuances of the context
  • They’re wrestling with how to do the right thing

The Quick Answer Is Risky

While it may be satisfying for leaders to give QUICK answers to a complex problem, there are risks associated with those quick responses:

  • The quick answers may create more problems than they solve (because the context is not yet fully understood)
  • The quick answers may not be as polite or inclusive or respectful as they should be (because there’s no thinking process, which is necessary for managing emotions)
  • The quick answers reveal a leader’s lack of careful thinking (to those who did take the time to understand the context).

When ethical leadership is required, the QUICK answer is risky business. 

When is ethical leadership required? – Every moment of every day, on every project, in every role, while taking on every challenge and making every decision. 

Ethical leaders take time to think before acting in all of these moments. When they encounter a similar problem in the future, they still take time to think. They don’t assume they have all the information they need, because they know that the context is perpetually changing. 

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Yes, Leaders. Behavior Matters

By Linda Fisher Thornton

As leaders, we are expected to uphold the highest standards of ethical behavior, and that includes interpersonal behavior (HOW we get the results we get, and how our behavior impacts others).

This week I’m sharing a review of behaviors that are a “NO GO” for ethical leaders. Click on each link to learn about why the behavior is outside the bounds of ethical leadership.

Yes, Leaders. Behavior Matters

It is not okay to blame, name call, bully, threaten, or shame.

It is not acceptable to yell and use foul language.

It is not fine to get angry and attack people who disagree with us.

It is not okay to avoid information that conflicts with our beliefs.

It is not acceptable to exclude those who aren’t like us.

It is not okay to treat only certain people with respect.

It is not acceptable to damage relationships with our negative behavior.

It is never okay to skip learning because “we are already a leader.”

Isn’t It Obvious?

These reminders may seem obvious (yes, we learned them in Kindergarten), but don’t leave it to chance. Be sure your leaders are all on the same page about appropriate interpersonal behavior. Your employees, customers and communities will thank you.

Use this post as the basis for conversations about ethical interpersonal behavior in the workplace and beyond.

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Labels Divide, Values Conquer

 

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I have noticed that when people speak from LABELS (their group identity, their belief system, their affiliation), they are talking from the interests of that label. This can quickly become divisive if that label doesn’t include everyone. If a label is broad enough – like the label “human” –  it can automatically be an ethical and inclusive conversation. But since most labels aren’t that broad, we need to use ethical values to guide us. 

When people speak from VALUES (respect, care, inclusion, sustainability), the conversation more naturally moves to “How can we live out that value?”(all of us, together) instead of “What can we (members of this label) do that is best for us?”

Labels DIVIDE people into groups, and highlight their special nature and interests. 
Values UNITE people, and highlight shared interests and common concerns. 

Labels can be positive. helping us unite people around a common issue, but they need to be used carefully. Why? 

Using LABELS without also using ethical values means that we are probably declaring ourselves special at someone else’s expense.

VALUES help us conquer the human tendency to act in our own best interests. They remind us that we are responsible for more than our own success and that we need to make sure that our impact on others is positive. 

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Ethical Leaders See Their Choices Through All 7 Lenses

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