150th Blog Post – Learning Out Loud

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Humble Blog Beginnings

The journey to a 150th blog post starts with a single post.

This ethical leadership blog had a very humble beginning back in 2009. I had decided to start a blog and took a WordPress class at the University of Richmond.  The possibilities were promising.

Then came those nagging thoughts…

  • what should I write about?
  • who will read it?
  • what if I make a mistake?
  • what if it’s not good enough?
Other bloggers may be able to relate to these initial thoughts.
Finding the Courage to Learn Out Loud
My doubts were powerful, but I had decided to do it, so I gathered the courage to post something on my new blog, found a link to share and composed a draft! It was May of 2009.
After posting the very simple link, I expected that the sky would fall in. Why in the world would I have any business blogging? I’d been writing corporate training materials for over 25 years, I’d been writing articles and teaching, but blogging felt different – more raw, more personal, more exposed somehow… way out of my comfort zone. I was thoroughly amazed when a week went by and nothing bad happened.  So I started working on another short post. Most of the early posts on this blog were just links to good resources for leadership developers and human resource managers.
It was 6 months later in November when I learned how to upload an image to go with the post (and the first image was pretty dismal).  To see the progression yourself, here is the Leading in Context Blog Index, with the oldest posts listed at the bottom.
Being Transformed
Since the humble beginnings of this blog in 2009, I have grown into being comfortable with learning out loud.  The journey has transformed me. This work,  helping leaders understand what it means to lead ethically in a complex world, has become my life’s work.
Over time I have found the courage to question and explore the meaning of ethical leadership out loud. With time and practice, I have learned to express that meaning more clearly.
Yes, now I can own it – in addition to being a leadership development consultant, publisher, teacher, facilitator and speaker, I have learned my way through and now I am an ethical leadership blogger.
Special thanks to all the people who have encouraged me, shared resources, connected, followed, retweeted, commented and otherwise engaged in learning around the important issues that this blog explores. Thanks also to those who disagreed with me at times. You helped me grow as well.
The journey to a 150th Blog Post starts with a single post and the courage to learn out loud.
What are you waiting to do? What’s stopping you?


For more, see new 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  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

300th Blog Post: Answering Big Questions About Ethical Leadership

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I have spent the last six years answering the big leadership question “What does it mean to do the right thing?” The support, the unsolicited testimonials and the social shares of this work have been widespread and global. Could it be that the world is ready for a clear answer to this important question? 

I wrote 7 Lenses because I believed that we needed a clear answer to what it means to “do the right thing” in a global society. I believed that the answer was there, somewhere, and could be found by researching across disciplines, religions and geographic boundaries. It was a question well worth exploring. With a clear understanding of leadership responsibility and a framework for talking about it in all of its complexity, we could do business in ways that would also improved lives and communities. We could make a powerful positive difference through our leadership. 

Over three years of research and writing, I learned that “doing the right thing” means honoring 7 dimensions of ethical responsibility in leadership, not just one at a time, but all at the same time

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC


Using these 7 Lenses (and the 14 Guiding Principles in the book for honoring them in daily leadership) gives us a holistic picture for leading ethically and teaching others. It gives us a high bar to reach for – the aspirational level of ethical leadership in organizations. It prepares us for the future as ethical expectations continue to increase.

Thank you for your feedback on 7 Lenses and for sharing the importance of proactive ethical leadership with your social communities. 7 Lenses is now being used by public and private universities to teach ethics and ethical leadership on three continents (if you are using it to teach, feel free to let me know!). Its message is reaching leaders across industries and around the world.

I enjoy blogging about the big ethical leadership questions, and welcome your input about what you want to read about that would further your leadership development. Below are some of the big questions I have been blogging about (and answers for today’s leaders). It is my hope that this blog will help you “do the right thing” on your journey to ethical leadership future.

What is Ethical Leadership?

How Are Ethical Leadership Expectations Changing?

What Does it Mean to Take Responsibility in Leadership?

Why Do People Often Disagree About The Right Thing To Do?

What is the Ultimate Goal of Leadership?

What is an Ethical Workplace?

What is Integrity?

What is Conscious Capitalism?

What is the Greater Good?

What is Authentic Leadership?

This blog has come a long way since the 150th Blog Post: Learning Out LoudThank you for making the Leading in Context Blog #37 on the Top 100 Most Socially-Shared Leadership Blogs of 2014!

Number Graphic 042115

Top 100 Leadership Blog

7 Lenses is Your Guide to the Future of Ethical Leadership





Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™      

©2015 Leading in Context LLC




200th Blog Post – Learning at the Speed of Life

Linda Fisher Thornton

By Linda Fisher Thornton

In my 150th Blog Post, I wrote about starting a blog and being new to the process of Learning Out Loud. To celebrate my 200th post, I want to reflect on what it’s been like to learn new things faster than I ever thought possible. It seems especially clear to me now that we all have capabilities we’re not using in our day to day lives. But imagine what could happen if we believed we could make a difference, lurched toward that goal unsteadily, and then just held on for the ride.

The dream for Leading in Context LLC started small, with a passion for responsible leadership, an intense curiosity and a question – “What does it mean to lead ethically in a complex world?”

Taking on that question brought this response on Twitter – “Good luck with that. Let us know when you get there!” Knowing that the question was too big to answer and that people didn’t think I could do it just made me work harder. In the process, I tapped into potential I never knew I had.

As you read about my journey, reflect on what you’re curious about, and how seeking the answer might be transformational.

What has stretched me in the past year? 

  • Winning a thought leader award connected me with a wonderful new global group of people, many of whom were already well-established in their areas of expertise. I had to step up.
  • Leading an Innovations in Teaching project for the University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies had me looking at Innovation in an educational setting. I had to step up.
  • Working with a thought leader strategy coach put a viable long-term business based on my question within reach. I had to step up.

What phrases are no longer in my vocabulary?

  • “What I have is working”
  • “I don’t think I can do that,” and
  • “There isn’t enough time.”

What challenges will the next year bring?

  • Implementing the new business strategy built earlier this year
  • Launching a new and improved website, and
  • Launching a practical book about how to lead ethically in a complex world

What mindset will I bring to my work?

  • Each time I reach the top of a mountain, I will be able to see the next one more clearly
  • The resources and support I need for success will be there when I need them, and
  • This is the most challenging work I’ve ever done, and it’s the most fun I’ve ever had.

What are you curious about?


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  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 


12 Favorite Blog Posts of 2013

ThorntonBy Linda Fisher Thornton

It is difficult to believe that I have written well over 200 weekly blog posts since 2009. In the process of writing all of those posts, I gradually sharpened my focus and found my authentic voice as a blogger. (If you are interested in reading more about the ups and downs of that journey, see 150th Blog Post: Learning Out Loud). 

Today I have chosen my annual favorites – the posts that readers enjoyed and shared and that I think best convey an important message about how to Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™ in ourselves and our organizations. See if these 12 posts that I have picked as favorites strike a chord with you as well.

Dealing With Complexity in Leadership

Which of These is Ethical Leadership?

Leading the Conversation About Ethical Leadership

Managing Ethical Leadership as a Performance System

The Leading in Context Manifesto

Modeling Ethical Leadership and Behavior

What is Ethical Leadership?

10 Ways Leading With Ethics is Transformational

Bringing Out the Best in People and Organizations (Through Ethical Leadership)

What Ethical Leaders Believe

16 Trends Shaping the Future of Ethical Leadership

10 Ethical Leadership Questions for the New Year

Subscribe to the Leading in Context Blog and never miss another post!


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  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 


10 Favorite Quotes From the Leading in Context Blog


By Linda Fisher Thornton

I noticed that Jesse Lyn Stoner’s Blog Post Celebrating the 2nd Anniversary of My Blog included her favorite quotes from her blog. Her post appeared in the Mini-Carnival of HR at CostofWork.com along with my 150th Blog Post Learning Out Loud .

This week, I thought I’d share 10 of my favorite quotes from the Leading in Context Blog. Clicking on each quote takes you to the full post that includes the quote.

Visit the Leading in Context® Blog Index for more articles about how to lead ethically in a complex world.


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  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 


400th Post: The Journey to Meaning (Growth Required)


By Linda Fisher Thornton

I set out to answer a question. In the process of answering the question, I started a journey that changed my life. It happened the way that life happens to all of us. It wasn’t always by conscious choice or in a logical progression. I lost someone I loved (my grandmother). I suffered a sudden reduction in consulting projects during the 2009 economic downturn. While recovering from these blows, I took a hard look at what I wanted to accomplish with the rest of my life. 

I began to realize that if I wanted to make a positive difference in the world, I needed to make some drastic changes. I started a blog and found out what it was like to learn out loud. I jumped into the social conversation. I began to intentionally live outside of my comfort zone.

I starting thinking about a nagging question that I couldn’t get out of my head. I heard from people who wanted to lead ethically but needed help. I started to write down thoughts on my blog and later started a book. I struggled to build a clearer, whole model of ethical leadership (that wasn’t oversimplified) to help people learn how to easily apply it.  

Looking back on this journey so far, I  believe that life’s hardest challenges are waiting to be turned into opportunities. Taking the journey isn’t always easy – it requires persistence, commitment, imagination, patience and endurance. When we put in the effort and take on the challenge,  though, we can become capable of so much more. We can find purpose and meaning (which require personal growth).

What would have been different if I hadn’t started this journey? I may have had a deep sense that something was missing. After reflecting on my definition of “The Meaning of Life” for an Excellence Reporter series, I realized that this process of growth is more than just something that happens while we’re doing other things – it’s what helps us find meaning and have a positive impact. 

It’s not reaching the desired destination according to an expected timetable that gives us a sense that we have a meaningful life. It’s the journey itself. It’s using our abilities in service to others.  It’s chasing the elusive “best we can be” as the world expects more and we race to keep up. 

I want to extend a “Thank You!” to Leading in Context Blog followers, 7 Lenses readers, clients, partners,  and all of you engaging in important conversations about “the right thing to do” in a global society. 





Ethical Leaders Understand 7 Different Lenses of Ethical Responsibility (That Are All Important)

Includes case examples and questions.

Click the book cover for a preview.



Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC





Linda Fisher Thornton shares insights and inspiration with leader groups at public and private events.        








EDUCAUSE Webinar Ethical Decision Making During COVID-19

Based on Linda’s Book 7 Lenses

December 8, 2020, 1:00 pm

Webinar Pic

Register Now For the December Webinar

7 Lenses Graduate School Guest Lecture 

October 30, 2020

Feature Article in TD Magazine 

“Ethical Thinking Isn’t Automatic “

August, 2020

Artificial Intelligence and Ethical Accountability

Article in the EDUCAUSE Review

July 31, 2020

CUPA-HR 2020 Spring Conference

April 20-21, 2020

CONNECT Magazine Interview

One-on-One Thought Leader Q & A

April 2020 Issue

Australian Leadership Project Interview

Chesterfield Chamber, BREW

7 Ethical Lenses Breakdown

October 24, 2019, 8-9:30

Junior Achievement Excellence Through Ethics

Keynote Speaker

October 17, 2019

Interview on 97.3 FM WRIR Radio Inspire Indeed Show 

October 15, 2019

Executive Education, Robins School of Business, University of Richmond

Ethical Thinking Through the 7 Lenses

Half-Day Course

This course will develop your ethical thinking skills in 7 important dimensions, help you understand local and global issues in a broader context, and equip you to make ethical decisions with increased confidence.

May 22, 2019, 8:30 am – 12:00 pm

The Community Foundation

Ethical Thinking and Decision Making

3-Part Executive Series For Non-Profit Executives and Board Members

May 7, 14 & 21, 2019   8:30 – 10:30 am

EthicalNow Conference

Keynote speaker at EthicalNow – Ethics Today panel

Cross-Disciplinary Conference Platform Dedicated To Current Ethical Issues & Challenges

7 Lenses Ethics Keynote as Part of Keeping Blueprint Alive 

Chesterfield County Government via the Learning and Performance Center

February 13, 2019

7 Lenses Workshop For Executives

Private Event

January 24, 2019

International Coach Federation Virginia – ICFVA Roanoke

Leading Through Complexity: Seeing Through 7 Ethical Lenses

Roanoke, Virginia

January 11, 2019

International Coach Federation Virginia – ICFVA Richmond

Leading Through Complexity: Seeing Through 7 Ethical Lenses

Westwood Club

November 12, 2018 

(Independent Book Discussion November 28, 2018)

CREW Richmond 5th Annual Women’s Leadership Summit 

Virginia Museum of History and Culture

November 8, 2018

12th Annual HIGHER Ground Women’s Leadership Conference

VCU Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute

Greater Richmond Convention Center

November 2, 2018 

Mind Tools Expert Interview

Date: Coming In October, 2018

Virginia Professional Communicators Conference

Seeing Ethics Through 7 Lenses

May 5, 2018    University of Richmond

TimeCamp Podcast Interview

March 21, 2018 

Guest Lectures, Economics & Leadership Classes 

February 14-15, 2018   Deep Run High School, VA

Richmond ATD (Association For Talent Development)

Leading Through Complexity: Seeing Through All 7 Lenses

January 23, 2018

Compliance IQ Live Online Workshop 

Developing Leadership That Inspires 

November 9, 2017

Location: Virtual

Hampden-Sydney College Wilson Center For Leadership

Ethical Leadership Series

“Decoding the Complexity of Doing the ‘Right Thing'”

October 12, 2017

Location: Hampden-Sydney, Virginia

Culture Hacker Podcast

Linda Fisher Thornton is a Guest on Shane Green’s Culture Hacker Podcast, Talking about Ethics and Culture

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


Private Group Event

“The 7 Lenses of Ethical Leadership”

August 20, 2017

Location: Virginia


Guest Lectures, Economics Classes and Ethics Club

January 18 and 24, 2017

Location: Deep Run High School, VA


Private Video Shoot For U.S. Digital Content Company Library

November 30, 2016

Location: Washington, D. C. 


Private Management Retreat

“The 7 Lenses of Ethical Leadership”

October 14, 2016

Location: Virginia


Plymouth State University

College of Business Administration

Guest Lecture and University Forum Speaker

“Decoding the Complexity of Doing the Right Thing”

Date: October 3, 2016, 6:00 PM

Location: New Hampshire


National Association of Appellate Court Attorneys

Annual Conference Speaker

July 6, 2016

Location: Philadelphia, PA


Private Leadership Event at Capital One

Global 500 Company – One of the “100 Best Companies to Work For”

May 6, 2016

Location: Virginia


International Leadership Association 

Leadership Perspectives Webinar

Seeing “Good Leadership” Through 7 Lenses of Ethical Responsibility
With Linda Fisher Thornton.

April 27

Time: 12:00 – 1:00 pm

Click Here For Details


Private Leadership Event at Capital One

Global 500 Company – One of the “100 Best Companies to Work For”

April 19, 2016

Location: Virginia


Henrico Authors Showcase

7 Lenses Book Talk (Free and Open to the Public)

Tuckahoe Library, Richmond, Virginia

April 7, 2016 at 7 pm


NBC Channel 12 RVA Parenting Interview

NBC Channel 12, Richmond, VA

March 31, 2016, 5:00 News


Private Senior Leadership Event at Capital One

Global 500 Company – One of the “100 Best Companies to Work For”

March 9, 2016

Location: Virginia


CUPA-HR (College and University Professional Association For Human Resources)

Leading For the Future: Responding to Increasing Ethical Expectations

October 13, 2015

Location: Webinar (Free With Registration)

Is Needing to Be “Right” Unethical?

by Linda Fisher Thornton

Abandoning Civility to Prove We’re “Right”

Why do people sometimes abandon civility at work?

One reason is that when the discussion gets heated, sometimes we just like to be “right.”  And we may abandon civility to try to prove that we are right.

We may not always be able to resist the temptation to argue that our perspective is better, more accurate, more current or more relevant than someone else’s. While there may be a sense of satisfaction (short term) that comes from loudly proving that we are “right” and they are wrong, verbally attacking someone else for what they believe is not an ethical approach.

Why is Attacking Others Unethical?

When we don’t agree with someone, attacking them and trying to discredit them is an attempt to reaffirm the status quo as we see it – to prove that things are exactly the way we understand them and that we don’t need to change our thinking. 

But attacking others with different views is not a responsible or respectful behavior. So regardless of how intelligent we think our view is, our attacking behavior will not be “right” from an ethical standpoint.

There is a danger we face when we make our point too strongly. A powerful desire to be “right” can completely blind us to how we are treating others. Ralph Waldo Emerson said “There can be no high civility without a deep morality.”

“Passively, tolerance and respect simply mean accepting that a person with different beliefs and perspectives has a right to exist and doesn’t deserve to be attacked merely because of those differences – no matter how great they are.”

August Cline, Why Be Civil? (The Ethics and Moral Obligations of Civility), About.com

Being Careful About Our Behavior

Joshua Lederberg said that “A lack of civility is sometimes attributed to unchecked anger.” We do have to work to contain our anger and to be careful about our behavior when we don’t agree.

Michael Brannigan explains that civility “requires us to discipline our impulses” and “free ourselves from self-absorption:”

“Civility cultivates a civic code of decency. It requires us to discipline our impulses for the sake of others. It demands we free ourselves from self-absorption. By putting ethics into practice in our day-to-day encounters, civility is that moral glue without which our society would come apart.”

Michael Brannigan, The Pfaff Endowed Chair in Ethics and Moral Values at the College of St. Rose in Albany, NY [This quote is from his column in the Sunday Times Union in Albany]

Listen to Learn

When we disagree, it is responsible to listen to the other person, and to see what we can learn from their perspective. When we attack first, before listening in order to understand another view, we ignore this very important aspect of our responsibility as leaders – being open to learning. 

Responsible leadership requires that we be open-minded and civil. Fiercely defending our viewpoint as “right” without being open to learning from others does not qualify as open-minded, and demonstrates a lack of civility.

Ethical Leaders Disagree Respectfully

Ethical leaders know that respectful behavior is part of our responsibility as citizens of a global society.  Withholding respect when we disagree signals a departure from civility, but it also represents something more harmful:

The immorality of incivility goes deeper than that, however. When we withhold tolerance and respect from a person, we stop treating them as a fellow human being.

August Cline, Why Be Civil? (The Ethics and Moral Obligations of Civility), About.com

More Leading in Context® Posts About Civility and Ethical Behavior

Civility is an Ethical Issue

Ethical Interpersonal Behavior Graphic: Red, Green and Yellow Zones

Why We Need a Strong Moral Center

Civility and Openness to Learning


For more, see new 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 
About 7 Lenses
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

Leaders & Social Media: 5 Reasons to Engage

Leaders and Information Overload

In today’s world of work, we have to

  • keep up with an overwhelming amount of information
  • scan trends and forecasts and
  • incorporate the needs of multiple stakeholders into workable solutions.

Our job is to make sense out of it all in order to make work life easier for those we lead. Since the world changes fast, we have to learn just as fast… and share it fast with our employees…and then adapt to what we’ve learned. Social media has become the fastest information media available, tackling emerging issues long before mainstream publications do.

Five Important Reasons to Engage in Social Media

1.  Not Embracing Social Media is a Risk

In today’s world that is connected at light speed, refusing to adapt to new communication channels means choosing to be out of the loop.  I am able to say this with confidence because I almost missed the social media information wave. Two and a half years ago I said out loud (quite confidently) “I’ll never go on Twitter.” My patient technology and learning advisor  Allison, said “Didn’t you say you were blogging?” I confirmed that yes, I was blogging. What she said next changed my understanding of social media and information. She said “People are organizing and accessing their blog subscriptions on Twitter using their smart phones. How will they find you?”

2.  Social Media Helps Us Adapt

While some people still think that social media is one more thing to add to their to-do list that they don’t have time for, I now know that social media is a great tool for keeping up with changes in the world, changes in my customer’s needs, changes in the emerging knowledge across disciplines, and changes in how we define leadership and learning.

Social media is much more than “one more thing to do” –  it’s how we do what we do in an information-connected society – and it’s an efficient filter for finding relevant information.

Searching social media platforms using multiple search terms, we can quickly access the intersection of any two, three or more fields. Learning something completely new at that intersection helps us expand our thinking, makes our work better, helps us serve our customers better, and helps our work be more relevant in today’s business context.

3. The Newest Information is Freely Shared There First

A lot of people are trying to make sense out of the sea of information.

They are sharing what they’ve learned so that we don’t have to re-invent the wheel.

They are sharing so that we can solve global problems together.

I am a social media convert who is enjoying getting insights about new research and feedback on my work from people around the globe. Social media channels shorten my research time, help me be better at what I do, and keep me in close touch with my customers, clients and readers.

4. It’s a Learning Connection to the “Global Brain”

We can even think about social media as a conduit to the “global brain.” Dean Pomerleau, a researcher at Intel labs Pittsburgh links Twitter to brain research on his blog ‘Thoughtful Cog” in a post called “Twitter and the Global Brain.”

Imagine a Twitter user as a neuron.  He/she makes the equivalent of a synapse with each of his/her followers.  When a Twitter user sends out a tweet, it is the equivalent of a neuron firing.  Followers who receive the tweet decide whether to propagate the activity by retweeting the message, in a sense by deciding whether they too should fire in response to the tweet…

On a macro scale, this will represent the equivalent of thoughts emerging in the Global Brain, in the form of rapid, coordinated firing of millions of these virtual neurons.  These thoughts will propagate and potentially trigger other thoughts in the network.

5. It’s a Hub Connecting You to the Meaningful Information You Need

Social media is really a hub that connects you to the information you need, not in a random sense, but in a way that has meaning. Whatever topic has piqued your curiosity is likely being studied by somebody else somewhere in the world. Other people who are curious about what you’re curious about have already researched it and are recommending the next article or book or blogger that you can learn from.

Social media is more than just noise, and doesn’t have to add to information overload. Its connections and knowledge-sharing help us cut through the ocean of information out there so that we can learn and grow. Those connections help us understand this global community that we find ourselves a part of.

Have you jumped into the social media information wave yet?



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 
About 7 Lenses
 Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses 
© 2011 Leading in Context LLC 

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