Civility and Openness to Learning


By Linda Fisher Thornton

Author’s Note: In a previous post, Civility is an Ethical Issue, I explained why civility is an ethical issue. In this post I’ll explore the connection between civility and openness to learning.

Moving From Tolerance to Civility 

It seems that “civility” has come to mean something closer to the word “tolerance” in everyday conversation. Civil behavior now seems to imply an aloof stance that doesn’t step directly on anyone’s toes. But that is not nearly enough. According to W. Jason Wallace, we should be “moral agents” who “share moral relationships.”

The 21st century debate over civility, whether involving politics, religion, economics, or education, will have to confront the difficult problem of what it means to be a moral agent who shares moral relationships.  To this end, shallow conceptions of civility as manners or civility as tolerance must deepen to include civility as the cultivation of virtuous habit and the right ordering of human goods.

W. Jason Wallace, Ph.D., Samford University,  Civility: What Does Civility Mean in the 21st Century Debate?, Alabama Humanities Review

Listen to Learn

How do we build moral relationships? One way that we do that successfully is to be open to the ideas of others, and to other world views. When we disagree with someone, it is responsible to listen to them, and to see what we can learn from their perspective. To be ready to listen and learn, we must acknowledge that we do not have all of the answers. Acknowledging that we don’t have all the answers helps us remember that other people’s ideas may be just as important as our own.

Ideally, we listen eagerly to other people’s points of view. At minimum, we need to show respect when we disagree. George Washington penned a list of Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation sometime before he turned 16 years old.  Number one on his list was:

“Every Action Done in Company, Ought to be With Some Sign of Respect, to Those That are Present.”

Washington, George. Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation: a Book of Etiquette. Williamsburg, VA: Beaver Press, 1971.

Admitting We Don’t Have All Of The Answers

Why is it that we disagree so strongly? Have we tried to understand their position fully? Have we remembered to be respectful and open to learning? Have we considered why they have that viewpoint? Have we thought about how their life experiences differ from ours?

When we are not open to learning, we can easily misinterpret another perspective that does not match our own as a threat. That perspective that we are actively arguing against may in fact reflect a more current, more advanced, or more ethical perspective than ours.

Failing to acknowledge that there are other perspectives on an issue (and that the people who hold them have a right to their views as much as we do) shows a lack of respect, and a lack of awareness about:

  • Individuality
  • Complexity
  • Innovation
  • Learning, and
  • Collaboration

There are Multiple Perspectives on Every Issue

Responsible leaders acknowledge that there are multiple perspectives. They wrestle with complex issues. They know that any one person having all of the answers is impossible. They know that behaving in a civil and respectful way is considered part of our human responsibility.

As moral leaders who are building moral relationships, we must: step back far enough to realize the limitations of our own knowledge; commit to understanding other perspectives that go against our own views; encourage civility and respect; and stay open to lifelong 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  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

5 Reasons Why We Want Learning and Not “Right Answers”

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Often when we test, our purpose is to assess progress toward learning objectives.  But there’s an inherent problem with over-testing or focusing too much on test scores. Testing can de-motivate learners. If our purpose is to improve learning, then we need to pay close attention to how testing impacts the motivation to learn. 

What Is Our Focus When We Test? 


When we test, we are comparing the performance of a person to a fixed standard. So the focus is on perfection. Since perfection is subjective, we are judging how close each person comes to a subjective measure of where they “should” be. Judging can demotivate learners, since it takes individual learning and meaning out of the equation and compares everyone to a subjective standard. When we test, feedback comes in the forms of marks indicating “wrong answers.”


When we measure progress, improvement, skill development and learning (without focusing on test scores), the focus is on learning. Since learning is meaningful individually, the feedback can motivate the learner to continue learning.

“The desire to learn, to pursue the truth at all costs, cannot be taught. It can only be awakened by example, shown as a living reality. The greatest task of a teacher is to demonstrate, by her or his own example, the desirability and attraction, the unparalleled invigoration and joy, of being a lifetime learner and pursuer of truth.”

Vance G. Morgan, PH.D., Professor of Philosophy, Providence College,  in The Right Question, Providence College Magazine, Spring 2013

Which do we want – perfection or learning? Here are 5 reasons why I think we want learning and not “right answers:”

5 Reasons Why We Want Learning and Not “Right Answers”

  1. The stress from worrying about how someone will perform on a test can cause stress and interferes with learning. 
  2. “Perfection” is difficult to define – We could get a different answer from each person we asked. How will we be sure that the questions and answers represent current and relevant thinking across disciplines?
  3. There will always be a need for us to learn and adapt to new research and insights. The subjective measure of “perfection” on tests will need to change constantly to keep up – who revises their tests twice a month?
  4.  Testing can demotivate learners by counting “wrong” their higher level thinking that doesn’t fit into the “right choices.”
  5. We need to provide support and encouragement more than we judge and correct so that learning is enjoyable.

Is Testing “The Right Answer?”

Testing is a form of judgment, where we compare someone’s answers to the answers someone else came up with that were determined to be the “right” answers. This means that we may have to count the answer wrong if someone gives a more complex answer than the one we are looking for, or a more creative one, or a more current one incorporating newer research!

According to Harvard School of Education Professor Daniel Horetz, “there are limits to the meaning we can derive from test scores…The problem, in Koretz’s view, is that we tend to overestimate what tests can do. Tests are not designed to summarize all that students and schools can do.”

Because schools are evaluated based on test scores, there is a tendency to focus the test questions on the minimum level of knowledge required, rather than on a high standard of accomplishment.

Sandra Stotsky, Professor of Educational Reform at the University of Arkansas says that “Test driven, or force-fed, learning can not enrich and promote the traits necessary for life success.”

The Need For Positive Feedback 

Before you test, think about your purpose. Is it to judge someone against one interpretation of the “right” answer, or to determine whether someone has mastered complex content that includes many variables?  To support good judgment and decision making, we need to focus more time on good judgment and decision making and less time on narrowing things down to one right answer. Our ultimate goal is to ignite the love for learning, and to encourage learners to continue to stretch and grow. That will require lots of support and positive feedback (and minimal testing).

Also see: Testing, Teaching, Learning

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©2019 Leading in Context LLC

Uncomfortable Learning

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I’m generally a fan of uncomfortable learning. I believe that “uncomfortable” is sometimes a necessary part of the natural processes of learning and growth. Facilitators and teachers sometimes leverage it to help people get past outdated mindsets or to shake up and resolve group conflicts.

Uncomfortable learning can:

  • Take us outside of our current awareness
  • Call attention to areas where we may not be doing the best we can, or all we can
  • Expand our world in areas where we may not think we need to learn or we may not want to learn

When I teach ethics, I describe “cognitive dissonance” so my students can recognize it as they learn. It’s the uncomfortable feeling that happens while we are trying to resolve the dissonance between what we have always believed to be true, and new compelling information that contradicts our previous views. It takes some time to resolve the dissonance and rewire our thinking at a higher level of understanding.

Uncomfortable learning could include the time you first realized as a child that you were acting selfishly and your choices had a negative impact on others. It could include the time you realized that what you had been taught all your life about what was “right” was missing some important pieces.

When you notice that you are entering into the uncomfortable learning zone, don’t back up and retreat. Don’t let fear define your thinking or your life. Make the conscious choice to go through the process of uncomfortable learning to reach for a higher level of understanding.  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2019 Leading in Context LLC






Context Matters: What We’re Learning About Food

By Linda Fisher Thornton

New research is turning conventional wisdom about healthy eating inside out. This new research radically changes the way we think about nutrition and wellness and will completely change “best practices” in food-related industries. Here is a sneak preview:


“Fat and fiber tend to lower the GI of a food. As a general rule, the more cooked or processed a food, the higher the GI; however, this is not always true.”

Glycemic Index and Diabetes, American Diabetes Association

The reason it’s called “whole milk” has less to do with its fat content, than the fact that it’s comparatively unadulterated.

Roberto Ferdman, The whole truth about “whole milk”, The Washington Post


“Processed foods have an altered food matrix, which impacts their bioavailability.”, What is the Food Matrix?

“Foods high in fat and carbohydrate are, calorie for calorie, valued more than foods containing only fat or carbohydrate and that this effect is associated with greater recruitment of central reward circuits.”

Supra-Additive Effects of Combining Fat and Carbohydrate on Food Reward, Cell Metabolism


“The food matrix may exhibit a different relation with health indicators compared to single nutrients studied in isolation.”

Thorning et al., “Whole dairy matrix or single nutrients in assessment of health effects: current evidence and knowledge gaps,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Applying the “food matrix” concept we learn that we can’t accurately assess nutritional impact based on breaking down individual nutrients in isolation from the whole. We have to consider what we added and what we left out. In other words, context matters. 

We need to see the whole picture to understand human wellness. Whole foods from nature have complex nutritional combinations and protections built into them that vanish when you strip out the fiber and fat. As Aristotle recognized ages ago (and we’re just now rediscovering) “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Questions For Discussion

  1. How are we already contributing to health and well-being through our food choices?
  2. Where should we adjust our practices to reflect what researchers are learning about the complex food matrix?
  3. What should we stop doing or change to support the long-term health and wellness of our constituents?

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©2018 Leading in Context LLC


Ethical Leaders Don’t Put the Brakes on Learning

By Linda Fisher Thornton

When leaders stop learning, they generate friction. Professionals who work with a leader who has “put the brakes on learning” are likely to experience conflict and dissatisfaction. A leader’s failure to learn starts a chain reaction that harms individuals and teams. 

How a Leader Who Puts the Brakes on Learning Affects a Team

  • Leader decisions based on outdated information frustrate competent team members and reduce their effectiveness.
  • Uninformed leader decisions often stray into unethical territory, with the leader pushing forward, pressuring team members to do what they know is not ethical right. 
  • Some highly talented team members working with an uninformed leader begin to look for other work.
  • Team members pressured to do things they know are not ethically right leave the team to find better working conditions. 
  • The departure of highly talented team members further reduces the effectiveness of the team.
  • The reputation of the team is damaged, making it hard to attract good people to fill positions.
  • Positions that remained unfilled put additional pressure on existing team members. More team members may decide to leave to find better leadership.  

When leaders put the brakes on learning, it cripples the whole team, starting a downward spiral to ineffectiveness. It damaged reputation and engagement metrics. It affects results. 

Ethical Leaders Learn

Responsible leaders know that learning must continue for a lifetime. Only then can they be ready to  make ethical choices as they handle the challenges of leadership. 

Good drivers don’t drive with the emergency brake on. Good leaders don’t put the brakes on learning. 

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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)



Pluralism: 9 Elements Required For Ethical Leadership

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Pluralism is required in our leadership thinking as a positive force that informs how we treat people and make decisions. It’s the expansive mindset that is the key to important ethical leadership responsibilities such as respect, inclusion, and cultural awareness.

“If you know whether a man is a decided monist or a decided pluralist, you perhaps know more about the rest of his opinions than if you give him any other name ending in IST. To believe in the one or in the many, that is the classification with the maximum number of consequences.” ― Will James

Merriam-Webster defines pluralism as “a state of society in which members of diverse ethnic, racial, religious, or social groups maintain and develop their traditional culture or special interest within the confines of a common civilization.”

Pluralism, by its nature, is many things:

  1. Inclusive
    • Including everyone without losing the uniqueness of traditions or people
  2. Listening
    • Listening with care and attention and honoring a diverse group of voices
  3. Accepting
    • Being comfortable with different backgrounds, styles, traditions, approaches and ways of thinking
  4. Collaborative
    • Seeing the importance of diversity of thought in creating powerful solutions together
  5. Unafraid
    • Talking about our shared challenges, and seeing those conversations as a step toward solutions
  6. United
    • Working with individuals to build trust and educate each other on cultural traditions
  7. Evolving
    • Changing our minds and behavior willingly because we will never know everything about everything and expectations change over time
  8. Whole
    • Including everyone of every background, regardless of their life story
  9. Learning
    • Staying open to learning because we will make mistakes as we work together and learn about each other at the same time

A leader who embraces pluralism will not be afraid to go into the spaces where diverse groups of people meet, get to know each other, and work together.

“I thought about the meaning of pluralism in a world where the forces that seek to divide us are strong. I came to one conclusion: We have to save each other. It’s the only way to save ourselves.” — Eboo Patel

Ethical leaders know that we are stronger and better together, and they do everything possible to leverage that strength to solve our shared problems.

Reflections on Truth: Why Is It So Elusive?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Why Is The “Truth” So Elusive?

Last summer, I explored what great thinkers have said about truth in this post: Reflections on Truth: Are You a Seeker?  Today I’m going to dig a little deeper into the question “What is truth?”

I found the BBC radio show A Brief History of the Truth that explores the question across time to give us a broader understanding. It turns out that (according to American satirist Joe Queenan) people have had problems with the truth since the time of ancient civilizations. The broadcast is mostly humorous, but I loved this seriously insightful statement:

“Reality is very complicated. No one perspective on the world can capture everything. So when people talk about “the truth,” often the mistake they’re making is that they’re thinking you can capture everything that’s important about the truth only from one perspective.”

Heard on the BBC radio show “A Brief History of the Truth

It turns out that truth, like ethics, is multidimensional. One sound bite is not going to capture it.

How Do We Find It?

  • Look beyond the soundbite. Since one perspective won’t give us the answer, we will need to use various perspectives.
  • Look beyond our current beliefs and assumptions. We can’t see from multiple perspectives if all we can see is our current beliefs and assumptions, so we’ll need to assume we only have part of the picture.
  • Look beyond the most convenient answer. Since we may tend to see things in our own favor, we will need to assume that the most convenient answer for us is not necessarily the real answer.
  • Bring our curiosity and be open to new insights. If we are going to move past our own beliefs and assumptions and the most convenient answer, we’ll need to remain curious and open to new information that may profoundly change our understanding of the issue.

If you are trying to resolve a problem with a group, seeing the “truth” from the perspective of each person on the team will lead you to mutually beneficial solutions. Take a hard look at your “truth.” Is it one-dimensional, or open to learning about the other perspectives that will give you the whole picture? 

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4 Connected Trends Shaping the Future of Leadership

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Our understanding of good leadership is advancing. In this video, I describe 4 powerful trends that are increasing leadership expectations and shaping what leaders will need to be ready to handle in the future. 

These 4 trends shaping the future of leadership are connected and accelerating. They give us a clear picture of where we need to take our leadership. 

The greatest challenge leaders face is to keep up as the bar continues to be raised. At the rate expectations are increasing, it is clear that we will never “arrive.” We must be adaptable, open to developing new skill sets and mindsets, while at the same time staying true to the values of ethical leadership. 

Being open to learning makes or breaks our success as leaders.

Adaptability is no longer just a competitive advantage. It’s an ethical imperative. 


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Ethical Leaders Stay Current as the World Changes

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5 Things Money Can’t Buy (Even Now)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I had the opportunity a few years ago to hear Michael Sandel, professor from Harvard and author of What Money Can’t Buy, speak at the University of Richmond about “the sky-boxification of society.” He talked about how easy it is today to buy your way into a better situation (or a sky box). I just finished reading Tom Friedman’s book Thank You for Being Late and in it Friedman refers to and builds on Sandel’s observations. 

I started thinking about some of the qualities that are highly valuable and make leaders great that money can’t buy – some of the priceless qualities that define great leadership. Here are 5:

5 Things Money Can’t Buy (Even Now)

  1. Trust – (only achieved through intentional use of positive interpersonal behaviors that build mutually beneficial relationships over time)
  2. Integrity – (only achieved when thoughts, words and deeds align)
  3. Authenticity – (only reached through personal struggle, service to others and an intentional growth journey)
  4. Sincerity – (only achieved when you avoid lies, partial truths, rules that apply to others but not to you, and choices that harm others)
  5. Growth – (you can pay for education, but being open to learning and growth must be chosen)

Money may be a token of exchange in the global marketplace, but so are these 5 priceless leadership qualities that money can’t buy. It is these essential priceless qualities that enable leaders to bring out the best in diverse, connected groups of people working toward a common goal. These are leadership qualities that kindle people’s imagination, creativity and innovation (which are needed to solve today’s complex problems). 

What other positive qualities (that money can’t buy) define great leadership? Feel free to comment with your additions to the list. 

If you enjoy the Leading in Context Blog, here are 5 ways you can help this important movement: 

  • SPREAD THE WORD: Encourage others to subscribe, or share a link to your favorite post
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Together, we can make a positive difference. 

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5 Insights Into Leadership Development Future (Part 3)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This is the third installment in a series “5 Insights Into Leadership Development Future” Each post in this series will address a trend in leadership development and offer tangible actions for helping leadersIn case you missed them, here are the previous posts:

Part 1 on Global Trends

Part 2 on Wholeness 

This third post in the series is about the trend toward growth and human developmen– that includes growth in leadership and growth toward becoming a better person. 

We are talking more about the benefits of growth, and there is an awareness that people become better leaders through experience, travel, challenge and struggle. Here’s the bottom line –

There is a vast difference between a leader who KNOWS and a leader who GROWS.

The leader who grows is:

  1. More self-aware
  2. More humble
  3. More willing to adapt
  4. More open to learning
  5. More supportive when others make mistakes as they are learning
  6. Better equipped to support others as they grow
  7. More likely to attract and keep great performers

Today’s leadership development must move away from “infusing people with knowledge” and focus on “helping them grow.”

5 Actions to Take Now

How do we apply the growth trend to the way we develop leaders? 

  1. Give them a sense of what human growth looks like, what it requires and the rewards of taking the journey. 
  2. Let leaders know that the goal is improvement, not perfection, and that they will make mistakes while they are learning (that is part of the learning journey).
  3. Give them clear values to aim for – this helps them orient their growth toward a higher purpose. 
  4. Give leaders activities that cause them to stretch and struggle to make sense out of things – take them outside of their comfort zones – prepare them to handle complex leadership challenges.
  5. Create experiences that expand their understanding of the world and help them understand the struggles of others (this is easier than it used to be – you can travel the world via YouTube).

More to Come: I will be continuing this series with more important trends in leadership development and actions you can take to help your leaders adapt.  Stay tuned for Part 4!

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Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future – Help Them Learn To See Through The 7 Lenses®. 

Includes how ethical expectations are increasing, and what you can do to stay ahead of the curve.

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

15 Quotes For Leadership Insight

We-should-never-settle (1)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

About once a year I like to gather up important quotes from the Leading in Context Blog and compile them into a post for readers who like quotes! See if you can find inspiration in these quotes about authentic ethical leadership – what it is, how to think about it, and how to do it. 

Each quote includes a link that takes you to the post that featured it. 

“Ethical leadership is much closer to home than we may readily admit. It isn’t somewhere ‘out there’ at all – it is us, right here and right now.  It is in our deeply-held values. It is in our day-to-day choices.  It is in our quest for good.”

“Growth may be difficult, but there isn’t any other way to fully embrace ethics. We must grow into our ethical competence…intentionally…over time. When we are tempted to take a shortcut and think about ethics as a class or a theory, we should remember this: The “body of knowledge” isn’t going to need to make tough ethical choices. We are.”

“When we are not open to learning, we can easily misinterpret another perspective that does not match our own as a threat.”

What is the most positive reason of all to care about creating an ethical culture? We get to help people learn to make positive choices based on ethical values before they have problems (instead of just cleaning up ethical messes when it’s too late).

“Positive leaders stay grounded in ethical values and use a human growth mindset. They are fixed and flexible at the same time, never straying from ethics but always willing to change with the times.”

“I believe that we gain an understanding of the whole picture by taking in a broad array of information in the course of our lives. Without that kind of awareness, we are destined to understand the small pieces but miss the connections and the greater meaning.”

“Failing to prepare leaders for what they’ll face is not just potentially bad for their success, it’s also an ethical problem for their employees and for the organization. Without tools for handling complex challenges, people may make more mistakes than they need to. Some of those mistakes can be costly to the leader’s future and the organization’s reputation.”

“Trust is a hot topic and a valuable business enabler. The organizations that will adapt and succeed in the future make it a business priority.”

“The question about profit’s place in ethical leadership is a good one. At its best, ethics requires setting aside concerns about money and personal gain and doing what is best for others. But business leaders also have to keep their organizations afloat, and that requires thinking about money.”

“To make the boundaries of ethics clear, we need to explore the borders and grey areas. Trying to make things CLEAR and keeping them SIMPLE are not at all the same.”

“Competence is a critical part of responsible leadership. We may miss some steps along the way and make mistakes as we learn, but we should always make it a priority to stay competent.”

“Ethical values by definition are positive and they often require that we stretch outside of our own interests to respect, protect, serve and help others.”

“Ethical thinking means we never lose sight of our positive purpose. We choose to be the sum of our values, not our challenges.”

We are all Padawan learners on the ethical journey. We are subject to making mistakes, and we must continually learn to stay ahead of our ethical challenges.

27881-068-Edit-003My mission is to Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®. Each of these posts was written to help you bring out the best in your leaders and your organizations. Which one of these 15 insights do you find the most inspirational?

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Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future – Help Them Learn To See Through The 7 Lenses®. 

Includes how ethical expectations are increasing, and what you can do to stay ahead of the curve.  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

We’re All Padawan Learners


By Linda Fisher Thornton

With the new Star Wars movie being released this month, my family and I recently watched all six of the original Star Wars movies in one week. It was an intense movie marathon, and watching them all in the order they were released gave us a unique perspective. 

Have you ever noticed that no matter how many times the forces of good overcome the forces of evil in the Star Wars movies, there is always another challenge? There is never a moment when the characters “arrive” and are exempt from ethical challenges. They can never let down their guard.

Why? Because power can corrupt or it can be used for good. In the six original Star Wars movies, we see what happens when a Padawan learner (Luke) is humble and stays the course, always open to learning. We also see what happens when a Padawan learner (Vader) thinks he has “arrived” and is no longer willing to learn from others. 

We are all Padawan learners on the ethical journey. We are subject to making mistakes, and we must continually learn to stay ahead of our ethical challenges.

The surprising truth is that we are all also teachers. Others are watching our choices and learning from us. 

As others observe our choices, how will they see us choosing to use our power?

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Do Differences of Opinion Set Off Your Threat Detector?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Differences of opinion can be inconvenient and uncomfortable. We may be in a discussion with someone who has very different views from ours, on a topic of great importance to us. How we handle it shows others the inner workings of our character.

We have all been in conversations with people who are open to hearing what we have to say and those who are not. When we perceive an idea as a threat, it may be a signal that we are CLOSED to learning. And that may lead us right into unethical territory, to disrespectful interpersonal behavior. 

As you review these descriptions, think about your recent conversations. Was the other person OPEN or CLOSED to learning? Did they perceive a difference of opinion as a threat or an opportunity to learn?

Sees a Difference of Opinion as a Threat

  • Different ideas are direct threats to my position
  • When we disagree, only one of us can be right
  • Listening to dissenting opinions is dangerous and should be avoided
  • People who disagree with my position should be belittled and put in their place to reduce their power

Sees It as a Learning Opportunity

  • Different ideas are opportunities to learn
  • When we disagree, we might both be describing different parts of a bigger concept
  • Listening doesn’t mean we have to change our beliefs, but we are open to that if it happens
  • Listening to dissenting opinions increases our understanding of issues we care about

Ethical leadership requires us to respect people and differences of perspective even when those differences may make us uncomfortable. 

Override your threat detection system when you hear information that goes against your current views.

If differences of opinion set off our “threat detection” system and make us angry, that may be a sign that we are closed to learning. I have noticed over the years that perceiving the ideas of others as a threat is signal that we need to listen. 

This week, notice what sets off your threat detection system, and see what you can learn when you choose to override it and remain open to learning.

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How Does Struggle Shape Us as Leaders?

20150502_100843By Linda Fisher Thornton

On the journey to ethical leadership, we all struggle.

We struggle to make ethical choices when there are multiple stakeholders to consider. 

We struggle to balance competing interests, high expectations, information overload and overbooked schedules.

We struggle to be at our best in difficult circumstances.

This struggle is often seen as negative – something that pulls us down and keeps us from succeeding. But what if we looked at it another way? Isn’t the struggle, this personal growth journey, this quest to achieve when the odds are against us, the same thing that enables our success?

If we see the struggle as a brick wall that we can’t get past, though, it stops us. Rejected 10 times? It’s not going to work out. Group experiencing chaos during a big change? We must be failing as a leader.

If we see the struggle as a natural part of the journey, it fuels us. Rejected 10 times? We’re that much closer to a “yes.” Our group in chaos during a big change? We’re on the verge of progress. 

In Marcia Reynold’s book The Discomfort Zone, she points out that “the discomfort zone is the moment of uncertainty when people are most open to learning.” Reynolds acknowledges that this is a vulnerable state to be in, but points out that “when you’re vulnerable, that’s when radical growth happens.”

We choose our response to the struggle. If we choose a GROWTH mindset, we see struggle as a natural part of our leadership journey. The growth mindset most closely matches the difficult long-term process of human growth that is a critical part of good leadership.

While it may feel like climbing straight up a steep cliff, growth is necessary for good leadership. 

How does this struggle shape us? It helps us develop the capacity to handle increasingly difficult challenges. It helps us stay open to new possibilities. It helps us become the best possible version of ourselves.

Choose to take on this journey, the struggle for growth that helps us become authentic leaders.

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Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future – Help Them Learn To See Through The 7 Lenses.  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™

©2015 Leading in Context LLC

10 Ethical Leadership Questions For the New Year

10 Questions

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ethical leadership is evolving, and expectations are increasing. Will we be ready? As we go into the New Year, here are some questions to ponder:

1. What does “ethical” mean to me?

2. Would someone observing my leadership know that I intend to be an ethical leader?

3. If so, how would they know? If not, what could I do differently so that they would know?

4. How broadly am I considering what happens to my constituents?

5. Where could I be more proactive and intentional about my ethics?

6. How carefully am I managing my ethical competence?

7. How consistently do I show respect when my views don’t align with someone else’s views?

8.  How well do I seek solutions that are mutually beneficial, not just self-serving?

9.  How well do I model the highest ethical values so that others can learn from me?

10. How am I using my leadership and service to make a positive difference?

In the New Year, let’s be intentional about our learning journey, and seek ways to improve in all of these aspects of our leadership. If you’re feeling especially open to learning, ask your team to help you answer these questions about yourself. The insights you gain could be amazing.




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  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 


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