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

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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. 

 

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

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

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Ethical Leadership: The “On Switch” For Adaptability

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The post “Leader Competence: Will It Be A Multiplier or Divider?generated some great discussion on social media. Here’s a quote from the post:

“Leader competence is either going to be a multiplier or a divider. When you have it, you multiply performance and trust, with exponential results. Without it, you divide your possible results by the incompetence factor.”

After reading the post, one reader requested that I write more on the topic. This week I’m digging deeper into the multiplying and dividing effects of leader (in)competence, looking at how a leader’s ethical competence impacts trust, people, bottom line results and organizational adaptability:

Impact on Trust

Competent ethical leaders intentionally build trust.

Incompetent leaders damage trust (and they may or may not be aware of it/and they may or may not care).

Impact on Bottom Line Results

Competent ethical leaders set the stage for people to do great work and then get out of their way. They support and enable great performance. This releases powerful pent-up energy within the organization that improves employee satisfaction, retention and productivity and fuels positive bottom line results.

Incompetent leaders can confuse, misdirect, distract and un-empower people, and the resulting loss of productivity reduces bottom line results. How? It increases turnover and reduces employee satisfaction and productivity, which erodes customer service quality and customer retention (and so on).

Impact on People

Competent ethical leaders know that their success depends on enabling the success of others. It is at its core about service and support and not prestige or privilege.

Incompetent leaders may mistakenly believe that leadership is all about them, and people don’t usually trust an incompetent leader enough to tell them that THEY are the problem. Employees may have to risk their wrath to get work done the right way when a leader is determined to use old thinking, old behavior and old leadership approaches that don’t work in a global society.

Incompetent leaders divide people by not communicating clear standards, giving all the good projects to “favorites,” or playing games with people to try to maintain the fragile illusion that they are “in charge.” Ethically competent leaders know that any illusion that they are “in charge” is not only false, it is a “brand-killer,” a “trust killer” and a “results killer.”

Impact on Adaptability

Adaptability is the key to an organization’s survival, and in the midst of accelerated global change and uncertainty, it provides a critical competitive advantage. Leaders who make it a priority to stay competent see the need to help others stay competent, and that helps everyone respond to change quickly.

Incompetent leaders don’t stay current, and since they don’t stay current, they probably don’t realize (or don’t care) that others in their organizations need to stay current. They do things that competent ethical leaders  know are counterproductive and harmful. The lack of leader awareness and failure to stay current creates a DRAG on the group and the organization that can make adaptability next to impossible.

The Equation

Ethical leadership competence is an adaptability enabler, people uniter and results multiplier. Ethical leadership incompetence is an adaptability reducer, a people divider and a results diminisher. 

Adaptability is a key challenge for leaders and organizations, and ethical leadership is a critical tool for “switching it on.”

The Adaptability Paradox

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Ethical Leaders See Their Choices Through All 7 Lenses

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

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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Learn To See Through All 7 Lenses of Ethical Responsibility

Includes case examples and questions.

Click the book cover for a preview.

 

 

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

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Do Good Things Come to Those Who Wait?


By Linda Fisher Thornton

I don’t particularly like the quote “Good things come to those who wait.” This quote, attributed to British author Violet Fane (Mary M. Singleton) in 1892, may be true but it leaves out important parts of the story. Good things may come to those who wait, but only after certain important conditions have been met:

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait (If They Also….)

  1. Work hard
  2. Use what they are learning to help others
  3. Keep working hard
  4. Improve but still keep learning
  5. Keep using what they learn in service to others
  6. Don’t give up, even when progress is slow and success is uncertain
  7. ….and so on (perpetually repeating numbers 1-6 above)

Doing these things keeps people in a service mindset, making it easier to wait for good things to happen. And, of course, while they are working diligently, they are not just waiting. Without the rest of the context, the quote seems to imply that just “waiting” is enough. 

What are your thoughts about the context of this quote? What other well-known quotes might be missing an important part of the story?

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Ethical Leaders See Their Choices Through All 7 Lenses

Includes case examples and questions.

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

 

Every Decision Changes The Ethical Culture Equation

By Linda Fisher Thornton

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

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

Take a look at this hypothetical scenario that demonstrates the importance of one choice:

Every Decision Changes The “Ethical Culture Equation”

Ethics Dividends

+1 Make ethics a priority

+1 Discuss the personal, legal, interpersonal, societal and planetary aspects of doing the right thing

+1 Generate an ongoing dialogue about ethical grey areas

+1 Prepare people to make good choices

+1 Build ethics into training. employee development and coaching

+1 Screen for ethics when hiring

Ethics Penalties

-6 Promote a leader who gets good results but is interpersonally toxic  (This simple mistake disengages the 6 positive messages above and the culture dividends you would have reaped from them)

If we overlook ethics when we make even one people decision, we may “actively undo” many of the positive culture-building actions we’ve taken. All it takes is one short-sighted leadership decision to weaken the organization’s ethical performance system and send the message that “ethics matters, except for this time.” 

The ethical equation has to be consistently positive to help prevent ethical problems. We must actively demonstrate the ethical values that we say are important. Every time. Without Fail. Period.

 

Join Me For: “Building an Ethical Culture: What to Cultivate and What to Weed Out”  on 2/27/17 via Compliance IQ. 

 

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Learn To See Through All 7 Lenses of Ethical Responsibility

Includes case examples and questions.

 

 

 

Click the book cover for a preview.

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

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Leader Competence: Will it Be A Multiplier or a Divider?

 

slide2By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ethical leadership competence is an issue that is gaining attention. Expectations of “good leadership” are increasing and leaders and organizations are scrambling to keep up. While sometimes people disagree about implementation, there is a strong consensus among scholars and research organizations that today’s leadership requires broad, high level thinking. 

With expectations for good leadership continuing to expand, some organizations still do not have leader competence on their strategy agendas. 

5 Compelling Reasons Leader Competence Should be a Top Strategic Priority:

  1. Competence informs thinking. Failing to stay competent, leaders may not be capable of thinking through the complex issues and situations they face in a global society and economy.
  2. Competence informs action. Failing to stay competent, leaders may solve the wrong problems or solve the right problems the wrong way.
  3. Competence fuels learning and growth. Failing to stay competent, leaders may get “stuck in place” and become entrenched in the face of challenges (instead of growing through them).
  4. Competence is required by law. There are laws and regulations in place to protect those who stay competent from being harmed by those who don’t.
  5. Competence fuels great performance. Competent leaders know how to develop competent associates who deliver great performance. 

Leader competence is either going to be a multiplier or a divider. When you have it, you multiply performance and trust, with exponential results. Without it, you divide your possible results by the incompetence factor. The more leaders who are behind the times, the higher the incompetence factor that is eroding your organization’s desired results. Can you afford to take the chance? Put ethical leadership competence on your strategic agenda this year.

 

Follow the Leading in Context Blog @leadingincontxt!

 

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Learn To See Through All 7 Lenses of Ethical Responsibility

Includes case examples and questions.

Click the book cover for a preview.

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

The Rise of Pay to Play

By Linda Fisher Thornton

It is sometimes difficult to sort out “pay to play” awards (you pay someone to say good things about you and give you an icon to put on your website) from legitimate awards (the judging process is objective — if you win you have actually earned it).

“Pay to Play” is On the Rise

Many businesses now provide “perks” if you like them on social media – but did they earn that like? In essence that like becomes a “payment” for the freebie that the customer wants, so the customer trades the endorsement for something they want. Are those likes real?

The gaming community uses “pay to win” strategies that let players pay extra to unlock advantageous perks that help them win. But in some cases this skews the advantage toward those who pay and the game isn’t as fun for those who don’t. Is that win fair?

In journalism, there is a temptation to grant “pay to play” favoritism to companies that pay to advertise in the publication, and reject stories about those companies that don’t pay. Is that fair and objective reporting? (Pay to play is rejected by the Society of Professional Journalists Ethics Code)

Without Ethics, Pay to Play Makes Good Sense (It Makes Money!)

Pay to play is a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” arrangement that may seem so attractive that it’s tempting to bypass our ethical responsibilities. 

Ethical leaders avoid the temptation and earn trust through fair dealings with people while following the ethics codes of their professions. They do the work to do it right. Now that’s real leadership.

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

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

 

Click the cover to read a free preview!

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

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Ethical Leadership is About Service, Not Privilege

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

I was noticing how many drivers seem to be in a hurry, and I realized that some people are rushing so quickly that they don’t stop to consider their impact on others (on the road or elsewhere).  They just want to get wherever they’re going as quickly as possible.

Some leaders act this way, too. While their purpose should be to enable the success of those they lead, they stop their circle of purpose at themselves and don’t let concern for anyone else’s well-being slow them down. I wonder what values are at the center of that kind of leadership? Speed? Money? Power? Efficiency?

If someone were to shadow you for a day, what would they say that you value? Would it be Supporting Others? Building Mutually Beneficial Relationships? Respect? Care? Or would they name Speed, Money, Power and Efficiency?  Who’s well-being do you consider to be part of your leadership responsibility? 

Ethical leaders don’t play favorites. They consider their impact broadly. They think before they act, and their thinking includes a wide circle of constituents. Besides the broad view they take of their constituents, there is another important way ethical leaders approach their role that sets them apart and helps them bring out the best in people and organizations. 

Ethical leaders understand that their role is one of service and not of privilege, and that informs every choice they make. 

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A Practical Guide For Leading Through Complexity

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

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Trust Energizes Organizations

 

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

How transformational is the power of trust in organizations? It increases capacity and improves performance. It improves work satisfaction and quality of life: 

“Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, 40% less burnout.”                        

Paul J. Zak, The Neuroscience of Trust, HBR

Trust is no longer considered a “nice to have” element in the effective workplace. It is a “must have” element that energizes the whole organization. Working in a safe high-trust environment, people can do extraordinary things.

On Monday I received a Trust Across America 2017 Top Thought Leaders in Trust award an12317-trust-mag-cover-featured a Lifetime Achievement Award. It is quite an honor to be recognized along with so many notable champions for trust.

See the short articles contributed by the Trust Across America 2017 Top Thought Leaders in Trust: Lifetime Award winners in the latest issue of TRUST! Magazine. This quote is from my piece on What Trust Means to Me on page 13: 

“When people work in a high trust environment, they experience the freedom and space to excel that leads to nothing less than organizational magic.”

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Learn To See Through All 7 Lenses of Ethical Responsibility

Includes case examples and questions.

Click the book cover for a preview.

 

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

Ready to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)? Part 4

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Leadership is not easy. Leaders need to be inspired to lead with positive values while dealing with the goals and expectations of multiple stakeholders. 

Here are the previous posts in the series if you missed them: 

Ready to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)? Part 1 (Improve Accountability)

Ready to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)? Part 2 (Improve Leader Impact)

Ready to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)? Part 3 (Manage the System)

The focus of this week’s post is on Ways to Inspire Leaders to Lead With Positive Ethical Values. Here are 3 ways to inspire leaders to reach for positive values – that also help you “do good” in your organization, community and world. 

Ready to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)?

Inspire Leaders to Lead With Positive Ethical Values

  1. MAKE LEADING WITH VALUES A NON-NEGOTIABLE STANDARD:  Non-negotiable performance standards should include respect, care, trust building and full inclusion.
  2. TEACH HOW TO LEAD WITH ETHICAL VALUES:  Leaders will need to talk through complex issues and explore how to maintain the “non-negotiable” values while making good business decisions at the same time. 
  3. MAKE LEADING WITH VALUES PAY OFF: Leaders who consistently model the “non-negotiable” values should be rewarded so that others get the message that those values are just as important to the organization as profitability and growth. 

These 3 ways to change the ethics quo will inspire leaders to reach for ethical values and ethical outcomes, fueling long-term organizational success. 

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See The Whole Picture Through 7 Lenses (That Are All Important) 

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

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Top 10 Posts 2016: Leading in Context Blog

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Of the 52 posts published on the Leading in Context Blog in 2016, these 10 were the most popular. See if you notice a theme that connects these topics that readers accessed most frequently:

10 Ways the Leadership Relationship is Changing (Part 1)

Great Leaders are Other-Focused

The Future of Learning Isn’t About “Knowing”

15 Quotes for Leadership Insight

Leaders, Don’t You Care? (9 Red Flags That Tell Employees You Don’t)

5 Insights Into the Future of Leadership Development Part 1

Every Leader is a Work in Progress (Yes, Even You)

What Does “Good Leadership” Mean?

What Does it Mean to “Be a Leader?”

Ethical Failures: What Causes Them?

If I had to pick a theme for these posts that were most popular in 2016, it would be “Understanding Leader Roles, Responsibilities and Relationships.” Which 2016 post was your favorite? If you have ethical leadership topics you want to learn more about in 2017, comment here, or tweet your idea to @leadingincontxt!

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Prepare For Ethical Leadership Future – Learn To See Through All 7 Lenses

Includes case examples and questions.

Click the book cover for a preview.

 

 

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

 

 

20 Quotes To Inspire Leaders in the New Year (Part 2)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Are your leaders prepared for the year ahead? Each day will bring new challenges. To succeed within ethical boundaries, they’ll need a clear picture of “good leadership.”

This series includes 20 quotes (linked to posts with leadership guidance) to inspire you and help you improve your leader development. Part 1 included the first 10. Here are 10 more:

Demonstrating care is one of the hallmark requirements of good leadership. 

We are learning our way forward in developing leaders for the workplace of the future while they are learning their way forward through complexity, economic challenges and catastrophic change.

Leaders are the key to values alignment – they model and reinforce values and hold people accountable for following them. 

The triple bottom line, a great improvement over “win at all cost,” is only the beginning. The future of work will require much more.

Leaders are culture caretakers. To fulfill that role successfully, they need to know what a positive ethical culture looks like.

Hands-off leadership can be as bad as micromanagement in terms of its ultimate impact on organizational ethics.

Understanding what causes ethical failures can help us build a more robust infrastructure for preventing them.

We must grow into our ethical leadership competence… intentionally…over time. 

Trust transforms.

Leading with positive ethical values builds trust and brings out the best in people, which brings out the best in the organization, which leads to great results.

As we approach 2017, be sure your leadership team is ready for what’s ahead. Use these links to consider how to improve leadership development in your organization. Make sure each leader is clear about what “good leadership” looks like in action. 

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

Includes case examples and questions.

Click the book cover for a preview.

 

 

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

What is the Current State of Business Ethics?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I met with faculty members and students at Plymouth State University on October 3rd on the topic of “Decoding the Complexity of Doing the Right Thing.” They had lots of questions, including the one answered in this video, “What it the Current State of Business Ethics?” This is a question that is ‘top of mind’ for many people as this year draws to a close.

The media coverage of ethical failures makes it appear that ethics in business is getting worse. Is that really what’s going on, or is there more to the story? 

 

Let me know your thoughts after you watch the video.

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Prepare For Ethical Leadership Future – Learn To See Through All 7 Lenses

Includes case examples and questions.

Click the book cover for a preview.

 

 

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Message of Hope

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Thank you, friends, for reading and sharing this Blog in 2016. I appreciate all the ways you have helped forward the movement toward authentic ethical leadership. Only by bringing out our best as leaders are we able to bring out the best in those we lead. 

As we head into this holiday season, I wish you hope. Hope is what keeps us going when problems seem impossible to solve, when time is short, and when solutions are distant. If your hopefulness should ever falter, remember these important words:

“Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all.”

Emily Dickinson

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

Albert Einstein 

“There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.”

Bernard Williams

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.”

Desmond Tutu

“We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Great leaders inspire hopefulness. They imagine a better world, and they build the future accordingly.

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

Includes case examples and questions.

Click the book cover for a preview.

 

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

Ethical Leadership is a “Fear-Free” Zone

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Fear is insidious. It changes how we see the world and how we treat others. Here are 5 important reasons why fear has no place in our workplaces, our families or our communities:

5 Reasons Fear Has No Place in Leadership

  1. Fear creates a dampening field that blocks positive interpersonal behavior including respect and care
  2. Fear-inducing relationships are damaging to human health
  3. When they are fearful, people spend time trying to protect themselves rather than reaching for their potential, and that reduces job satisfaction and productivity
  4. The damaged job satisfaction and productivity that are common in fear-based relationships translate into damaged organizational results
  5. Fear leads to unethical choices about people who are not like us

Fear is the toxic ingredient in many failed leadership strategies. When we’re fearful, we’re not at our best. We’re not thinking clearly. When we’re just trying to protect ourselves, we may quickly “rule out” positive strategies that would help us solve collective problems – including dialogue, cooperation, long-term thinking and listening to understand.

If we think someone or some group is “dangerous” or “harmful,” why would we want to get close enough to understand them?

When we become fearful, we almost automatically shift from considering ourselves and others, to just considering ourselves. We narrow the scope of the respect and care we offer to only those around us who do not elicit our fear response. This kind of reaction is understandable as a natural survival instinct. But is it ethical leadership? No, it’s not.

Great leaders respect others AND differences. If they begin to become fearful of a person or group, they recognize the signs, step back to examine their motives, and shift their thinking. They never compromise respect.

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

Includes case examples and questions.

Click the book cover for a preview.

 

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

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