Ethical Leaders Take The Hidden Path

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ethical leaders seek shared value. They look for ways to meet the needs of others while they champion their own projects and ideas. Why? Because they understand that they are responsible for honoring their well-being AND the well-being of others. 

Ethical leaders take responsibility for supporting the noble goals of others and have the persistence and character to reach for the situation where “We Both Win.” 

Shared value and mutual benefit are principles at the core of Corporate Social Responsibility and ethical leadership. To achieve them, we must think beyond outdated notions of what it means to win (including the one-dimensional false dichotomy “I Win, You Lose).” We have to look for the alternative path. 

This path to shared value may seem to be a “hidden path” because we have to look deeper and work harder to find it. It takes more work and effort. It requires thinking beyond the immediate moment and the one-sided “win.” It builds lasting relationships that benefit all parties. 

While seeking mutual benefit may take more effort up front, that doesn’t mean that it’s optional. Taking advantage of others to make a quick buck doesn’t create meaning or build real relationships. It doesn’t demonstrate a commitment to ethical values. 

In every situation where we think we have to do what it takes to get our immediate needs met, there is another path we can choose – pursuing a mutually beneficial solution that lasts.

The path to mutually beneficial solutions is not always easy to find. Great leaders realize that it’s their job to seek out and take this hidden path. 

Top 100 Leadership Blog

NEW Leadership Webinars –  Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership!
6/8/17 – Communicating About Ethical Values: How To Talk About What Matters
7/11/2017 – Developing Leadership That Inspires

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Ethical Leaders See Their Choices 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

 

9 Ethical Roles: Is Your Leadership Team “All In”


By Linda Fisher Thornton

I blogged a while back about the Critical Roles of the (Ethical) CEO. I realized later that these important ethical roles apply not just to CEOs, but also to all senior leaders in an organization. And if front line leaders don’t carry these roles throughout the organization, there will be gaps in the culture. 

An ethical culture will only happen if the leadership team is “All In.” 

We should prepare leaders to take on these 9 important roles, to help them be “All In” in the quest for ethical culture building: 

Critical Roles of the Ethical Leader

Ethical Leadership Role Model

High Level Trust-Builder

Champion For Ethical Values

Ethical Prevention Advocate

Highest Leader Accountable For Ethics

Accountability Consistency Monitor

Ethics Dialogue Leader

Ethical Decision-Making Coach

Ethical Culture Builder

Through these important roles, leaders communicate, model and coach ethical thinking and action. That process increases the ethical capability of the organization over time, protects it from problems, and keeps the work environment positive.

Is your leadership team “All In” in taking on these roles and championing ethics throughout the organization? Help each leader develop the skills and confidence to handle these important roles. 

Top 100 Leadership BlogNEW Leadership Webinars –  Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership!
6/8/17 – Communicating About Ethical Values: How To Talk About What Matters
7/11/2017 – Developing Leadership That Inspires

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Ethical Leaders See Their Choices Through All 7 Lenses

Includes case examples and questions.

 

Click the book cover for a preview.

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

 

Labels Divide, Values Conquer

 

By Linda Fisher Thornton

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 100 Leadership Blog

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Ethical Leaders See Their Choices Through All 7 Lenses

Includes case examples and questions.

Click the book cover for a preview.

 

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

How Do You Make Better Decisions?

By Linda Fisher Thornton
 
How do you make decisions? Do you consider a series of important questions? Do you find out the needs of the people involved? Do you consult a diverse group of advisors? Or do you just wing it? Some of the ways we may be tempted to think through our challenges (how to stay within budget or how to be most profitable, for example) leave ethical values out of the equation. 
 
Ethical thinking helps us make good leadership decisions. When we use intentional ethical thinking, we make decisions based on ethical valuesUsing ethical thinking doesn’t just help us do the right thing. It also helps us resolve our most difficult leadership problems by broadening our awareness. 

Ethical thinking keeps us grounded in values, and on track to reach for shared solutions. That helps us make better decisions.

  Here are some of the many challenges that ethical thinking helps us resolve:
  • How to deal with new situations/issues/people
  • How to make tough decisions when multiple stakeholders are involved
  • How to be consistent
  • How to lead based on positive ethical values
  • The need for the time and space to figure things out

While there are many different ways to make decisions, not all them lead to ethical outcomes. The beauty of ethical thinking is that once we learn and practice it, we take it with us, and it becomes the basis of our decision-making (no extra time and space required).

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Ethical Leaders See the Whole Picture

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 Evolving Purpose of Leadership: Why More is Expected Now

By Linda Fisher Thornton

What ever happened to transactional leadership and what has taken its place? How is our understanding of the purpose of leadership changing? Where is it headed?

In this video, I explain our evolving understanding of the purpose of leadership, and provide a context that explains why more is expected of leaders now. This trend update is based on Part 3 of my book 7 Lenses

Leaders across industries are stretching to meet expectations as the bar continues to be raised. Understanding the trends can help us get there.

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Your Guide to the Ethical Leadership Journey

Includes case examples and questions.

Click the book cover for a preview.

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

Is Our Leadership “Good?”

 

By Linda Fisher Thornton

How will we know if our leadership is “good?” Since there are conflicting opinions about what good leadership includes, we need an understanding of the context to answer this important question.

This week I’m featuring a collection of posts that clear up questions you may have about how to define and practice “good” leadership. This is the kind of leadership that builds high-trust companies and communities. It is the high level leadership that brings out the best in people and engages them in meaningful work.

As you explore these posts, think about the ways you have learned about good leadership and who your role models have been. 

What is the Greater Good?

7 Definitions of “Good” (Why We Disagree About Ethics)

Is Your Leadership “Net Positive?”

What is the Ultimate Goal of Leadership?

We need “good” leadership at every level if we are going to build good organizations. Will our leadership stand the test of time? Will it be considered “good” by others looking back on it 100 years from now?

Top 100 Leadership Blog

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Ethical Leaders “See” Their Choices 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

The “Less Than” Fallacy

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Anytime we think about another person or group as “less than,” or treat another person or group as “less than,” we are unethical. It’s very simple, really. We are all human, and as humans, we all have rights and dignity. We all have a right to be here and to be treated with respect and fairness. 

Attempts to portray others as “less than” may come from a desire for power, control or personal gain. They may stem from trying to overcome low self-esteem by imagined superiority. They may come from misinformation. They may come from having lost one’s own sense of humanity. 

In the past year, people have protested by the millions around the world to say “Enough.” The diverse groups that have gathered around the world want us to hear that, wherever it comes from, the “less than” fallacy has run its course. It is not part of who we are when we are at our best. It is not part of our successful future.

Treating people as “less than” makes it more difficult for them to fully contribute to society in ways that benefit us all. It’s time to get past a “less than” mentality, recognizing it as flawed thinking, so that we can focus our attention on mutual understanding. That would brings us “more than” the capacity we need to resolve our current global challenges. 

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Ethical Leaders See the Whole Picture

Includes case examples and questions.

Click the book cover for a preview.

 

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

 

“Great Leaders” Find Gold Within

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Great leadership is often defined based on efficiency, effectiveness or profitability, but that’s no way to define a journey of character building and authenticity. There’s much more to the story that needs to be told.

Many people work hard to strike leadership gold and become great leaders. Few have a clear picture of exactly what the “great leadership” they’re aiming for will look like. Where will they find it? What kinds of development will help them grow into it? Who are good role models for it?

The greatest leaders look beyond the visible and tangible benefits of their leadership and seek the more meaningful impact that is hidden:

  • Helping others grow, they grow
  • Serving others, they contribute to positive change
  • Learning and serving, they become capable of doing more and being more to others
  • Leading with character, they leave a positive legacy that endures
  • Guiding others to good character and ethical actions, they tap into hidden capabilities of the team
  • Bringing out the team’s greatness, they accomplish what other leaders cannot

Great leaders tap into the “gold within.” They bring out the greatness within each person, helping them to reach their potential. They bring out the greatness in each team, creating the positive space for results that seem impossible.

Like archaeologists using a small brush under the hot desert sun, leaders carefully uncover the invisible – the rich deposits of hope, potential and impact that lie within others.

Top 100 Leadership Blog

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Ethical Leaders See Their Choices Through All 7 Lenses

Includes case examples and questions.

Click the book cover for a preview.

 

 

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

 

 

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
  • READ THE BOOK: Get a copy of 7 Lenses, in  Paperback or for Kindle, iPad, and Nook. Share it with a friend, or with your Book Club or leader group. 
  • SCHEDULE A WORKSHOP: Help your team or organization gain insight into positive, proactive ethical thinking and action with a workshop led by 7 Lenses author Linda Fisher Thornton.
  • PARTICIPATE IN THE CONVERSATION: Engage in dialogue on social media. Imagine better leadership with others. Let people know what you’re learning. Include @leadingincontxt in your Tweets. 
  • SUGGEST A TOPIC: Suggest a future topic you want to learn more about by commenting on a blog post or contacting Leading in Context. 

Together, we can make a positive difference. 

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Ethical Leaders See Their Choices 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

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)

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

 

 

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

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

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.

 

 

LeadinginContext.com  

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?

Top 100 Leadership Blog

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Ethical Leaders See Their Choices Through All 7 Lenses

Includes case examples and questions.

Click the book cover for a preview.

 

 

LeadinginContext.com  

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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LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

 

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!

 

Top 100 Leadership Blog

axiombronze

 

 

Learn To See Through All 7 Lenses of Ethical Responsibility

Includes case examples and questions.

Click the book cover for a preview.

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

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