A COVID-19 Leadership Reset: Moving Beyond Paradox

By Linda Fisher Thornton

It’s been a tough year for everyone, and much of the strain has fallen on leaders. They have had much more to think about and juggle than in a typical year, and the stakes have been much higher.

Today I’m sharing a collection of curated resources that will help leaders achieve a leadership reset for adapting to COVID-19. Notice the theme of moving beyond paradox – accepting (things as they are) and reinventing (for the future).

As you review the leadership resources below, look for two or three insights that will help you adapt your leadership to the realities of the lingering pandemic.

COVID-19 Leadership Resources

Leadership in the Time of COVID-19, Forbes

6 Tips for Adapting Your Leadership Style in the Post-COVID World, US Chamber of Commerce

The Paradox of Leadership After COVID-19, SHRM

How Leaders Can Adapt in a COVID-19 World, UR Now

Effectively Leading Through COVID-19: Leader Toolkit, Astra Zenaca

4 Actions to Be a Strong Leader During COVID-19 Disruption, Gartner

Leadership During COVID-19: Resources For Times of Uncertainty, CCL

Reset Your Organization For a Post COVID Future, CCL

Human Capital Trends 2020 (Including Paradox as the Way Forward), Deloitte

Returning to Work in the Future of Work: Embracing purpose, potential, perspective, and possibility during COVID-19, Deloitte

Your constituents are counting on you to help them through a difficult time as you manage your own stress, worry and fatigue. Use these resources to identify two to three things you can do differently or better to reset your leadership.

Ethics is Actionable

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Some people think about ethics as a theoretical concept that lives in procedures and regulations, but they’re missing the point. Ethics is not just an esoteric concept. It’s an actionable responsibility.

Ethics requires moving beyond convenience and concern for self to concern for others.

Our ethics doesn’t live in the codes and manuals… Ethics is in the decisions we make. It’s in the way we resolve the tension between gaining personal benefit and creating value for others… Ethical guidelines are there to help us, but they do not become our ethics unless we choose to follow them every day.

Linda Fisher Thornton, Ethics Isn’t “Out There”: It’s Us And Our Choices

Leaders bear an even greater responsibility for ethical action because they must lead others to ethical performance through their guidance and example.

When an action is convenient and not appropriate, don’t call it leadership. Leadership is about moving beyond concern for self to also consider the well-being and success of others.

Linda Fisher Thornton, Leaders: What’s Missing in Convenient Actions? Values, Leading in Context Blog

As leaders, our ethical values show up when we take action that is grounded in ethical values:

  • Make important decisions
  • Choose employees to recognize, reward and promote
  • Model expected ethics for others to emulate
  • Treat others with respect and care

It’s in the time we take to teach employees about ethics and values, and the care we take to model ethical behavior so that everyone can see what it looks like in action.

Linda Fisher Thornton, Ethics Isn’t “Out There”: It’s Us And Our Choices

Now is a great time to move well beyond the ethics manual on the shelf and offering ethics training to “check off the box.” It’s time to move from insight to action – from what we know is important to what we actually do every day.

Clarify, Don’t Oversimplify

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Many of us are on a quest to simplify our lives, reduce our clutter and improve our focus. This is a positive step that can improve our lives, but unfortunately it doesn’t work at all when applied to our decision making.

When situations are complex, it is tempting to oversimplify them so we can move on and make a quick decision. This practice, though, sets us up for poor decision making and ethical mistakes.

“‘Satisficing’ leads the managerial leader to alternatives that tend to be easy to formulate, familiar, and close to the status quo. When one grapples with complex ethical considerations, this approach to decision making may not produce the best solutions.”

Charles D. Kerns, Graziadio Business Review, Pepperdine University

Kern’s term ‘satisficing’ makes me think of sacrificing the complexity of an issue to satisfy our need to move forward. It reminds me of our tendency to want things to be simpler than they really are, because digging into complex issues takes some effort.

This week, take a moment to consider where you might be ‘satisficing’ when you should be clarifying.

Ethics is Acting Beyond Self-Interest

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This is an edited version of a previously published reader favorite.

“Ethics” Means Acting Beyond Self-Interest

Ethics is fundamentally about acting beyond our own self-interests. Can we be ethical without considering others and acting in ways that benefit them? 

Here are some interesting questions and quotes on the subject. As you read, think about the business leader’s responsibility to act beyond the interests of the business and beyond personal gain.

Questions About Ethics, Ego and Acting Out of Concern for Others

1. Is ethics moving beyond the ego to show concern for others?

“While egoism may be a strong motivator of human behavior, ethics traditionally assumes that human beings are also capable of acting from a concern for others that is not derived from a concern for their own welfare.”

“The moral point of view goes beyond self-interest to a standpoint that takes everyone’s interests into account. Ethics, then, assumes that self interest is not the basis for all human behavior, although some philosophers, e.g., Hobbes, have tried to base ethics on self-interest. Their efforts, however, have not been widely accepted.”

Andre and Velasquez, Unmasking the Motives of the Good Samaritan, Ethics and Self-Interest, Santa Clara University

2. Can we define ethics based on reason, when reason doesn’t involve others?

“Justice can’t be determined by examining a single case, since the advantage to society of a rule of justice depends on how it works in general under the circumstances in which it is introduced.”

“Thus the views of the moral rationalists on the role of reason in ethics, even if they can be made coherent, are false.”

David Hume, Stanford.edu, quoting from Hume’s autobiographical essay, “My Own Life”

3. If we serve others now, will we benefit long-term?

“Enlightened self-interest is a philosophy in ethics which states that persons who act to further the interests of others (or the interests of the group or groups to which they belong), ultimately serve their own self-interest.[1][2][3]   It has often been simply expressed by the belief that an individual, group, or even a commercial entity will “do well by doing good”.[4][5][6]”

“Enlightened self-interest also has implications for long-term benefits as opposed to short-term benefits to oneself.[7] When an individual pursues enlightened self-interest that person may sacrifice short-term interests to maximize long-term interests. This is a form of deferred gratification.”

Enlightened Self-Interest, Wikipedia.com

4. Are we at our best when we consider others?

“The motives which lie behind our behaviors are often mixed and complex. But studies such as these are among the challenges to the long held view that even at our best, we are only out for ourselves. Rather, at our best, we may only be out for others.”

Andre and Velasquez, Unmasking the Motives of the Good Samaritan, Ethics and Self-Interest, Santa Clara University

5. What, then, is ethical behavior?

“In some ways, putting the greater good before your own can be thought of as the definition of ethical leadership, since it underlies so many of the other components.” “Ethical behavior reflects a value system that grows out of a coherent view of the world, based on equity, justice, the needs and rights of others as well as oneself, a sense of obligation to others and to the society, and the legitimate needs and standards of the society.”

The Community Toolbox, University of Kansas, ku.edu

What does all of this mean for leaders?

We are all responsible for acting beyond our own self-interests. In this age of ‘infotainment’ and information overload, we have to know ourselves, know our responsibility to others, and choose to act beyond self-interest and short-term gain.

If we ever forget, we’ll be reminded by ethically-aware constituents that it’s not ethical leadership if we don’t consistently act out of respect and concern for others.

10 COVID-19 Trends: Our Inner Space

By Linda Fisher Thornton

It seems that we’re all getting more in touch with our “inner space” during the COVID-19 pandemic. The extensive time in isolation has given us the time and opportunity to face our truths – our beliefs, our impact and our choices.

Here are 10 trends we’re seeing during COVID-19 that show better self-awareness, other-awareness and moral awareness.

  1. We’re more aware of the importance of science in our lives
  2. We’re more aware (in our households, families and workplaces) that we are “all in this together” and each decision we make impacts everyone else in the group
  3. We’re more aware of how our actions (or inactions) can harm others
  4. We’re more aware of the importance of moral awareness in leadership
  5. We’re more aware of societal economic disparities
  6. We’re more aware of societal racial disparities
  7. We’re more aware of our global connectedness
  8. We’re more aware of what our travel lifestyle does to the planet
  9. We’re more aware of the risks others take for our benefit and well-being
  10. We’re more aware of the importance of taking responsibility for our actions, even under the most difficult and inconvenient circumstances

In my lifetime, I have not seen a time when we have had to come face-to-face with our own beliefs the same way we are having to now. Poor thinking is literally a health risk in these challenging times when failing to wear a mask at the wrong time can lead to illness or death.

Nancy Gibbs, Harvard Kennedy School, says about the impact of the pandemic on our thinking and leadership: “This is real. This has been a moral autopsy. Look for the common humanity. Look for the complexity, get past attributing bad motives to the ‘other side.'”

While it’s always easier to criticize others than to face our own limitations, it’s our own thinking and actions we should be examining now.

Minimum Standard Leadership

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I tell my students that if you go through life just reaching for the minimum standard, you end up with a minimum standard life. The good things in life, including success and happiness are more likely to happen when we reach higher than the baseline that is expected of us.

Growth

Growth happens beyond the baseline requirements. If we aim too low, we may be content with a job that doesn’t bring out our full potential. Stretching to grow into a more demanding role, we find out what we’re capable of, and we grow. We become capable of more, which opens up new opportunities.

Opportunity

People are often tapped for new projects and promotions based on their current performance and their willingness to learn new things and take on additional responsibility. Doing these things makes them deeply valuable assets to groups and organizations.

Leadership

Minimum standard leadership doesn’t inspire others to greatness and build great organizations. It just keeps the cogs turning.

Leadership opportunities require stretching beyond the minimum standard because leaders need to do their own work and support the work of others. That means that their most important supporting tasks are evolving, not finite and collective, not individual. Leaders must embrace growth and adapt to change, setting an example for the people they lead and support.

From Minimum Standard Performance to Potential

I have been stretched beyond my comfort zone almost continuously over the past decade. I remember times when I felt like “coasting” because I was so exhausted by change and wanted things to be easier.

Overcoming that tendency to want to keep things as they are is important for breaking out of self-imposed limits on our potential and achievement. Every new opportunity will likely pull us beyond our comfort zone, stretching and expanding what we are comfortable with.

When we break away from a desire to keep things as they are, we are much better prepared to take advantage of all the good that life has to offer. And we are much better prepared to be good leaders.

Good Leadership Serves, Respects and Uplifts

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This is an updated version of a post that has been a long-time reader favorite.

What is the ultimate goal of leadership? This question seems simple enough at first, and then begins to get tricky because it can’t be answered in one simple statement.

  • Is the goal of leadership to provide direction and model the performance we expect from others?
  • Is it to respect and serve?
  • Is it to support others and remove obstacles?
  • Is it to teach and mentor?
  • Is it to help bring out the best in those we lead as we work toward a common purpose?

Of course, leadership is about all of those things and more. So what is its ultimate goal? Here are four very different ways of thinking about the ultimate goal of leadership. Each one is shared with a suggested theme song. As you read, think about how many of these theme songs describe your leadership.

Profit

Using the Profit perspective, the goal of leadership is to ensure that the organization makes a profit so that it can continue its work. A theme song for this perspective might be “For the Love of Money” by the O’Jays (theme song for the U.S. version of The Apprentice).

People

Using the People perspective, the goal of leadership is to bring out the best in people through respect and care, and continual support for their success.  A theme song for this perspective might be R.E.S.P.E.C.T” by Otis Redding, sung by Aretha Franklin.

Service

Using the Service perspective, the goal of leadership is to serve others in ways that uplift lives and communities. A theme song for this perspective might be Lean on Me” by Bill Withers.

Greater Good

Using the Greater Good perspective, the goal of leadership is making choices that ensure a good life for future generations. The theme song for this perspective might be We Are the World” by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie.

The question is not “Which one of these perspectives is right?” because they are all important ways of thinking about the goal of leadership. They are part of a bigger view that incorporates many dimensions of leadership responsibility. The question is “How can we honor all of them?” 

In my book, 7 Lenses, I explore all of these concepts in a framework of 7 important perspectives on what responsible leadership includes.  A 7 Lenses Book Club Discussion Guide is available to help groups discuss what they have learned and how they can apply it for individual and organizational improvement.

Here is an introduction to all 7 Lenses.

Leadership is multidimensional. We need to learn how to see it in multiple dimensions. If anyone tries to tell you that the ultimate goal of leadership is “one thing,” they’re missing the big picture.

Beliefs Are Complicated

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Part 1 in the Truth and Misinformation: How to Spot False Narratives series explored truth and narrative, and Part 2 examined how data and motives relate to the truth. Part 3 addressed the importance of media literacy. In this follow up, we take a deeper look at truth and belief.

It turns out that beliefs are complicated. How do we know if our beliefs are actually true?

“Many people don’t realize that every thought that pops into their heads isn’t true, and they are unable to decipher authentic beliefs from false ones.”

— Mike Oppland, How Psychology Combats False and Self-Limiting Beliefs

But if we learn to manage the automatic messages popping into our heads all day long, we’ll be able to tell the difference, right? Not necessarily.

As July Beck says in This Article Won’t Change Your Mind, in The Atlantic, “There are facts, and there are beliefs, and there are things you want so badly to believe that they become as facts to you.”

At least we change our minds when presented with the facts, don’t we? If we’re presented with facts that contradict our beliefs don’t we automatically change them? Not necessarily.

“Unfortunately, we still form beliefs without vetting most of them, and maintain them even after receiving clear, corrective information.”

Annie Duke, Why Your Brain Clings To False Beliefs (Even When It Knows Better), Fast Company

Daniel DeNicola writes in his Psyche article You Don’t Have a Right To Believe Whatever You Want To that “Beliefs aspire to truth – but they do not entail it. Beliefs can be false, unwarranted by evidence or reasoned consideration. They can also be morally repugnant.

Trendwatching.com says in The Fight For Facts that “consumers’ ramped- up search for news prompted a misinformation avalanche, what the World Health Organization (WHO) calls an infodemic’.

People often share a new piece of information they believe to be true in haste without considering the repercussions. Is it unethical to share a false belief that could cause harm to others? Yes. It violates many ethical principles including truthfulness, trustworthiness, respect, care, and “do no harm.”

“Information on Twitter (and other social platforms that use short and fast messages) is particularly likely to be evaluated based on emotional responses with little input from higher cognitive functions.”

—Tali Sharot, Why People Can’t Agree on Basic Facts, Time

We’ve been focusing on whether or not we can trust other people, but it turns out the problem is much closer than we realized. It turns out that we can’t always trust ourselves. Annie Duke suggests in her Fast Company article Why Your Brain Clings To False Beliefs (Even When It Knows Better): that “the next time you argue with someone over something you believe to be true, step back and ask yourself how you came to this conclusion.”

Leadership: Evaluating Ethical Awareness

By Linda Fisher Thornton

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ethical awareness may have been considered private in the past, but it has become easier to observe in a society that is always socially connected. Since ethical reputation is a defining element in individual and organizational success, it is time that we consider ethical awareness as a key element of experience when selecting leaders for our businesses, community organizations, governments, and nations.

Our level of ethical awareness is the rock on which we build our relationships, decisions and actions. It drives our choices and how we treat others. It informs our priorities and budget allocation. It tells us what to pay attention to and how we will handle it.

But when choosing a leader, how do we know how solid that leader’s rock is in terms of ethical awareness? To find out, we need to understand the job candidate’s worldview. How does the leader perceive the world? What does the leader consider most important? What is the leader’s definition of “good leadership?”

Assessing a Leader’s Ethical Awareness

Questions to explore by interview and observation:

We need ethically-aware leaders in every leadership role at every level. The pandemic has taught us that our well-being is in the hands of the leaders we have chosen. Choosing the most ethically-aware leader will lead to the most ethical long-term outcomes. We need to take the time to look under the rock.

17 Leadership Paradoxes

By Linda Fisher Thornton

COVID-19 has brought us many challenges including balancing economic and human factors, moving quickly but taking time to show compassion and so on. This Center for Creative Leadership video succinctly introduces 6 paradoxes in the essential leadership skills required in a post-COVID world. You can visit their website to download the related white paper.

The PWC publication “Six paradoxes of leadership: Addressing the crisis of leadership” shares 6 more paradoxes of leadership and notes that “learning how to comfortably inhabit both elements of each paradox will be critical to your success.” The paradoxes are expanded on in this COVID-19 related article “The urgent need for sophisticated leadership.”

And I’ll add these 5 paradoxes from my post Building Trust: Paradoxical Qualities to Cultivate

Cultivating these qualities in ourselves and our organizations helps us build a high trust workplace where people can do their best work:

Be Dependable and Open to Change

Be Fully Present Right Now and Think Ahead

Be Crystal Clear About What’s Expected and Open to Hearing Input From Others

Be Confident and Humble

Be Decisive and Flexible

Great leaders possess seemingly paradoxical qualities. They know when to use each end of the spectrum, depending on what is most needed to move individuals and groups forward.

Building Trust: Paradoxical Qualities to Cultivate, Leading in Context Blog

Leaders need to be be adaptable good thinkers to work their way through all of these paradoxes at the same time. The pandemic simply raises the stakes on us to get it right.

5 Ways to Avoid Opinions That Lack Insight and Understanding

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Lately we’ve been seeing too much content that is not grounded in understanding. Some of it is intentionally misleading and some of it is well-intentioned but misinformed.

What this means is that we have to learn how to recognize misinformation, but also, and even more importantly, carefully tend how we convey our own opinions.

“A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding.”

― Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man

Before sharing your opinion, use the questions in this Self-Check; make sure you are on track to sharing your opinion in a way that leads to insight and understanding.

Opinion Self-Check

  1. Do I get angry when I think about this?
    • Anger clouds our judgment and bypasses our moral checks
    • If it makes you angry, slow down
  2. Have I researched the issue using multiple reputable sources?
    • Spreading misinformation is ethically problematic
    • Do your research first
  3. Have I thought it through before expressing an opinion?
    • Speaking without thinking is a recipe for disaster
    • Think about the issue and how your opinion could be perceived by others
  4. Have I listened to what a diverse group of voices is saying on the subject?
    • Our social media feed will share content that agrees with what we already believe, entrenching us in a narrow perspective
    • Seek out differing opinions from people and groups before you make up your mind on the issue
  5. Have I stayed open to changing my mind?
    • A closed mind isn’t going to change as the world changes
    • Stay open to changing your opinion as you learn more and reflect on the issue

As Clara Barton famously said, we “cannot afford the luxury of a closed mind.”

Who’s Accountable For Ethical Artificial Intelligence?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Who is accountable for ethical artificial intelligence? How do you build accountability into your organization’s use of AI? I was recently invited to answer those questions in a guest blog post published on the EDUCAUSE Professional Development Commons and EDUCAUSE Review.

There is more to think about when implementing AI than just efficiency and time savings. There are ethical implications at every step in the process. This article includes an overview of those ethical implications and steps organizations can take to build ethics into current and future AI projects.

“Determining who is responsible for ethical AI turns out to be more complicated than identifying the person who created the program. There are potentially multiple responsible parties, including programmers, sellers, and implementers of AI-enabled products and services. For AI to be ethical, multiple parties must fulfill their ethical obligations. IT departments should be ready to assess and manage ethics before, during, and after AI deployment.”

Linda Fisher Thornton, Artificial Intelligence and Ethical Accountability, EDUCAUSE Professional Development Commons and EDUCAUSE Review.

While the article was written for higher education IT professionals, the principles apply to any IT department in any industry that is directly or indirectly (through vendors) using AI.

The article is governed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.

Share this article with your team to establish a baseline understanding of ethical accountability for AI, and to incorporate key steps into your planning and implementation processes.

This article was originally published in the EDUCAUSE Professional Development Commons (blog) and EDUCAUSE REVIEW, Artificial Intelligence and Ethical Accountability, EDUCAUSE Review, July 31, 2020.

How to Be Human (Together)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This week I’m sharing an edited compilation of three previously published posts that are relevant for leaders and organizations wanting to honor human rights in chaotic times. The first addresses the risk of excluding any humans from our organizational statement of inclusion. The second explains why values transcend borders and boundaries, and the third explains that how we perceive people who are ‘different’ impacts our behavior and our ethics.

Inclusion: The Power of Regardless

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 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.

Seeing Beyond Borders and Walls

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

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

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

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

Ethical Leadership: Perceptions of “Different” Impact Our Behavior

How we think as leaders directly impacts our behavior by compelling us to act based on the value judgments we make. Today’s post focuses on how we perceive “different,”  how our perceptions change our leadership, and how our leadership changes the work environment in ways that may lead to unethical behavior.

Unfortunately, we don’t always use the word “different” to describe things and people and ideas that are new to us. We often use less friendly words that indicate that the person or idea is wrong, misguided or harmful. Let’s check our thinking about “different” for a moment, and consider how our perception impacts our behavior and our ethics.

If we are one of the leaders who thinks that “different” ideas and people are interesting/good/essential, then we will be open to new ideas and new information and will want to surround ourselves with people who represent different ways of thinking. We will see the value in differences of opinion. We will tolerate some level of chaos and see it as part of the natural process of getting great work done. Opportunities will be quickly recognized and acted on, leading to competitive advantage.

If we are a leader who thinks that “different” ideas and people are dangerous/bad/wrong, then we will be closed to new ideas and new information and will want to surround ourselves with people who think and act very much like we do. We will see differences of opinion as threatening the fabric of the organization. Our organization will begin to become obsolete as groupthink sets in. We will discourage new and different perspectives and will see them as blatant insubordination.  Employees will leave as they find they are not able to do their best work in the “copy me” culture. Missed opportunities and complications from employee resistance to “not being allowed to think for themselves” will take a toll on the profitability and viability of the business. Employees will be more likely to make unethical decisions in the restrained environment that does not allow for discussion of grey areas during ethical challenges.

Which type of leader engages employees? Inspires the best work? Is rewarded in your organization? Which of these two approaches is ethical?

“Ethical Thinking Isn’t Automatic”

By Linda Fisher Thornton

“For ethical leadership to stick, the culture needs an infrastructure that consistently supports acting on stated values…Ethical cultures treat ethical thinking as something that must be cultivated, demonstrated, and practiced over time.”

My article, “Ethical Thinking Isn’t Automatic,” featured in the August issue of the Talent Development Journal, describes five culture gaps that inhibit ethical leadership. These culture gaps are common problems that organizations should watch for and avoid.

You won’t want to miss this article. It includes advice to organizations wanting to build ethical cultures, and is grounded in decades of experience and observations about where cultures often fall short.

“Companies fall into five common traps on the way to building an ethics-rich culture: no active focus on values, oversimplification of complex issues, lack of behavior boundaries, lack of integration, and ignoring the learning curve.”

Linda Fisher Thornton, Ethical Thinking Isn’t Automatic, Talent Development Journal

Ethical thinking doesn’t happen without the infrastructure to support it. Does your organization have it in place or is it burdened with one of the five culture gaps? Read the full article to learn how to identify and resolve five common culture gaps that erode ethical leadership.

Subscribe at LeadinginContext.com/Blog.

Human Leadership is the Leadership We Need

By Linda Fisher Thornton

As we struggle with compounding challenges around the world, people are more and more frequently seeking information about human or humane leadership. Why is the topic so timely? I believe it’s critical now because in a crisis we need a leader who can make people feel safe, respected and protected.

Here are some inspiring quotes about important elements of human leadership:

“Human leadership is grounded in self-respect and unconditional love. It comprehends and honors all people’s equal right to equity, dignity and integrity. It recognizes all people for who they are, accepts their unique contribution, treats them with respect and recognizes their value.” 

Sesil Pir, Human Leadership: What It Looks Like, And Why We Need It In The 21st Century, Forbes

As our understanding of what “good leadership” means continues to change, we are incorporating more of what it means to be human into the ways we lead.

“Businesses have started to treat employees like human beings, rather than workers whose only relevant wishes are company related.”

Daniel Ross, Six Ways Leaders Can Humanize an Organization, SHRM’s Executive Network, HR People + Strategy

“The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.”

— John Buchan

Being human with others and leading them with zeal won’t be enough. Our leadership must demonstrate the highest character.

“Leadership consists not in degrees of technique but in traits of character.”

— Lewis H. Lapham

“Humans will probably always need the help of especially gifted moral leaders in order to extend the bonds of caring and trust beyond the easy range of the family and the face-to-face community. Such bonds have become essential to the future of humanity.”

—Paul R. Lawrence, Driven To Lead: Good, Bad, and Misguided Leadership

Ethics is at its heart about treating other people well. Human leadership is based on essential ethical principles, with ethics treated as central, not as an afterthought.

Ethical principles help us bring out people’s best and create a positive environment, and when they are central to our thoughts, words, and actions we can nurture a workspace that is human-friendly.

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