The Future of Education: Ethical Literacy For Handling Global Complexity

By Linda Fisher Thornton

We are not preparing students for success in the world where they will have to live and work. Some of the ways we currently think about “teaching” need to be scrapped and replaced.

It will be increasingly important that teachers and other learning guides dig into complexity in order to help prepare students who need to handle increasing complexity in their lives and work. A focus on ‘knowing’ must be replaced with a focus on ‘how to think, problem solve and successfully navigate global complexity using ethical values’.

The risk in not quickly making the change to a much more current and engaging way of preparing learners is that every outdated textbook used by schools to save money will contain at best inaccurate information and at worst morally offensive content. Every smart phone will have access to more current and relevant information than is being taught in the classroom. 

Understanding The Challenge, Visualizing the Future

Students need to be able to think successfully at high levels of complexity in order to be effective workers, leaders and problem-solvers. Memorization of facts will definitely not help them be ready. In the old way of thinking, the more people are “taught,” the more they “know.” This thinking does not work because it ignores the important variables of motivation, relevance, learner engagement and the need to improve thinking capability. It ignores the importance of basing choices on ethical values, and focuses only on historical context. 

Learning has become highly self-directed and traditional approaches to teaching (“telling,” “sharing knowledge” and “testing knowledge”) do not support learner success in a complex global context. 

For example, does knowing the complete history of politics prepare learners to handle the current divisive political arena? No, but learning how to think about and act on ethical values will. Does knowing how to write catchy headlines that sell prepare learners for rapidly increasing expectations about appropriate social media posts? No, but learning how to think about and act on ethical values will. 

“Learning Future” Includes

  • A higher level of complexity in thinking (exploring shades of grey, not “right” and “wrong” answers with an answer key)
  • Technology-enabled, just-in-time, user-friendly learning
  • More individualized feedback based on skills needed for future job success 
  • More practicing and evaluating individual and group problem-solving
  • Less memorizing and testing facts (which are easily accessed)
  • More practice time spent learning how to think and act responsibly in the world
  • More awareness of how we fit into the global community
  • More engaging, self-directed work and less homework

A New Role for Leaders in Education

Today’s students are tomorrow’s professionals and leaders. Employers are not easily impressed by book knowledge – they want to know what you can do, for them, in their context, accurately, at high speed, while avoiding ethical mistakes. Adapting to this high employer expectation will turn our current public education practices upside down. 

Ethical literacy is more important than memorization and good test scores. It will define the success of tomorrow’s leaders. We need to make it our top education priority. To respond rapidly to changes in the skills and abilities they will need for tomorrow’s jobs, school administrators will need to adapt quickly to new leadership and learning research and engage everyone in making the change. Only then will we prepare students for success in an exciting, forward-thinking and competitive global arena.  

Masters of Complexity: Leading Effectively in Public Education will help leaders visualize challenges and opportunities for change and decide where to start. 

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What is Ethics?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

We are globally connected and becoming more aware of the complexity of our connections. We need a robust understanding of ethics – what it means, what it requires of us, and what we need to know and do to be ethical.

As we learn about ethics, we need to understand it in a multidimensional way. One-dimensional definitions lead us down a single path and prevent us from seeing our broad responsibilities as citizens and leaders.

Here is a quick tour of ways to think about ethics – only by honoring all of them will we have a chance of keeping up with increasing ethical expectations.

Ethics is Required Of All of Us

“Ethics or simple honesty is the building blocks upon which our whole society is based, and business is a part of our society, and it’s integral to the practice of being able to conduct business, that you have a set of honest standards.”

Kerry Stokes

Ethics is Moral Awareness

“Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.”

Potter Stewart

Ethics is More Than Meeting Minimum Standards

“In law a man is guilty when he violates the rights of others. In ethics he is guilty if he only thinks of doing so.”
Immanuel Kant

Ethics is Thinking Beyond Ourselves

“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.”

Andre and Velasquez, Santa Clara University

Ethics is Caring About Others

“The ethics of care starts from the premise that as humans we are inherently relational, responsive beings and the human condition is one of connectedness or interdependence.”

Carol Gilligan

Ethics is Doing Good and Preventing Harm

“Let me give you a definition of ethics: It is good to maintain and further life it is bad to damage and destroy life.”

Albert Schweitzer

Ethics is Caring For the Planet and Society

“Corporate Social Responsibility, or “CSR,” refers to the need for businesses to be good corporate citizens. CSR involves going beyond the law’s requirements in protecting the environment and contributing to social welfare. It is widely accepted as an obligation of modern business.”

Ethics Unwrapped, University of Texas

Ethics is a Journey of Human Growth 

“Ethics is the activity of man directed to secure the inner perfection of his own personality.”

Albert Schweitzer

See also 7 Definitions of Good: Why We Disagree About Ethics

 

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Ethical Leadership: Complexity, Context and Adaptation

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ethical leadership requires growth, a willingness to acknowledge complexity and an understanding of the broader context in which we lead. Use these resources to improve your ethical awareness, learn about how the leadership context is evolving and check for learning blind spots.

To Learn About Ethics and Complexity:

To Learn About Ethics and Context:

To Learn About Ethics and Adaptation:

 

 

Special Series Celebrating the 2nd Printing of 7 Lenses

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 5)

 

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What Happens When You Ignore Complexity?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ignoring complexity reduces the number of variables considered in a decision. That may seem convenient (see last week’s post) but it also removes the nuanced thinking that is necessary for ethical decision-making. With all the information available in a socially connected world, it is easy to fall victim to the quick oversimplified understanding of issues. This “quick glance” way of gathering information doesn’t reveal the breadth and depth of what’s really going on.

“The contemporary context also reflects the fact that issues associated with access to information and with technology may enhance the temptation and ease of making unethical choices.”

Mark Winston, The Complexity of Ethical Decision Making, Information Ethics

Basing decisions on “quick glance” information gathering is not just uninformed and unwise, it can be harmful. It is definitely in a leader’s best interest to learn about the nuances and avoid the temptation to make a quick potentially unethical decision. Here are some ways that removing complexity can get us into deep ethical trouble:

  • Without acknowledging complexity, we may only look at the variables we already understand and ignore others that are critical to the decision
  • Without acknowledging complexity, we may only look at the short-term impact and ignore the long-term risks
  • Without acknowledging complexity. we may decide only based on self-interest and personal gain
  • Without acknowledging complexity, we may leap into something that does more harm than good
  • Without acknowledging complexity, we may quickly show our ignorance to others who took the time to understand the nuances
  • Without acknowledging complexity, we may make our own job harder by creating more problems than we solve

We can’t simply review one or two articles that reinforce our own beliefs about an issue and make an ethical decision. It takes more effort than that to understand the variables. Who are the constituents? What are their needs and goals? What is the presenting problem? Is that a symptom of a bigger problem? Do we understand that bigger problem and how the two are connected? If we try to fix a symptom without addressing the cause how will that make things worse? What other global issues and trends impact this problem? How? What are the most ethical options given all of the connected variables? 

“Solving a problem” without understanding the context is like changing individual notes in a song without considering the effect on the song. The result can be a meaningless mess. 

Here’s the key point – There is no good leadership without ethical thinking and ethical thinking requires digging into the nuances of complex issues. In a global society, our problems are connected in intricate boundary-spanning ways. Globally, we have the thinking power to untangle our complex problems and make the best choices. We just need to choose to use it. 

 

Special Series Celebrating the 2nd Printing of 7 Lenses

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 5)

 

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Leaders: What’s Missing in Convenient Actions? – Values

By Linda Fisher Thornton

With all the inappropriate behavior in the news, I thought it would be a good time to explore the difference between actions that are CONVENIENT and those that are APPROPRIATE. Instead of saying “I’ll know appropriate when I see it” it seems necessary to break it down and articulate the difference clearly. So here goes…

Convenient is choosing the quick and easy solution. Appropriate adds considering the ethical impact.

 

Convenient is thinking about what we want. Appropriate adds thinking about what others want and expect.

 

Convenient is getting as much as we can from a deal. Appropriate makes sure the other parties get their needs met too. 

 

Convenient is getting all the attention. Appropriate is showing humility and sharing the spotlight.  

 

Convenient is doing something whenever we want to. Appropriate adds consideration for proper timing. 

Convenient is saying whatever we feel like saying. Appropriate is being respectful and considerate even when it’s difficult. 

The difference between convenient and appropriate is adding VALUES to the equation. Ethical values. Business values. Leadership values. Convenient actions are self-serving. Appropriate actions meet the needs of self while honoring the needs of others and respecting the boundaries of appropriate interpersonal behavior.

Acting without values may be convenient (and we’ve seen plenty of examples), but it’s not leadership. You could call it grandstanding, power-grabbing, self-serving, opportunistic, immature or incompetent. The list could go on and on. 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. Without that ability, a person is simply self-serving, and not fulfilling the other-serving job of “leader.”

 


To learn a process for thinking through the ethical implications of any situation, read 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership.

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Special 5 Post Series Celebrating the Second Printing of 7 Lenses

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 5)

 

50 Trends to Follow in 2018

By Linda Fisher Thornton

What trends will impact your business this year? Get settled in with your favorite morning brew and review these 50+ trends impacting business and leadership decisions in 2018. Adapting to these broad changes will require constant shifts in leadership direction and focus, while staying grounded in positive ethical values.

50 Trends To Follow in 2018:

Digital Trends and Observations From Davos 2018, McKinsey and Company  (5)

Tech Trends 2018, Deloitte

5 Key Sustainability Trends For 2018, Britta Wyss Bisang, Ethical Corporation

Thinking inside the subscription box: New research on e-commerce consumers
Tony Chen, Ken Fenyo, Sylvia Yang, and Jessica Zhang, McKinsey

10 Workplace Trends You’ll See in 2018, Dan Schawbel, Forbes

14 Leadership Trends That Will Shape Organizations In 2018, Forbes

5 Trends for 2019,Trendwatching.com

Top 10 Global Trends For 2018, Euromonitor International

Upcoming Megatrends 2018 Report: When Trends Converge, Doug Warner, HP

9 Technology Mega Trends That Will Change The World In 2018, Bernard Marr, Forbes

6 Retail Trends For 2018, Gabrielle Mitchell, ANZ bluenotes

Top 5 IoT trends transforming business in 2018, Chris O’Connor, IBM

Help your leadership team be ready for what’s ahead. Keep an eye on these trends and discuss what they mean for your business.


To learn how to adapt your leadership to increasing global expectations, read 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership.

Top 100 Leadership Blog

Special 5 Post Series Celebrating the Second Printing of 7 Lenses

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 5)

Leaders: Can You Control Ethics?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The question for today is “Can we control ethics?” Leaders have tried to control ethics with compliance-based systems (based on rules and penalties) but that does not tend to inspire people to ethical action. Leaders have tried to control ethics by running a tight ship, closely managing workers, but that does not bring out the best in people and may lead to workers not caring about protecting the company’s reputation. 

How Can We “Control” Ethics?

The catch about ethical performance and action are that they are driven by a performance system, and a system cannot be “controlled” in the literal sense. Systems are complex, and one action does not necessarily generate a particular desired reaction. In other words, the performance context and leadership matter greatly in the results a company will get. 

Thinking Drives Behavior

Another complicating factor in the ethical performance system is that thinking drives behavior. Ethical thinking is a competence that many leaders have not yet mastered, and the gap is evident in the headlines about ethical scandals in the news. We cannot let reflexive thoughts drive our choices or we may only look out for our own interests and ignore a wide array of complex ethical issues. 

Does Control Have Any Place in Ethics?

I do believe that control has an important place in an ethical system. I’m talking about the important role of self-control. Self-control can be thought of as a “moral muscle” that improves with practice, according to Roy F. Baumeister

“Philosophers and psychologists have been discussing the importance of self-control for ages. Plato, for example, argued that the human experience is a constant struggle between our desire and rationality, and that self-control is needed to achieve our ideal form.”  

Kai Chi (Sam) YamHuiwen LianD. Lance FerrisDouglas Brown, Leadership Takes Self-Control. Here’s What We Know About It, Harvard Business Review

When leaders try to “control” others to manage ethics, their efforts are misplaced. Only by controlling themselves and carefully managing the ethical performance system will they be supporting ethical choices and building an ethical organization. 

Ethical leaders model self-control, putting in the effort to make tough ethical choices instead of making easy unexamined decisions.

Ethical leaders control their thoughts, intentionally aligning decisions with ethical values.

Ethical leaders control their actions, taking care that those actions are ethical and appropriate.

Ethical leaders control their tongues, aligning what they say with respect, care and inclusion. 

Leaders who commit to continual learning will see that they must

  • Support continual learning and demonstrate it for others
  • Manage their own ethics carefully and set an example for others
  • Hire ethical people
  • Manage the ethical performance system carefully, aligning expectations, training and support, feedback and rewards with ethical values

These leadership actions help create the conditions for ethical success. It all starts with the leader demonstrating self-control. 

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Special 5 Post Series Celebrating the Second Printing of 7 Lenses

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 5)

 

 

Trust: The Force That Drives Results

By Linda Fisher Thornton

When leaders trust and are trustworthy, this brings out their best and fuels a virtuous cycle that brings out the best in others and releases the potential of the organization for great performance. 

Ethical Leaders Are Trustworthy and They Choose to Trust Others

When we choose to trust, we access a higher level of capacity in ourselves and our organizations. When we are consistently trustworthy, people know they can count on us to support their success.

How Does Trust Drive Results?

Once thought by business leaders to be “soft,” trust is now proven to be a “results-changer.” Here is a sampling of the many ways trust transforms organizations:

  • It “accelerated growth, enhanced innovation, improved collaboration, stronger partnering, better execution, and heightened loyalty.” Franklin Covey, The Business Case For Trust, SpeedofTrust.com
  • “Trust has been elevated to a C-suite issue, not an afterthought, because consumer trust converts into bottom-line benefits; in our study, half of respondents say they are willing to pay a premium for products and services from companies they trust.” Cognizant, The Business Value of Trust

To move the trust conversation forward in your organization and boost important metrics, use the 12 Principles I shared – to TAP Into Trust!

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Special 5 Post Series Celebrating the Second Printing of 7 Lenses

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 5)

 

 

Ethical Leaders Don’t Put the Brakes on Learning

By Linda Fisher Thornton

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

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

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

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

Ethical Leaders Learn

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

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

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Special 5 Post Series Celebrating the Second Printing of 7 Lenses

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 5)

 

 

Trends In Ethical PR

By Linda Fisher Thornton

It is a difficult time to be in PR and Communications. The stakes are high and it’s easy to miss the mark. I spoke at the Virginia Professional Communicators Conference on Saturday, as the group celebrated its 60th Anniversary. We had lively discussions about how to see ethical nuances clearly when the issues are complex.

Today I am sharing quotes from articles about PR trends in navigating the complexity of today’s social issues while protecting reputation and brand value.  

PR  Plays a Critical Role in Brand Reputation

“PR pros are often referred to as The Brand Police for their work in reputation management, their efforts to preserve the health of the brand and to keep the public “cup of goodwill” full.”

Deidre Breakenridge, Five Reasons Why Business Leaders Are Relying on Public Relations in 2018, Nasdaq Market Insite

The Current Environment Requires PR Pros To Develop New Skills 

“Successful PR practitioners of the future must also be adept at business, content creation, environmental scanning, managing people, ethics, purpose-driven corporate social responsibility, stakeholder engagement and interpreting data and analytics.” 

Donald K. Wright, What Lies Ahead For Public Relations in 2018?

Brands Need to Be Clear on Values Before Speaking Up

“The famous Alexander Hamilton quote applies nicely here: “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” Consider this an invitation to figure out what your brand stands for.”

SproutSocial, Championing Change in the Age of Social Media

Practitioners Need Robust Support 

“Millennial practitioners indicated they did not feel prepared to offer ethics counsel…Four factors were found to significantly impact Millennials’ perceptions of preparedness: mentors, ethics courses in college, employer-provided ethics training, and PRSA/PRSSA ethics training.”

Marlene Neill and Nancy Weaver, Institute For Public Relations, Ethics Study Identifies Need For Training & Mentors in the Workplace

Global Ethical PR Principles Available

“The International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) has called on the worldwide PR industry to stand by 10 principles of ethical behaviour…The Helsinki Declaration (has) been launched today, aimed at uniting the global PR industry under a single banner of ethical behaviour. It takes into account the increasing influence of PR around the world, and the considerable dangers associated with unethical behaviour.”

ICCO, ICCO announces Helsinki Declaration for ethical behaviour at ICCO Global Summit 2017

Consumers Expect Brands to Take A Stand on Social Issues

“Two-thirds of consumers (66%) say it’s important for brands to take public stands on social and political issues…Not only do they want to hear from brands, but they expect brands to converse in intelligent and impactful ways.”

“The data demonstrates that people find brands’ voices most credible when an issue directly impacts their customers, employees or business operations.”

SproutSocial, Championing Change in the Age of Social Media

Putting all of the pieces together in ways that result in ethical communication takes practice. Ongoing ethical development for PR professionals helps them learn to navigate the complexity of the current environment and avoid public blunders. If you want to dig into the 7 Lenses Model to learn how to see the nuances of ethical issues, this post will get you started – Seeing the Nuances of Ethical Leadership (a Developmental Model)

Top 100 Leadership Blog

Special 5 Post Series Celebrating the Second Printing of 7 Lenses

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 5)

 

© 2018 Leading in Context LLC

 

29 Flawed Assumptions About Leadership

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I was pruning shrubs this week and it occurred to me that we have many mistaken assumptions about leadership that can lead us to make bad choices. Those flawed assumptions are like the deadwood we prune away from our plants in the spring.

…If we don’t prune regularly, the deadwood affects our growth and success.

Here are 29 flawed assumptions about leadership, in no particular order. It’s time to get rid of these beliefs that are the deadwood holding back our leadership and our teams.Top 100 Leadership Blog

Special 5 Post Series Celebrating the Second Printing of 7 Lenses

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 5)

 

© 2018 Leading in Context LLC

22 Resources For Developing Ethical Thinking

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This week I’m sharing a collection of hand-picked resources that will help you upgrade your thinking. With all of the ethical messes in the news recently, this seems to be the right time to help you focus on PREVENTION as applied to thinking. It’s our thinking, after all, that determines what we decide to do under pressure. 

Ethical thinking has many important qualities, and one of them is that it is INTENTIONAL. It doesn’t happen on its own. Passive thinking is not likely to lead to ethical decisions or actions. Ethical thinking has to be intentional, developed and practiced. 

Use these resources to develop your ethical thinking skills. After upgrading your skills, you’ll be able to handle ethical issues at a higher level of complexity:

  The Missing Domain: Ethical Thinking

 The Missing Domain: Ethical Thinking Part 2

FINAL CHANGE THIS MANIFESTO_Page_01 What is Ethical Thinking? (and “What Ethical Leaders Believe”)

Ethics To Understand Complexity, Use 7 Dimensions of Ethical Thinking

Rethinking “Smart” Leadership in an Ethical Context

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 5)

Ten Thinking Traps That Ethical Leaders Avoidthinkglobal8 Posts and a Trend Report on Global Thinking

Ethical Leaders Take Time to Think

Context and Responsibility 3Ethical Leaders Understand the Context

MORE READER FAVORITES:

Ethical Grey Areas: Our Choices Define Us

Our Thinking is an Ethical Driver

Which Values are Ethical Values?

Fear is a Poor Advisor

Thinking Beyond Disciplines: Why We Need It

Five Unintended Consequences of Linear Problem-Solving

Take Your Thinking up a Notch: Strategies For Solving Complex Problems

Traps in How We Think About Leading: The Case of Focusing Too Much on Budget

Passive thinking does not work. As humans, we are flawed thinkers, and if we don’t manage the flaws in our thinking, those flaws will drive our choices. 

Get ready to lead in the volatile and unpredictable future. Read one of these resources each day to upgrade your thinking.

 

Follow The Leading in Context Blog for a new article each week!

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To Learn More, Read the Guide To Ethical Thinking and Leadership: 7 Lenses, Now in Its 2nd Printing!

TAP Into Trust With These 12 Principles

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Every organization needs to pay attention to trust. Trust improves metrics including productivity, employee satisfaction and ethical brand value. It makes organizations better places to work, places where people want to invest time and plan careers. 

After months of discussions, writing, sorting and voting, a small group of Trust Across America Trust Alliance members (I am honored to be among them) created a tool to stimulate conversations about organizational trust – The 12 Principles for TAPping Into Trust. If you are ready to invest in building trust, this tool will help you generate discussions within your organization.

TAP INTO TRUST

Click the button to TAP INTO Trust and access the 12 Principles (in English, Spanish, French and Arabic). 

How will you use the 12 Principles?

Here are questions you might ask your teams:

  • Which of the 12 Principles For TAPping Into Trust are our strengths?
  • Which represent areas where we need to do better?
  • What would it look like if we improved how we follow each principle on our “do better” list? What is our plan for closing those gaps?

In other Trust Across America news, Barbara Kimmel has announced that “the 10th anniversary issue of TRUST! Magazine explores the role good governance plays in building trustworthy organizations through interviews with lead directors, board chairs and CEOs.” Check out the full issue Here

When we choose to take the trust journey, we are always learning and improving. Let’s keep the conversation open. Share in the comments how these 12 Principles are helping you TAP Into Trust!

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Special 5 Post Series Celebrating the Second Printing of 7 Lenses

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 5)

 

© 2018 Leading in Context LLC

Seeing The Nuances Of Ethical Leadership (A Developmental Model)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ethical leadership is not a position or a task. It is a complex array of roles, relationships and processes, and yet we use one term, “ethical leadership,” to talk about it. And in using that term, we often mean different things. 

What Then is Ethical Leadership?

Why has it been so difficult for researchers to agree on a single definition of ‘ethical leadership?’ Here are some important reasons: 

  • Our understanding of responsible leadership depends on where we are in our own moral development
  • People are writing about it from many different perspectives and using many different words to describe it
  • In leadership competence there are many possible combinations 

By “many possible combinations,” I am referring to the reality that leaders are not all competent in all aspects of ethical leadership and they vary in which areas they have mastered. A leader might excel at following laws, for example, but not know how to work well with diverse groups of people. Or a leader could be great at making a short-term profit, but not good at thinking long term and protecting the planet.

A Developmental Definition

Leadership is a changing process. It is difficult to define it because as the world changes, our understanding of what it means to lead responsibly in that world changes. Because it is a changing process, it is best viewed from a developmental perspective.

Leaders need to tackle complexity directly. Oversimplified approaches to complex problems lead to high profile ethical failures. 

Leaders need a way to understand their own learning and development that helps them keep up with  increasing ethical expectations.  The developmental model outlined in by book 7 Lenses (now in its 2nd printing) frames “ethical leadership” as a developmental continuum based on these assumptions:

  1. People grow
  2. People’s understanding of leadership responsibility grows as they learn and develop as human beings
  3. The way that people view life and reality will impact their leadership philosophy
  4. Times change
  5. The standards for acceptable behavior and leadership evolve as times change
  6. The world is complex and connected
  7. The complexity and connections raise the stakes on us as leaders and require us to think using a higher level of complexity
  8. Thinking at a higher level of complexity means we can consider more constituents and more variables when making decisions

Some ways of interpreting “ethical leadership” are more responsible than others. If we are going to use the term “ethical leadership” to refer to an entire spectrum of developmental levels, we will need a way to talk about the nuances of ethical competence. Applying the 7 Lenses model gives us a way to talk about those nuances. Here are two examples:

Regardless of level or title, the most competent ethical leaders make it a priority to learn and they struggle to stay competent in all 7 dimensions of ethical responsibility as the world changes. 

How will this developmental model help you talk about the nuances of ethical leadership? 

Special 5 Post Series Celebrating the Second Printing of 7 Lenses

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 5)

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© 2018 Leading in Context LLC

Fear is a Poor Advisor (Moving Us Away From Ethical Thinking To Protect Us)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

When we make decisions based on FEAR, our brains switch on the lower-level processor – which makes decisions based on a FIGHT-OR-FLIGHT response. The decision-making power of that part of our brain is extremely limited, turning our thoughts to lower level responses like “RUN!” or “HIT THEM FIRST.” Obviously, ethical decisions must be based on better thinking than “RUN” and “HIT THEM FIRST.”

Fear is a Poor Advisor

Our fear response takes us into PROTECT and DEFEND mode, and that mode causes us to shelter in place, retrench and protect our own interests. It drastically restricts the breadth of our thinking and doesn’t give much energy to thinking about our impact – what our choices will do to others.

Fear may generate feelings of anger as we turn our energy to “protect and defend.” Anger, like fear, is a poor advisor that pulls us away from ethical choices. 

“Anger results in systematic processing of anger-related information and selective use of
heuristics to evaluate information… This kind of processing is less than optimal for making ethical decisions because it induces biased, risky, and retaliatory thinking (Moons & Mackie, 2007).This type of encoding and use of social information results in alimited, self-focused interpretation of the situation, which has the potential to result in retaliatory or self-serving behaviors.” (Lenhart & Rabiner, 1995).

The Influence of Anger, Fear, and Emotion Regulation on Ethical Decision Making, Human Performance,Vol. 26, Iss. 4, 2013
According to the University of Lausanne video, Unethical Decision Making in Organizations“Fear is an emotion that works at high speed without involving reason. “  “Fear… may ultimately lead to ethical blindness.” In a way, it’s like snow blindness, when you can only see snow in all directions and lose your bearings. When the dominant emotion is fear, people lose their ethical grounding and may quickly wander away from the organization’s values. It’s not a conscious choice, since their brains have automatically switched to lower-level decision making to protect them from real or perceived harm. Fear creates a blindness that blocks our ability to see past the immediate threat. 
Ethical Leadership is a Fear-Free ZoneGreat leaders build trust and work hard to remove fear from the workplace. We know that fear works against efforts to maintain an ethical culture. Creating a fear-free zone should be a top leadership priority in organizations wanting to protect reputation and ethical brand value. 
Ethical Thinking is Intentional.Before you make key decisions this week, be sure fear isn’t blinding you to ethical consequences. To make sure it doesn’t happen to others, take the time to talk with your team. Ask them “Are we working in a fear-free zone?” “What could we do to improve?” “How well are we staying grounded in the ethical values our organization says are important?”

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