Top 10 Posts 2017: Leading in Context Blog

 

 

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Of the 52 posts published on the Leading in Context Blog in 2017, these 10 were the most popular. See if you notice a theme that connects these topics that readers accessed most frequently:

Do Good Things Come to Those Who Wait?

Everyone is a Stakeholder at Some Level

Ethical Leadership is About Service, Not Privilege

Ethical Leadership: The “On” Switch For Adaptability

Talking About What Matters (Part 1)

4 Connected Trends Shaping the Future of Leadership

The Evolving Purpose of Leadership: Why More is Expected Now

Yes, Leaders: Behavior Matters

5 Sites For Globally Responsible Business Leadership

Is Our Leadership “Good?”

If I had to pick a theme for these posts that were most popular in 2017, it would be “Leaders Adapt to Rising Stakeholder Expectations.” Which 2017 post was your favorite? If you have ethical leadership topics you want to learn more about in 2018, comment on this post, or tweet your idea to @leadingincontxt!

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

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This series includes 18 quotes (linked to posts with leadership guidance) to inspire you and help you develop an ethical leader’s mindset. Part 1 included the first 9. Here are 9 more:

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

Since ethics is multidimensional, our learning and application must be multidimensional.

To accomplish the ideal of considering all stakeholders in even our smallest decisions, we’ll have to do more than just imagine the possibilities. We’ll need to do the work.

It’s ethical values that are the true measure of leaders and organizations.

It is never okay to skip learning because “we are already a leader.”

Great leaders use meaningful connections, shared values and mutual understanding to bring people together. 

Leaders might think that values are self-explanatory but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s in the nitty-gritty  application of values that people have deep questions. 

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 greatest challenge leaders face is to keep up as the bar continues to be raised.

I wish great things for all of you in 2018! For more articles clarifying leadership, ethics and complexity, visit the Blog Index and consider following the Leading in Context Blog for a new post every week in the New Year.

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Will 2018 Be The Year?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

As a global community, we have learned some things this year. Business leaders have learned that ethical leadership transforms organizational metrics. Global citizens have learned that values are the most important defining characteristics of nations, and if we don’t operate from a base of values we descend into conflict and chaos. 

Perhaps 2018 will be THE YEAR. Maybe based on everything that has happened this year, it will be the year we: 

  1. Agree on values first, then on operational details
  2. Lead from understanding and collaboration rather than a quest to “win” at others’ expense
  3. Select leaders who are grounded in ethical values and know how to apply them in every context
  4. Raise the bar on ourselves as the world changes, to stretch and grow into rising ethical expectations
  5. Reach out instead of lash out

As we head into the holiday season, I wish you great joy, peace and understanding. May we all become better at seeing the things that bind us together (and the things that don’t) for what they really are. 

 

I wish you great joy, peace and understanding this holiday season. Thank you for putting the Leading in Context Blog in the Feedspot Top Leadership RSS Feeds in 2017!

#37 on the CMOE Top 100 Most Socially Shared Leadership Blogs

 

 

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18 Quotes To Inspire Leaders In The New Year (Part 1)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

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

This series is an annual tradition and this year’s post includes 18 quotes (each linked to a post with leadership guidance) to inspire you to grow your leadership skills to be ready for whatever 2018 may bring. Part 1 includes the first 9.

Leaders who solve complex problems need a special blend of qualities – the curiosity to untangle the variables, the persistence to keep trying, and the openness to change beliefs and strategies as answers emerge from the chaos. 

Firing answers at each other doesn’t involve listening or self-reflection, but answering questions we have in common (and living into the answers) will require both. 

As leaders, it’s our job to create an engaging, ethical, high-trust environment where people can do the very best work of their lives. And while we’re doing that, the world is watching. 

When ethical leadership is required, the QUICK answer is risky business. 

Without the context, we are not aware – we only see the parts of an issue that we want to see. 

Challenges are “loud” and urgent. People need to learn how to think through their difficult challenges while staying grounded in ethical values. The first step is making it clear that our values always drive our choices. To avoid having your team get  pulled away from ethics, exercise your “values voice.”

Ethics-rich leadership, after all, isn’t about position power – it’s about values power. It treats values as the essential business tools they are.  Ethics-rich leaders will reap the ultimate rewards – in transformational performance. 

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

While uncertainty is hallmark of great leadership, there is one thing leaders should always be sure about in a rapidly changing global context. It helps them navigate the uphill terrain of perpetual uncertainty. What is it that they should always be sure about? Their values. 

As we approach 2018, make sure each leader in your organization is clear about values and ready to adapt to increasing ethical expectations. 

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Rethinking “Smart” Leadership in an Ethical Context

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This week I’m looking at what it means to be a “smart” leader through the 7 Lenses (introduced in the book 7 Lenses) to get the full ethical context. Take note: You can do this with any idea, concept or project to better understand the ethical nuances.

Lens 1 Profit

“Smart” means making as much money as you can (which has no ethical grounding).

Lens 2 Law

“Smart” means avoiding punishments and penalties and taking advantage of loopholes for maximum gain (which isn’t leading with values).

Lens 3 Character

“Smart” means always thinking from a grounding in personal ethical values and ethical awareness.

Lens 4 People

“Smart” means being aware of our impact on a diverse group of others, working hard to benefit them and avoid harm.

Lens 5 Communities

“Smart” means pulling the community together and improving the lives of the people who live there.

Lens 6 Planet

“Smart” means protecting the planet, nature and ecosystems for our future well-being.

Lens 7 Greater Good

“Smart” means making life better for future generations.

Seeing the Whole Picture

Looking through these 7 Lenses of Ethical Responsibility, we see a picture that matches the highest levels of corporate social responsibility. We begin to realize that “smart leadership” includes acting on all of these lenses at the same time. This practical multi-lens perspective shows us the nuances of how we need to respond to our stakeholders and handle our ethical challenges. 

Click on the book cover below to see a preview and consider how this way of thinking could move your organization’s metrics (see Chapter 2 for details).

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The Trouble With Certainty

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Leaders may think that being decisive and “sure of things” helps them succeed, but if they do, they may be harboring an outdated view of leadership.

What has changed about how we see leadership and certainty? 

Being certain carries with it the connotation of not engaging others in the conversation and using one-way communication. It evokes images of an iron fist pounding on a desk, not a leader who enjoys “working beside” a talented and diverse team.

Imagining a leader who’s “certain,” we may think about someone who operates as a lone wolf or someone who is holding fast to an outdated world view and refusing to adapt as the world changes. 

The Quest For Uncertainty

Whereas certainty is “out,” uncertainty is the new hallmark of great leadership. Uncertain leaders ask more questions and engage more stakeholders. They see value in dialogue and in the somewhat messy but always interesting process of learning. Uncertain leaders know that the minute they become “certain” and unwilling to adapt to change, they are at risk of making an ethical mistake. 

When is certainty a good thing in a global environment?

While uncertainty is hallmark of great leadership, there is one thing leaders should always be sure about in a rapidly changing global context. It helps them navigate the uphill terrain of perpetual uncertainty. What is it that they should always be sure about? Their values. 

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Leaders: Does Your Values Equation Add Up?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Every leader has a values equation. It can be calculated by the day, week, year and lifetime. In the ideal situation, a leader’s values equation is consistently positive. 

How do you calculate your values equation?

Take the number of your intentionally positive values-based actions.

Add to it the number of ethical decisions you have struggled to make well.

Subtract the number of times you have acted in any of these unethical ways:

  1. Too busy to be available to those you lead
  2. Disrespectful to anyone
  3. Self-interested
  4. Putting profit before people and the planet 
  5. Not making time to learn
  6. Not really listening 
  7. Misleading, leaving out the context
  8. Not getting to know the people you lead as unique individuals
  9. Paying more attention to your own career success than to theirs
  10. (You get the idea….)

You won’t be able to calculate an exact number due to the speed of work and life, but you will be able to get a clear idea of whether your values equation is more positive than negative. 

Ethical leadership is difficult to get right all the time. 

Ethical leaders may make mistakes, but they learn and improve. The best leaders understand the importance of a values equation that’s positive – not just today, but every day, week and year… They know leading with a positive values equation is the most important legacy they can leave. 

Follow the Leading in Context Blog today so you don’t miss a post!

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Untangling (Social and Mainstream) Media Ethics

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Anyone can post content on social media. In the UNESCO report “The Media: Operation Decontamination,” Aidan White notes that “Today, it’s not just journalists who need to watch their language and show respect for the facts; everyone with something to say in the public information sphere needs to show some ethical restraint.” 

Today, I’m sharing resources for understanding the ethical responsibilities of media leadership. There are many variables complicating media ethics. Six of them are named below. 

Variables Complicating Media Ethics

  • Mainstream media is competing with social media for people’s attention
  • There are differing standards/ethics codes for media by country (and we’re globally connected on social media)
  • A glut of content makes it harder to reach and retain readers/viewers/followers
  • Mainstream media is seeking advertising income (while competing for people’s attention)
  • Activists and others share passionate expressions of their beliefs (and some of those beliefs conflict with ethical principles of journalism)
  • We have a desire for freedom of speech and expression AND a desire for respectful discourse and freedom from violence. Sometimes these freedoms conflict. 

Accountable Journalism has links to hundreds of international codes of media ethics, accessible by continent. Since countries disagree about the limits and protections of free speech, there is a need for global direction.

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner shares this International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ratified by 74 countries. Extremely relevant today, Article 20 provides high level international guidance on protecting human rights and freedoms: 

“Article 20
1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.
2. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”

United Nations Human Rights OHCHR, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Article 20 is a powerful guideline, but with the explosion of content on social media, there is the temptation to abandon these important principles (and ethics) just to get people’s attention. The competition for views and advertising dollars is fierce, but there’s more to the story. Leaders and media platforms focusing on metrics and struggling to compete may fail to notice rapidly increasing expectations for authenticity, transparency and human rights. 

The Ethical Journalism Network shares 5 Principles of Ethical Journalism.

Reuters Institute For the Study of Journalism shares Journalism, Media and Technology Trends and Predictions 2017 by Nic Newman.

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Adaptation and Controlling Leadership Can’t Coexist

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Leaders who solve complex problems need a special blend of qualities – the curiosity to untangle the variables, the persistence to keep trying, and the openness to change beliefs and strategies as answers emerge from the chaos. 

But those qualities will only take them so far. They’ll also need to be great listeners and engaging leaders, so that they gather information from stakeholders and team members. They’ll need to be systems thinkers with a global mindset.

Even if leaders usually demonstrate those important qualities, when problems seem too complex to solve they may be tempted to use ineffective approaches to gain a sense of control. Facing increasing complexity, they may revert to negative patterns instead of adapting to change. I think we’ve probably all done this when we’re stressed – as leaders or even as parents – becoming more inflexible and demanding that things go a certain way.

“What we see in our data over and over again is that when faced with complexity, the natural proclivity of people and organizations is to respond with order—to turn to hierarchical approaches of leading and managing change top-down.”

MaryUhl-Bien and Michael Arena, in their article “Complexity leadership: Enabling people and organizations for adaptability

What happens when leaders fail to notice that they are “taking control” instead of influencing and engaging? They de-motivate teams of highly talented people trying to stay on the cutting edge of an industry. That de-motivation can lead to a spiraling decline in important organizational metrics.

While it may provide the illusion of control, controlling or top-down leadership doesn’t invite organic information sharing or encourage rapid adaptation. Both are needed for survival in today’s evolving global marketplace. 

Want to Learn More? Join Leading in Context CEO Linda Fisher Thornton Thursday, November 9 for Developing Leadership That Inspires, a Live Online Workshop via Compliance IQ.

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Use It Or Lose It

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I recently started studying the German language again, relearning it a little bit every day. I studied it for years as a teen, and lived in Austria for a summer as a young adult. Once fluent, I haven’t practiced the language regularly and have become rusty over the years. 

It doesn’t take long to begin to lose vocabulary, grammar and confidence if we’re not using a language regularly. 

Losing fluency gradually over time brings to mind what happens to our leadership if we’re not learning new things every day. It’s sometimes a slow erosion of capacity, like losing a handful of grains of sand from a beach each day. We may not notice it’s happening until we find ourselves underwater. 

How can you move your competence as a leader into your daily priorities

What areas of your leadership are slowly going underwater due to a lack of attention and practice? What will you do today to stop the erosion? 

 

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What Does It Mean To “Do The Right Thing?”

Seen Through 7 Lenses of Ethical Responsibility

 

 

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The Questions We Have in Common

By Linda Fisher Thornton

On October 2nd, Krista Tippett gave a talk on “The Adventure of Civility” at the University of Richmond. One of the important things I gleaned from her talk was this recommendation:

Instead of trading in “competing answers or statements made to catch, corner, incite or entertain” we should “share the questions we have in common” and “live into the answers.”

Here are my observations on her important words: 

The big questions we are trying to resolve together cannot be understood using one-way broadcasts. 

Even in a fast-paced, social-media enabled world, it would be wrong for any leader to act as though important and complex issues could be managed responsibly without deep listening and dialogue

Firing answers at each other doesn’t involve listening or self-reflection, but answering questions we have in common (and living into the answers) will require both. 

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What Does It Mean To “Do The Right Thing?”

Seen Through 7 Lenses of Ethical Responsibility

 

 

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Unraveling The Future State of The World

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The Millennium Project is a global participatory think tank with a noble purpose – To “improve humanity’s prospects for building a better future.” I have been a reviewer since 2013 for its Challenge 15: Global Ethics, addressing the question “How can ethical considerations be more routinely included in global decisions?”

“Improving humanity’s prospects” is an ever-evolving quest. The results of The Millennium Project’s most recent work has now been published as “State Of The Future 19.0”. 

Building a better future starts with knowing where we are and where we’re going. You can learn more about The Millennium Project’s most recent assessment of global progress by reading the free executive summary and a newly published book review.

Published on #globalethicsday2017. 

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Decoding 7 dimensions of “doing the right thing” in a global society

 

 

 

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Ethical Leaders Understand the Context

By Linda Fisher Thornton

In a previous post, I addressed some of the risks of not taking time to THINK before making decisions. Today, I want to explore why it is so important for leaders to understand the CONTEXT before they make decisions. 

As shown in the graphic, the context (in all of its complexity) becomes the central feature in building awareness of any ethical issue. Without the context, we are not aware – we only see the parts of an issue that we want to see. 

 

Context and Responsibility 3

Learning about the complexities of an issue helps us see the potential impact of our decision on others. 

We live in a world of human, economic, organizational, environmental and societal systems. Those systems interact globally in complex ways. Solving a complex problem without understanding it well can have unintended consequences

A clear understanding of the context is an important part of staying ethically aware and competent, and both are necessary qualities for responsible leadership. 

Ethical leaders know that there can be no ethical awareness without understanding the context, and without awareness, competence and responsibility are also out of reach. 

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Learn to Think in all 7 Ethical Dimensions 

 

 

 

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Ethical Leaders Take Time To Think

By Linda Fisher Thornton

What sets ethical leaders apart from other leaders? They take the time to THINK before making decisions. And that’s not all they do that sets them apart. While they’re thinking:

  • They’re listening to those they lead and seeking input
  • They’re intentionally learning about the nuances of the context
  • They’re wrestling with how to do the right thing

The Quick Answer Is Risky

While it may be satisfying for leaders to give QUICK answers to a complex problem, there are risks associated with those quick responses:

  • The quick answers may create more problems than they solve (because the context is not yet fully understood)
  • The quick answers may not be as polite or inclusive or respectful as they should be (because there’s no thinking process, which is necessary for managing emotions)
  • The quick answers reveal a leader’s lack of careful thinking (to those who did take the time to understand the context).

When ethical leadership is required, the QUICK answer is risky business. 

When is ethical leadership required? – Every moment of every day, on every project, in every role, while taking on every challenge and making every decision. 

Ethical leaders take time to think before acting in all of these moments. When they encounter a similar problem in the future, they still take time to think. They don’t assume they have all the information they need, because they know that the context is perpetually changing. 

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Ethical Leadership Interview on Culture Hacker Podcast

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I am delighted that Shane Green, author of Culture Hacker, invited me to be a guest on his podcast to talk about ethical leadership and culture. 

Creating Culture

Culture is what we make of it. As leaders, it’s our job to make it an engaging, ethical, high-trust environment where people can do the very best work of their lives. And while we’re doing that, the world is watching. 

Values Made Visible

Trendwatching.com explains what has happened to culture in a socially connected world: 

“Once, your internal corporate culture was just that: internal. But now that a business is a glass box, there’s no such thing as an ‘internal’ culture.”                  — “Glass Box Brands,” Trendwatching.com

Our organizational culture has become our message to the world about what we value.

Culture Hacker Podcast

Click here to listen to the podcast as Shane Green and I discuss how ethical leadership can transform your culture (and your bottom line).  

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