Top Post Series of 2020: Leading in Context Blog

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The Top Post Series for last year on the Leading in Context Blog reflected the ethical challenges of dealing with misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Truth and Misinformation: How To Spot False Narratives

This series addressed the fine points of how to tell the difference between a false narrative and a message that is true. Here’s a highlight quote from each post in the series that provides an overview.

Truth and Misinformation: How To Spot False Narratives (Part 1)

“Creators of misinformation and false narrative will not want you to look beyond the statements made. Their power lies in the reader’s blind trust. In contrast, sources advocating objective truth will encourage you to learn about an issue so that you can see the situation and the value of the proposed solution for yourself.”

Truth and Misinformation: How to Spot False Narratives (Part 2)

“Misinformation and false narrative rely on raw intimidation power (and not truth power). Look for truth power that stands on its own merits and doesn’t need to attack to deflect attention.”

Truth and Misinformation: How to Spot False Narratives (Part 3)

Misinformation relies on people having an emotional reaction and immediately sharing information with others without taking the time to evaluate its credibility.

It is clearly our job to stay literate as misinformation becomes more sophisticated and harder to spot. Use these insights to improve your awareness and your ability to spot false narratives.

Note: The second most popular Leading in Context Blog series of 2020 was: 5 Ethical Dimensions of IoT Leadership .

Click to Read a Preview!

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

© 2009-2021 Leading in Context® LLC

Perspectives on a Future With COVID-19

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Due to the uncertainty and constant change we’re experiencing during the pandemic, every organization should be considering how to adapt to multiple COVID-19 scenarios. Global futurists have already provided us with a variety of possible global scenarios to use in our planning.

Based on data and global input, these robust scenarios will help us prepare for foreseeable outcomes. While we can’t “plan” in the traditional sense, we can imagine possible futures and how the work we do will be impacted by them.

Each organization on the list below provides a unique perspective on possible futures with COVID-19. The formats include a video overview, map and reports. Review these scenarios with your teams and answer the critical questions that follow.

Scenarios For a Future With COVID-19:

Scenarios Video, Institute For the Future

Pandemic Map, Institute For the Future

COVID-19 Scenarios, The Millennium Project

How COVID-19 is Changing the World: A Statistical Perspective, United Nations Statistics Division

Ask your team to help you answer the following questions:

  • How will we need to reimagine what we consider to be our “success” in each scenario?
  • How can we adapt our work to thrive in each possible scenario?
  • Where are our greatest risks and what can we do now to reduce them?

We could guess what’s going to happen, but we don’t need to. Hard-working global futurists have already done the work. Let’s use what they’ve learned to help us navigate the coming year.

10 Leadership Strategies For Thriving in 2021

By Linda Fisher Thornton

We are already at the end of a challenging year. So much of it has been a blur as we’ve scrambled to reinvent our work and daily habits to adapt to a persistent global pandemic. We are heading into 2021 knowing that our best-laid plans will be quickly undone without warning. How do we survive and thrive in such a risky and unpredictable environment?

“Simply put, we are wondering how to go about restarting the economy; repairing what was broken; and preparing ourselves to cope with a host of urgent social, environmental, demographic, and economic troubles.”

Blair Sheppard, Daria Zarubina, and Alexis Jenkins, Adapting to a New World, s+b

Leadership expectations have changed during the pandemic. During isolation, people have been scrutinizing the ripple effects of good and bad leadership decisions.

The good news is that we’ve learned some things as we navigated our challenges this year. Today I’m sharing 10 Leadership Strategies for Thriving in 2021 that span many different leadership roles. Implementing all of them well can propel us forward in the current high-visibility, high-stakes environment.

10 Leadership Strategies For Thriving in 2021

Our implementation of each of these 10 Leadership Strategies will be closely watched by constituents in the coming year. Addressing each of them carefully and plugging any gaps will prepare us for our best chance of success as we head into 2021.

1. Clearly Define Ethics to Guide Company-Wide Decisions

Tell people how you’ll be making ethical decisions. Don’t leave the process to chance.

“Great leaders are… defining the firm’s values concisely, so people have the clarity and guidelines to make decisions.”

Jane Stevenson in THE COVID-19 LEADERSHIP GUIDE, Korn-Ferry

2. Prioritize What Employees Need Most

Focus on what your employees need. They are the ones keeping the organization afloat and they need your support.

“It’s time for leaders to reevaluate how they are addressing culture, providing support to employees during the pandemic, and refining their strategies to retain employees in the new year.”

Marcel Schwantes, New Survey: What Leaders Must Do to Adapt and Succeed in 2021, Inc.

3. Run More Unusual “What-If” Cases

Think beyond expected scenarios to what else could happen. We’ve learned this year that ‘standard scenarios’ don’t help us navigate rapidly changing situations.

“While most business plans include typical financially related ‘what if’ scenarios, leaders should consider expanding it to include unusual ones.”

Tom Himmer, How to Develop a Business Plan for 2021, The Business Journals

4. Put Health and Safety First

Make sure that health and safety take priority over money in organizational decision making.

“The coronavirus has created a humanitarian crisis, becoming a serious threat to the most vulnerable populations in every community. Protecting the health and safety of employees, partners, and communities will be job one for leaders around the world during the coming months.”

THE COVID-19 LEADERSHIP GUIDE, Korn-Ferry

5. Keep Priorities Crystal Clear

Share the top priorities of the organization and ask everyone to help achieve them.

“Disruptions inevitably lead to an overload of sometimes-contradictory information. In the worst cases, employees are being given unclear or incoherent priorities. That’s why a crystal-clear set of priorities matters in times of upheaval, but is so hard to achieve.”

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

6. Create a Culture of Reciprocal Care

Build a people-friendly culture where people feel safe and protected.

“Cultivate a culture of reciprocal care where every person matters and each person’s welfare and dignity is respected and supported.”

Psychology Professor Laura Knouse and Leadership Studies Professor Gill Hickman, How Leaders Can Adapt in a COVID-19 World, UR Now

7. Get Employees Involved in Company Decisions

Open up decision making to the people who know the work challenges.

“Your employees want to feel like they have a voice in major company decisions, including what their future work arrangements might look like.”

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

8. Exceed Customer Expectations

Aim higher. Doing what people expect you to do won’t be enough when other organizations are doing much more.

“How will my company adapt our resources to address customers’ current and future needs? What are coverage plans for servicing customers? The strongest leaders are determining how they can add more value and consistently over deliver.”

Sam Reese, Planning for 2021: 5 Key Questions Leaders Are Asking, Vistage

9. Be Willing To Reverse or Adapt Decisions

Show that new information and guidance leads to new decisions. Be willing to adapt decisions as things change.

“The emerging approach recognizes that in fast-changing environments, decisions often need to be reversed or adapted, and that changing course in response to new information is a strength, not a weakness.”

Jennifer Jordan, Michael Wade, and Elizabeth Teracino, Every Leader Needs to Navigate These 7 Tensions, Harvard Business Review

10. Integrate Brand, Culture and Ethics

Align your message and your actions. Gaps are easy to see and they damage your brand.

“A disconnect between what your organization values on the inside and how it is perceived on the outside can damage customer relationships. Customers have the ability—and the proclivity—to see if you are actually operating the way you say you are.” “Top leaders of the organization must take responsibility for driving alignment.”

Denise Lee Yohn, Want a Great Brand? Build a Great Culture, SHRM

Thriving in 2021 will require applying these 10 Leadership Strategies and continuing to adapt to the changing landscape of what “good leadership” means during COVID-19. We will need to focus on clear communication and finding ways to add value while honoring ethics, transparency, and trust.

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.

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.”

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.

Ethical Leaders Are Fixed and Flexible at the Same Time

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ethical leaders are fixed and flexible at the same time. They stay anchored to ethical values AND adapt as the world changes. Both are critically important aspects of ethical leadership success.

Ethical leaders stay fixed on values.

They keep values at the center of their daily choices and they don’t put money where morality should be. They realize that ethical values are an important part of their responsibility to others and society.

Ethical leaders never stray from ethics.

When things get tough, they hold fast to their ethical principles even when others “go along” with unethical choices. They realize that values are precious, life changing and worth protecting.

Ethical leaders are flexible in applying ethical values in a changing global society.

They adapt to increasing expectations and current issues and do the work to raise their game. They see other ways of life as interesting and non-threatening.

Ethical leaders embrace change.

They see changing to keep up with the times as a challenge and a responsibility, not an inconvenience. They are willing to do the work to change their mindset and assumptions when they have become outdated.

Ethical leaders use a growth mindset.

Ethical thinkers realize that authentic learning is more important than looking smart. They see negative feedback as an opportunity to get better, not a personal affront.

Is a leader who stays anchored to ethical values an ethical leader? Not necessarily. Just holding on to ethical values will not get you all the way there if you’re not staying competent as times change. To qualify as “ethical leadership,” values need to be APPLIED in ways that honor society’s rapidly changing expectations for honoring a myriad of ethical dimensions including human rights and sustainability.

Pluralism: 9 Elements Required For Ethical Leadership

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Pluralism is required in our leadership thinking as a positive force that informs how we treat people and make decisions. It’s the expansive mindset that is the key to important ethical leadership responsibilities such as respect, inclusion, and cultural awareness.

“If you know whether a man is a decided monist or a decided pluralist, you perhaps know more about the rest of his opinions than if you give him any other name ending in IST. To believe in the one or in the many, that is the classification with the maximum number of consequences.” ― Will James

Merriam-Webster defines pluralism as “a state of society in which members of diverse ethnic, racial, religious, or social groups maintain and develop their traditional culture or special interest within the confines of a common civilization.”

Pluralism, by its nature, is many things:

  1. Inclusive
    • Including everyone without losing the uniqueness of traditions or people
  2. Listening
    • Listening with care and attention and honoring a diverse group of voices
  3. Accepting
    • Being comfortable with different backgrounds, styles, traditions, approaches and ways of thinking
  4. Collaborative
    • Seeing the importance of diversity of thought in creating powerful solutions together
  5. Unafraid
    • Talking about our shared challenges, and seeing those conversations as a step toward solutions
  6. United
    • Working with individuals to build trust and educate each other on cultural traditions
  7. Evolving
    • Changing our minds and behavior willingly because we will never know everything about everything and expectations change over time
  8. Whole
    • Including everyone of every background, regardless of their life story
  9. Learning
    • Staying open to learning because we will make mistakes as we work together and learn about each other at the same time

A leader who embraces pluralism will not be afraid to go into the spaces where diverse groups of people meet, get to know each other, and work together.

“I thought about the meaning of pluralism in a world where the forces that seek to divide us are strong. I came to one conclusion: We have to save each other. It’s the only way to save ourselves.” — Eboo Patel

Ethical leaders know that we are stronger and better together, and they do everything possible to leverage that strength to solve our shared problems.

Truth and Misinformation: How to Spot False Narratives (Part 4)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

To wrap up a recent series of posts about truth, misinformation and how to spot false narratives, here is a summary of key points and questions for discussion.

Key Points About Finding The Truth:

Part 1 What is Truth?

To find a more objective truth requires uncertainty and doubt. Without uncertainty, we only see an issue with “sureness” and “resolve” based on our own experience.

Part 2 How Does Data Inform The Truth?

Data, taken in pieces or without context, can be presented as “truth” but the fragmented picture you will see is only informative in the context of the greater whole.

Part 3 What Role Does Media Literacy Play in Discovering The Truth?

Sources of misinformation and false narratives have a self-interested motive (and do not care about us or our well being). Our job is to stay literate as misinformation becomes more sophisticated and harder to spot.

How to Spot Misinformation and False Narratives:

Part 1 Watch For Relying on Blind Trust

Sources of misinformation and false narrative will tell you that you have all the information needed and will discourage you from looking further into the issue.

Part 2 Watch For an Opportunistic Spin Used to Evoke Emotion

Sources of misinformation and false narrative will often give you an emotionally-charged and opportunistic spin on a situation and call it the truth. People who question it may be attacked to deflect attention from a hidden motive.

Part 3 Look For Credible Sources Before Buying In or Sharing

Sources of misinformation and false narrative may not share sources backing up the story OR the sources they share are not reliable. Media literacy is how we avoid being tricked.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What false narrative might we be accepting as “truth?”
  2. How does that false narrative push our buttons, stoke our anger or tap into something we want to be true?
  3. What is the motive for sharing this false narrative? Is it monetary? Political? Initiating conflict? Diversion from a reputation issue?
  4. What steps will we take to be sure we’re not being misled before sharing information in the future?
%d bloggers like this: