20 (Responsible) Leadership Outcomes

By Linda Fisher Thornton

With responsible leadership, people experience feelings of self-worth from being treated well, and feelings of usefulness from being able to make a valuable contribution to the team. In this kind of environment, people can best use their talents to forward the organization’s mission.

20 Ways Responsible Leadership Makes People Feel

How does responsible leadership make people feel? Here are 20 human responses that transform individual lives and organizational outcomes. Think about great leaders you have worked with and see if these outcomes resonate with your experience.

1. Able

2. Accepted

3. Appreciated

4. Engaged

5. Hopeful

6. Included

7. Impactful

8. Listened To

9. Needed

10. Purposeful

11. Recognized

12. Respected

13. Safe

14. Secure

15. Talented

16. Trusted

17. Trustworthy

18. Useful

19. Utilized

20. Valued

Are you tapping into these powerful outcomes in your organization? Is every leader on board and consistently demonstrating ethical thinking and action?

Use the ethical leadership guide 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership to learn how to tap into these transformational human outcomes (preview below).

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership

© 2009-2021 Leading In Context LLC

Ethical Awareness is a Moving Target

By Linda Fisher Thornton

How well is your organization navigating the ethical pitfalls of the working world? If you’re finding it to be a major challenge right now, you’re not alone.

Why is it so hard to navigate ethical minefields now?

There is currently a “toxic soup” of factors at play, including:

  • Life and death pandemic safety issues, requiring full cooperation and adherence to safety protocols
  • Continuing pandemic restrictions, isolation, and restriction burnout
  • Racial tension and a renewed focus on real (not just “marketing level”) inclusion
  • Political tension, polarity, disagreement, and blame
  • Worker fears about COVID-19 combined with large-scale vaccine distribution challenges
  • Rampant misinformation-spreading makes it difficult to identify the truth, and even harder to talk about it
  • Financial challenges, with some workers and businesses living on the edge day to day
  • Inability to get on top of putting out fires to see the big picture, combined with a critical need to adapt
  • Concerns about what work will look like after the pandemic combined with a growing awareness that some things will never go back to the way they were

Five years ago, we didn’t imagine that this was where we would be. We should have seen it coming, because we were warned by plenty of experts, but that’s the topic of another post. Looking at the multiple challenges we’re facing now, I see that there is a great need to sharpen ethical awareness, and that organizations that don’t embrace this challenge will be assuming major unnecessary risks.

How do we sharpen our ethical awareness?

Since starting this blog and authoring 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership, I have taken on the mission of providing practical guidance on ethical leadership. The book provides a coherent, easy to apply 7-Lens schema for tackling ethical problems with a high level of awareness. But I have also written short practical posts for leadership development and education, and below I share a selection of those that will be helpful to you now as you navigate these multiple challenges.

What is Ethical Awareness?

Ethics is Action Beyond Self-Interest

Leadership: Evaluating Ethical Awareness

How Current is My Message About Ethics? (Assessment)

How Do We Develop It?

Seeing the Nuances of Ethical Leadership: A Developmental Model

Mindset or Competency: Which is More Important?

Uncomfortable Learning

What is Ethical Thinking?

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Series)

Rethinking “Smart” Leadership in an Ethical Context

How Do We Navigate Our Current Complex Challenges?

Pandemic Leadership

10 Leadership Strategies For Thriving in 2021

A COVID-19 Leadership Reset: Moving Beyond Paradox

COVID-19: Our Inner Space

Perspectives on a Future With COVID-19

Pandemic Leadership: 3 Questions to Ask in the New Year

Leading During National Unrest and Division

How to Be Human Together

Seeing Beyond Borders and Walls

Pluralism: 9 Elements Required for Ethical Leadership

On Patriotism, Nationalism, Globalism and Ethics

Great Leaders Unite

Labels Divide: Values Conquer

Moving From Putting Out Fires to Seeing the Bigger Context

Prevention or Cure: Your Choice

The Evolving Purpose of Leadership: Why More is Expected Now

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

Talking About What Matters (Series)

10 Tricky Questions About Ethics and Leadership: Answered

Finding the Truth and Avoiding Misinformation

Beliefs Are Complicated

Truth and Misinformation: How to Spot False Narratives (Series)

Reflections on Truth: Why is it So Elusive?

Digital Deception: Unethical Sleight of Hand

Unethical Leadership: Beliefs of Convenience

Ethical awareness isn’t a destination. It’s a moving target. We’ll have to intentionally stretch to meet it. That stretch helps bring out our ethical best, which is what our employees, partners, colleagues and customers deserve.

People will remember how we handled things on their behalf during this time of multiple catastrophes. Let’s make sure what they remember is that we took the time to consider the impact of our choices, took responsible actions, and also provided guidance as they struggled to do the same.

Digital Deception: Unethical Sleight of Hand

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Things are not always as they seem. Technology has advanced to the point that we can’t be sure whether or not what we’re seeing is real. There are many new ways that bad actors are using digital sleight of hand to trick us. And the list is growing.

It will take a healthy dose of skepticism, critical observation and research skills to find out if what we see is as it appears. Educate yourself and your teams about these methods of trickery and how to spot them:

Altered Photos

Photos may have had people (or faces) added or removed, backgrounds changed, or other alterations made.

5 strategies to identify doctored images, Serena O’Sullivan, Multimedia Journalism

Fake news, hoax images: How to spot a digitally altered photo from the real deal, Belinda Smith,
ABC Science

This is How You Can Tell if an Image has Been Photoshopped, Alicia Prince, LifeHack

How to Use Google Reverse Image Search to Fact-Check Images, CommonSense.org

Altered Videos

Artificial intelligence can be used to make people appear to say things they didn’t say, or to remove critical elements of the context around what they said.

Is That Video Real?, AJ Willingham, CNN

How to Spot Deep Fake Videos – 15 Signs to Watch For, Alison Grace Johansen, Norton

How to spot a fake viral video, James Vincent, The Verge

Deep Fake “People”

Some people we see are images of realistic “people” created with artificial intelligence, or are created with parts from real photos of multiple people.

These Videos Tell the Scary Story of How Far AI Has Come, Kelsey Piper, Vox

Thispersondoesnotexist.com Uses AI to Generate Endless Fake Faces, James Vincent, The Verge

Dating apps need women. Advertisers need diversity. AI companies offer a solution: Fake people, Drew Harwell, Washington Post

The Good and Bad News

The good news is that we can use artificial intelligence to detect fake videos and altered photos. The bad news is that we also have to overcome our natural tendencies to believe things we see that aren’t true.

Since we have a very human tendency to believe what isn’t true, to avoid sharing fake sources we’ll need to educate ourselves and our teams about these forms of digital sleight of hand and how to spot them.

Unethical Leadership: Beliefs of Convenience

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Sometimes leaders believe things that aren’t true because they haven’t taken time to investigate the truth. In other cases, they may have trusted someone who has misled them. But there’s an even more problematic reason some leaders may ignore the truth – claiming to believe the falsehood may benefit them in a tangible way.

“There is no such thing as ‘alternative information.’ However, when important information is withheld or if the information is false, it can lead to alternative interpretations. And that’s where you can get into big trouble.”

Jesse Lyn Stoner on Leadership, Give Me the Facts, Just the Facts, Seapoint Center For Collaborative Leadership

Watch for leaders sharing a falsehood that is a “belief of convenience,” which is a type of unethical leadership. It is unethical for multiple reasons. It is intentionally misleading instead of transparent, is based on an ulterior motive, and has the potential to harm.

Ways that believing and/or sharing a falsehood publicly could benefit a leader:

  • Convey a false sense of control in a seemingly uncontrollable or negative situation
  • Advance an unethical agenda
  • Get something from gullible followers who want to believe the falsehood
  • Offer an advantage when regular approaches aren’t working
  • Distract attention away from other more harmful actions

Watch for these signs that a falsehood is benefiting a leader in a tangible way:

  1. The falsehood is shared in ways that stoke anger in the leader’s followers
  2. The leader continues to promote the falsehood after being confronted with clear evidence that the belief is false
  3. Sharing the false belief has the potential to harm
  4. The leader backs down from the falsehood when it has run its course of advantage and becomes a liability

“A liar begins with making falsehood appear like truth, and ends with making truth itself appear like falsehood.”

William Shenstone, Poet, in Essays on Men and Manners

What’s missing when leaders latch onto and share beliefs of convenience? Values. In contrast, ethical leaders know that it’s their job to keep ethical values at the center of their decisions and actions. Ethical leaders seek the truth, and communicate the truth, even when it isn’t convenient.

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 .

A Message About Connection

By Linda Fisher Thornton

We’ll remember this year for a long time, and we will tell future generations stories about the challenges we endured as we tried to stay safe and well during a global pandemic.

One lesson we can take away from this experience is the power of connection. We found new ways to connect with others, and we needed that reassurance more often. As we dealt with supply-finding and constant rescheduling and a fear of what could happen to us and loved ones, we called old friends and distant family and created new bonds. We had family game nights. We started new traditions that brought us closer together.

This holiday season, I wish you and yours a time filled with good health and well-being and connection. Take a moment to reflect on the power of connection and how you can continue to tap into its many benefits long after the pandemic is over.

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.

A COVID-19 Leadership Reset: Moving Beyond Paradox

By Linda Fisher Thornton

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

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

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

COVID-19 Leadership Resources

Leadership in the Time of COVID-19, Forbes

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

The Paradox of Leadership After COVID-19, SHRM

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

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

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

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

Reset Your Organization For a Post COVID Future, CCL

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

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

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

Ethics is 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.

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.”

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