The Missing Domain: Ethical Thinking

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Using the commonly taught types of thinking is very useful in life, and helps us be better professionals and business people. But there’s a catch.

Critical thinking can help you understand why a problem happened. It won’t help you find the most ethical solution to the problem once you identify it.

Creative thinking can help you figure your way out of a business challenge. It won’t keep you within the lines of appropriate and responsible behavior.

Design thinking can help you create amazing interactive technologies. It won’t help you resolve the new ethical issues those innovative technologies generate.

Even if we’re using all three types of thinking in our leadership, there is something important missing. 

“Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.”

C. S. Lewis

This quote from C. S. Lewis reminds us that values are necessary for higher level decisions and actions. They help us overcome selfish tendencies and guide us to consider how our choices will impact others. 

It Guides Responsible Behavior

Learning ethical thinking is an important part of human development, but many schools continue to teach subjects without it. 

It Helps Prevent Ethical Mistakes

Ethical thinking is central to many organization’s leader hiring process, but often left out as a grounding theme in leadership development. If your leadership development is not ethics-rich, here’s the big question. 

It’s Our Job 

Why are we teaching a high level understanding of subjects without teaching the ethical thinking to responsibly apply what people learn?

Why are people learning ethical thinking the hard way by making ethical mistakes we could be helping them prevent?

It’s our job as leaders to fill in the critically needed missing domain.

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Ethics-Rich Leadership: Why We Need It

 

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I was originally going to use the words “ethics-infused leadership” in this post, but I realized that would treat ethics a little bit like a lime twist in a cold drink. The drink would hint of lime, but it wouldn’t be FULL of lime. So I chose to use “ethics-rich” leadership instead.

I think you may already be looking for the ethics-rich leadership I’m talking about. 

Ethics-rich leaders create a “safe space” for people that brings out their best. They leaders grow people, paying great attention to individual learning, challenges, potential and  opportunities.

Ethics-rich leaders also create a “safe space” for teams that brings out their best. They help teams learn to respect, include and engage all constituents for the most positive possible outcomes.

Why Do We Need Ethics-Rich Leadership?

Many of our biggest leadership issues are global and long term. We need to get past the distraction of ethics scandals in the news to move forward with a new kind of leadership.

What does it look like? The ethics-rich leadership we seek:

  1. Considers respect, care and long-term thinking to be minimum standards.
  2. Protects our best interests as well as their own.
  3. Respects and honors the values behind our laws and doesn’t try to find loopholes for personal gain.
  4. Leads with positive ethical values, respectfully dealing with difficult issues when people don’t agree on the best solutions.
  5.  Never pretends to “know.” Instead this leader listens, scans, gathers, learns, questions, synthesizes and uses the ethics-rich mindset “I will always be a work-in-progress.

What Does It Look Like In Action?

Anyone can divide people and cause trouble. We need leaders who unite people around positive ethical values.

But it isn’t enough for leaders to just bring people together around values. 

We need leaders who do the work required to understand complex issues so they can make good decisions.

But it isn’t enough for leaders to just unite people around values and do the hard work to understand complex issues so they can make good decisions. 

We need leaders who care about constituents.

But it isn’t enough for leaders to just unite people around values, do the hard work to understand complex issues so they can make good decisions, and show they care about constituents.

We also need leaders who seek mutual benefit, not just “self-serving benefits.”

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. 

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How You Can Stop The “Fake News” Madness

By Linda Fisher Thornton

We all need to know how to tell what’s real news and what’s not. While a headline may be compelling, we can easily damage our personal reputation and brand if we share it and it turns out to be “fake news.” 

It’s our job to “check stories out” to be sure that what we share is real.

Our “Human Software” is Buggy

While it’s important for us to tell the difference between the real and the fake, our “human software” comes with bugs. One type of bug we all have is cognitive biases, and one of our biases causes us to readily believe headlines we already agree with (confirmation bias). Here is a great article by Better Humans about the many flaws in our thinking. The article includes a codex graphic of our cognitive biases that will definitely get your attention. 

We all have “human processing flaws” so we need to actively learn how to consume information responsibly.

Content curators including Google and Facebook are working on finding ways to flag fake news, but an algorithm won’t ever completely solve this problem. I’ve gathered sources that will help you learn how to separate the real from the fake. They include links to organizations that check out stories, an informative video, and games for testing your ability to detect fake news and altered photos. 

Learn to Separate the Real From the Fake

Organizations Checking What’s Real and What’s Not

Snopes.com

Hoaxy (How unverified stories spread on social media)

FactCheck.org

Politifact.com

Fake News Website List

Wikipedia – Fake News Websites List

How to Spot Fake News Video

 

Check It Out Before You Share

Stories are frequently made up to attract readers to sites with advertising. Photos and videos can be altered. It’s our job to “check stories out” to be sure that what we share is real. Otherwise, we’re stepping into a carefully laid trap. This trap helps unethical “fake news” sites earn more money from advertisers. It damages people’s reputations by sharing untruths about them. It hurts our credibility. It spreads falsehoods and misleads people who don’t know how to spot fake news. It becomes part of a ripple effect that can lead to serious unintended consequences. 

How Do You Stop The Madness? Check it before you share. 

Try Maggie Farley’s game Fictitious for testing and improving your ability to spot fake news, and practice detecting altered photos with Adobe’s game Real or Photoshop.   

What Else Can You Do?  Teach young people how to identify credible information online.

 

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Learn How to Apply all 7 Ethical Dimensions of Leadership

Includes how ethical expectations are increasing, and what you can do to stay ahead of the curve.

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

Do Laws Set the Standard For Ethics?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

“Do Laws Set the Standard For Ethics?” may be a simple question, but the answer is complicated. They do and they don’t set the standard. 

Laws set the MINIMUM standard for ethical behavior. This is the level that I call the punishment threshold. If your behavior drops below this level, you will be fined, sanctioned, sent to jail, or otherwise punished. The reason there are punishments when laws are violated is because they are considered the rock bottom of what we should be able to expect from people. Obviously, we don’t want everyone behaving at this level. 

Ethical values set the OPTIMAL standard for ethical behavior. They define the desired behaviors – what we want people to do. Applying ethical values requires a broad understanding of our responsibilities and a willingness to take responsibility for our role in the workplace and society. 

No one should use “following laws” as a measure of their good citizenship. It’s ethical values that are the true measure of leaders and organizations.

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Learn How to Apply all 7 Ethical Dimensions of Leadership

Includes how ethical expectations are increasing, and what you can do to stay ahead of the curve.

Click the cover to read a free preview!

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

How Balanced is Your Ethical Diet?

 

By Linda Fisher Thornton

It’s easy to understand that ethics has various “requirements.” What might not be as obvious is that it takes effort on many levels simultaneously to maintain the ethical well-being of people and organizations. 

Just as we need to eat from a variety of food groups to get balanced nutrition each day, we need to honor more than one ethical dimension to get balanced ethics. 

If we worked on just one or two of these dimensions, for example, our ethics would be incomplete:

Our Own Ethics and Integrity

How Well we Follow Laws, Policies and Regulations

How We Treat Others

How We Impact Our Communities

How We Conserve Resources

How We Contribute to Improving Our Global Society

How do we choose an “ethical diet” that sustains good leadership and responsible companies? We pile on healthy portions of character, respect and care for people, attention to sustainability and community service and a focus on creating a good life for future generations. We make it a balanced meal by honoring laws and profiting responsibly. 

Since ethics is multidimensional, our learning and application must be multidimensional. People can’t push vegetables to the corner of the plate and fill up on donuts if they want to be healthy. Similarly, they can’t push respect and care aside and take too large a helping of profits. We can only reach a “balanced ethical diet” by successfully applying all of the required ethical groups.

 

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Learn How to Apply all 7 Ethical Dimensions of Leadership

Includes how ethical expectations are increasing, and what you can do to stay ahead of the curve.

Click the cover to read a free preview!

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

 

Yes, Leaders. Behavior Matters

By Linda Fisher Thornton

As leaders, we are expected to uphold the highest standards of ethical behavior, and that includes interpersonal behavior (HOW we get the results we get, and how our behavior impacts others).

This week I’m sharing a review of behaviors that are a “NO GO” for ethical leaders. Click on each link to learn about why the behavior is outside the bounds of ethical leadership.

Yes, Leaders. Behavior Matters

It is not okay to blame, name call, bully, threaten, or shame.

It is not acceptable to yell and use foul language.

It is not fine to get angry and attack people who disagree with us.

It is not okay to avoid information that conflicts with our beliefs.

It is not acceptable to exclude those who aren’t like us.

It is not okay to treat only certain people with respect.

It is not acceptable to damage relationships with our negative behavior.

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

Isn’t It Obvious?

These reminders may seem obvious (yes, we learned them in Kindergarten), but don’t leave it to chance. Be sure your leaders are all on the same page about appropriate interpersonal behavior. Your employees, customers and communities will thank you.

Use this post as the basis for conversations about ethical interpersonal behavior in the workplace and beyond.

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Everyone is a Stakeholder at Some Level

By Linda Fisher Thornton

“Everyone is a stakeholder at some level, and all stakeholders are important. We should consider all stakeholders as we lead – those we serve, those we lead, the powerless, the silenced, the planet, and all of humanity.” 

I shared this insight in a previous post – it was an aha moment from a Tweetchat I guest-hosted on Leading With Ethics. To reflect on where you are in the journey to leading with the mindset that “everyone is a stakeholder at some level,” explore the answers to these important questions:

  • How am I adding value for customers, employees and partners?
  • What ripples am I creating on the global landscape?
  • If everyone followed my lead, would they be showing that all stakeholders are important, regardless of who they are or where they live?
  • How well do I consider the interests of stakeholders who aren’t at the table, including the planet?
  • Have I explored and conquered my own “inner terrain” well enough to manage my biases so that they don’t impact my leadership?

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.

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Ethical Leaders Stay Current as the World Changes

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4 Connected Trends Shaping the Future of Leadership

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Our understanding of good leadership is advancing. In this video, I describe 4 powerful trends that are increasing leadership expectations and shaping what leaders will need to be ready to handle in the future. 

These 4 trends shaping the future of leadership are connected and accelerating. They give us a clear picture of where we need to take our leadership. 

The greatest challenge leaders face is to keep up as the bar continues to be raised. At the rate expectations are increasing, it is clear that we will never “arrive.” We must be adaptable, open to developing new skill sets and mindsets, while at the same time staying true to the values of ethical leadership. 

Being open to learning makes or breaks our success as leaders.

Adaptability is no longer just a competitive advantage. It’s an ethical imperative. 

 

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Ethical Leaders Stay Current as the World Changes

Includes case examples and questions.

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

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Great Leaders Unite

By Linda Fisher Thornton

­
The most capable and ethically competent leaders reach for unity, which represents the highest levels of interpersonal and global responsibility. While it would be much easier, the best leaders don’t just aim for “getting along” or “getting by.”
Queen Elizabeth II said “I know of no single formula for success. But over the years I have observed that some attributes of leadership are universal and are often about finding ways of encouraging people to combine their efforts, their talents, their insights, their enthusiasm and their inspiration to work together.”
Great leaders use meaningful connections, shared values and mutual understanding to bring people together. Their decisions and chosen paths are mutually beneficial for multiple constituents. They understand leadership as a process of bringing out the individual and collective best in others for the long-term good.

The words and actions of the best leaders unite and uplift rather than divide and tear down. They use a calm demeanor and peaceful means to reach desired ends. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Divide and rule, the politician cries; unite and lead, is watchword of the wise.”

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Ethical Leaders See Their Choices Through All 7 Lenses

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Values Drive Business Success (But Only If They’re Clear and Applied)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial Survey Executive Summary reported that according to responses from 7700 employed millennials from 29 countries, “the values that support long-term business success are people treatment, ethics, and customer focus. While people treatment, ethics, and customer focus may be the values that drive business success, that only works if they’re applied across the organization. Do people know what the values are? Are they evident in the everyday actions of leaders? Are they factored into daily decisions? 

Even if a company has clear values, applying them is not as easy as leaders might think. According to Gallup (2016), just 23% of U.S. employees strongly agree that they can apply their organization’s values to their work every day.  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. Here are two examples: 

A manager has been told to hire according to the company’s values and to meet or exceed all goals. The candidate that is most likely to improve the department’s chances of meeting goals is not always respectful to others. Which is more important?

An employee sees a disconnect between the company’s stated values and the actions of a new senior leader. Should she follow the stated values or the leader’s direction? 

Leaders must start the conversation and keep it open, model the application of stated values, clear up areas of confusion and use the company’s values to guide daily work. Then and only then will values be “powered up” to drive business success. The power of values is not in stating them on the website and glossy brochures – it’s in the much more difficult process of living them in our everyday choices.  

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Ethical Leaders See Their Choices Through All 7 Lenses

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Ethical Leaders Take The Hidden Path

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ethical leaders seek shared value. They look for ways to meet the needs of others while they champion their own projects and ideas. Why? Because they understand that they are responsible for honoring their well-being AND the well-being of others. 

Ethical leaders take responsibility for supporting the noble goals of others and have the persistence and character to reach for the situation where “We Both Win.” 

Shared value and mutual benefit are principles at the core of Corporate Social Responsibility and ethical leadership. To achieve them, we must think beyond outdated notions of what it means to win (including the one-dimensional false dichotomy “I Win, You Lose).” We have to look for the alternative path. 

This path to shared value may seem to be a “hidden path” because we have to look deeper and work harder to find it. It takes more work and effort. It requires thinking beyond the immediate moment and the one-sided “win.” It builds lasting relationships that benefit all parties. 

While seeking mutual benefit may take more effort up front, that doesn’t mean that it’s optional. Taking advantage of others to make a quick buck doesn’t create meaning or build real relationships. It doesn’t demonstrate a commitment to ethical values. 

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 path to mutually beneficial solutions is not always easy to find. Great leaders realize that it’s their job to seek out and take this hidden path. 

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NEW Leadership Webinars –  Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership!
6/8/17 – Communicating About Ethical Values: How To Talk About What Matters
7/11/2017 – Developing Leadership That Inspires

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Ethical Leaders See Their Choices Through All 7 Lenses

Includes case examples and questions.

Click the book cover for a preview.

 

 

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

 

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


By Linda Fisher Thornton

I blogged a while back about the Critical Roles of the (Ethical) CEO. I realized later that these important ethical roles apply not just to CEOs, but also to all senior leaders in an organization. And if front line leaders don’t carry these roles throughout the organization, there will be gaps in the culture. 

An ethical culture will only happen if the leadership team is “All In.” 

We should prepare leaders to take on these 9 important roles, to help them be “All In” in the quest for ethical culture building: 

Critical Roles of the Ethical Leader

Ethical Leadership Role Model

High Level Trust-Builder

Champion For Ethical Values

Ethical Prevention Advocate

Highest Leader Accountable For Ethics

Accountability Consistency Monitor

Ethics Dialogue Leader

Ethical Decision-Making Coach

Ethical Culture Builder

Through these important roles, leaders communicate, model and coach ethical thinking and action. That process increases the ethical capability of the organization over time, protects it from problems, and keeps the work environment positive.

Is your leadership team “All In” in taking on these roles and championing ethics throughout the organization? Help each leader develop the skills and confidence to handle these important roles. 

Top 100 Leadership BlogNEW Leadership Webinars –  Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership!
6/8/17 – Communicating About Ethical Values: How To Talk About What Matters
7/11/2017 – Developing Leadership That Inspires

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Ethical Leaders See Their Choices Through All 7 Lenses

Includes case examples and questions.

 

Click the book cover for a preview.

 

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

 

Labels Divide, Values Conquer

 

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I have noticed that when people speak from LABELS (their group identity, their belief system, their affiliation), they are talking from the interests of that label. This can quickly become divisive if that label doesn’t include everyone. If a label is broad enough – like the label “human” –  it can automatically be an ethical and inclusive conversation. But since most labels aren’t that broad, we need to use ethical values to guide us. 

When people speak from VALUES (respect, care, inclusion, sustainability), the conversation more naturally moves to “How can we live out that value?”(all of us, together) instead of “What can we (members of this label) do that is best for us?”

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

Labels can be positive. helping us unite people around a common issue, but they need to be used carefully. Why? 

Using LABELS without also using ethical values means that we are probably declaring ourselves special at someone else’s expense.

VALUES help us conquer the human tendency to act in our own best interests. They remind us that we are responsible for more than our own success and that we need to make sure that our impact on others is positive. 

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Ethical Leaders See Their Choices Through All 7 Lenses

Includes case examples and questions.

Click the book cover for a preview.

 

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

How Do You Make Better Decisions?

By Linda Fisher Thornton
 
How do you make decisions? Do you consider a series of important questions? Do you find out the needs of the people involved? Do you consult a diverse group of advisors? Or do you just wing it? Some of the ways we may be tempted to think through our challenges (how to stay within budget or how to be most profitable, for example) leave ethical values out of the equation. 
 
Ethical thinking helps us make good leadership decisions. When we use intentional ethical thinking, we make decisions based on ethical valuesUsing ethical thinking doesn’t just help us do the right thing. It also helps us resolve our most difficult leadership problems by broadening our awareness. 

Ethical thinking keeps us grounded in values, and on track to reach for shared solutions. That helps us make better decisions.

  Here are some of the many challenges that ethical thinking helps us resolve:
  • How to deal with new situations/issues/people
  • How to make tough decisions when multiple stakeholders are involved
  • How to be consistent
  • How to lead based on positive ethical values
  • The need for the time and space to figure things out

While there are many different ways to make decisions, not all them lead to ethical outcomes. The beauty of ethical thinking is that once we learn and practice it, we take it with us, and it becomes the basis of our decision-making (no extra time and space required).

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Ethical Leaders See the Whole Picture

Includes case examples and questions.

 

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

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The Evolving Purpose of Leadership: Why More is Expected Now

By Linda Fisher Thornton

What ever happened to transactional leadership and what has taken its place? How is our understanding of the purpose of leadership changing? Where is it headed?

In this video, I explain our evolving understanding of the purpose of leadership, and provide a context that explains why more is expected of leaders now. This trend update is based on Part 3 of my book 7 Lenses

Leaders across industries are stretching to meet expectations as the bar continues to be raised. Understanding the trends can help us get there.

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Your Guide to the Ethical Leadership Journey

Includes case examples and questions.

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

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