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?

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©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

“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.

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Human Leadership is the Leadership We Need

By Linda Fisher Thornton

As we struggle with compounding challenges around the world, people are more and more frequently seeking information about human or humane leadership. Why is the topic so timely? I believe it’s critical now because in a crisis we need a leader who can make people feel safe, respected and protected.

Here are some inspiring quotes about important elements of human leadership:

“Human leadership is grounded in self-respect and unconditional love. It comprehends and honors all people’s equal right to equity, dignity and integrity. It recognizes all people for who they are, accepts their unique contribution, treats them with respect and recognizes their value.” 

Sesil Pir, Human Leadership: What It Looks Like, And Why We Need It In The 21st Century, Forbes

As our understanding of what “good leadership” means continues to change, we are incorporating more of what it means to be human into the ways we lead.

“Businesses have started to treat employees like human beings, rather than workers whose only relevant wishes are company related.”

Daniel Ross, Six Ways Leaders Can Humanize an Organization, SHRM’s Executive Network, HR People + Strategy

“The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.”

— John Buchan

Being human with others and leading them with zeal won’t be enough. Our leadership must demonstrate the highest character.

“Leadership consists not in degrees of technique but in traits of character.”

— Lewis H. Lapham

“Humans will probably always need the help of especially gifted moral leaders in order to extend the bonds of caring and trust beyond the easy range of the family and the face-to-face community. Such bonds have become essential to the future of humanity.”

—Paul R. Lawrence, Driven To Lead: Good, Bad, and Misguided Leadership

Ethics is at its heart about treating other people well. Human leadership is based on essential ethical principles, with ethics treated as central, not as an afterthought.

Ethical principles help us bring out people’s best and create a positive environment, and when they are central to our thoughts, words, and actions we can nurture a workspace that is human-friendly.

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©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

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.

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©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

Foster Your Ethical Brand Reputation

Connect Magazine Feature

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Connect Magazine invited me to weigh in on why ethical brand reputation is so important and how brands can build and foster stronger images.­

LindaThornton_110419-0057 b

In this article I share practical advice on protecting ethical brands and five top leadership trends I see unfolding in 2020. 

It’s worth a read for those who want to use the time during the pandemic to figure out how they can build a stronger company and a stronger brand that is ready for an uncertain future. 

“While we would like to think that we are in control of our brand image, it is really shaped by our ethical choices… To build and foster strong images, brands can activate and amplify their values.” 

— Linda Fisher Thornton in Connect Magazine

Important questions answered in this Q&A Feature: 

  • Why is it important for every brand to have a strong, consistent image today?
  • What are some of the ways brands can build and foster stronger images?
  • What leadership trends do you see unfolding?
  • What’s the theory behind your “7 Lenses” philosophy?

Read the Q & A Feature in Connect Magazine (page 13, the last printed page before the back cover)

After reviewing the insights in the feature article, share your own ideas in the comments. You’ll find additional curated resources on ethical brands below.  

More Curated Resources on Ethical Brands:

Ethical Branding: A Guide For Creating More Ethical Brands, thebrandingjournal.com

The Impact of Ethics on Brand Reputational Value, lighthouse-services.com

Product and Brand, Markkula Center For Applied Ethics, scu.edu

How Should Ethics Factor Into Your Brand Identity? Serenity Gibbons, forbes.com

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©2020 Leading in Context LLC

“While we would like to think that we are in control of our brand image, it is really shaped by our ethical choices… To build and foster strong images, brands can activate and amplify their values.” 

5 Insights For the Class of 2020

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I have a special message for our 2020 graduates. This year has not turned out as we had hoped or planned that it would. You are probably feeling a great sense of loss from missing out on milestone events and celebrations related to graduation. You are also entering the next chapter of your lives at a time of great divisiveness, instability and unrest.

You are likely wondering what will happen now that the entire landscape has changed, and so little is certain about your future. Take heart and learn from the stories of those who have dealt with great hardship and overcome it.

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” — Arnold Schwarzenegger

As you try to rebuild your image of your future plans in these difficult times, I have 5 pieces of advice to share that may be useful. I wish someone had shared these life insights with me when I was a new graduate beginning the next chapter of my life.

5 Insights For the Class of 2020 

  1. Find Ethical Role Models – While many others around you will stray from the path and make bad choices, your ethical role models will keep you looking forward toward becoming your best.
  2. Manage Your Information Consumption – It is easy to become overwhelmed or fearful when we are constantly exposed to the worst of what’s out there or comparing ourselves to others. Intentionally follow good news and manage your media time so it doesn’t take time away from relationships or building your own good life.
  3. Become a Truth Beacon  Become the one others can count on to evaluate information and determine whether it is “fake news” or an important truth. You will ground yourself, and become a person that others can count on to cut through the chatter to find what matters.
  4. Take One Step At a Time, One Day at a Time – A wise person once said to me at a difficult time in my life “All you have to do is get through this for one day.” I realized I had been taking on the stress of challenges I would face in the future that were not directly before me. Using a “one day at a time” focus, we can overcome our challenges without becoming disheartened.
  5. Find Meaning Through Service – There are many different approaches to life. Some of them are self-serving and others are deeply focused on serving others. I believe that it is through service to others that we find our true happiness. As we shift our focus away from our own troubles and toward serving others, we find a sense of meaning in our lives.

While the world will pull you in many different compelling directions, it is your values that will keep you anchored. Become aware of them. Nurture them. Know what you believe in. Live it. Set an example for others by building a good, ethical life in a chaotic world.

We are counting on you.

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©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

10 Things Ethical Leaders Believe

By Linda Fisher Thornton

While dealing with the catastrophic COVID-19 pandemic, we need to remember that good decisions are always made based on values. To confirm what those values are that should guide our choices, this week I’m sharing my Manifesto What Ethical Leaders Believe.

This Manifesto frames ethical leadership in clear language, and is shareable under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License. It includes 10 Things Ethical Leaders Believe that transform their leadership and their organizations.

Click the cover image above to download What Ethical Leaders Believe and share it with your colleagues and friends (the download link is at the top right of the page). It includes an introduction to the philosophy behind my work and it previews the ethical leadership book 7 Lenses.

There is no check-box for ethical leadership. It is an ongoing individual and organizational journey.

Linda Fisher Thornton, What Ethical Leaders Believe: The Leading in Context Manifesto, ChangeThis.com

Take a moment to focus and ground your leadership in the 10 Things Ethical Leaders Believe in this timely Manifesto. I hope it will help you make the difficult choices you face in the coming days and weeks.

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©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

10 Quotes To Inspire Leaders in Divisive Times

grass-1913167_1920By Linda Fisher Thornton

There were many things that went right in the past year, despite the omnipresent bad news. Here is a collection of inspiring quotes to keep us moving forward and ready to face the challenges ahead.

“When the world is in the midst of change, when adversity and opportunity are almost indistinguishable, this is the time for visionary leadership and when leaders need to look beyond the survival needs of those they’re serving.”  — Chip Conley

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.” — Emily Dickinson

“Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition – such as lifting weights – we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity.” — Stephen Covey


“Let us make our future now, and let us make our dreams tomorrow’s reality.” — Malala Yousafzai

“Don’t find fault, find a remedy.” — Henry Ford

“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

“A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don’t have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed.” — Nelson Mandela

“I simply can’t build my hopes on a foundation of confusion, misery and death… I think… peace and tranquillity will return again.” — Anne Frank

“Tomorrow hopes we have learned something from yesterday.” — John Wayne

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” — Albert Einstein

…and for good measure, here are 50 more.

Share more quotes you find inspiring in the comments!

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