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.

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

© 2009-2021 Leading in Context® LLC

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 .

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

© 2009-2021 Leading in Context® LLC

Top 10 2020: Leading in Context Blog

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Of the 52 individual posts published on the Leading in Context Blog in 2020, these 10 were the most popular. See if you notice a theme that connects these new topics that readers accessed most frequently.

#1 10 Leadership Strategies For Thriving in 2021

#2 Leadership Lessons We Can Learn From Isolation

#3 Pluralism: 9 Elements Required For Ethical Leadership

#4 Human Leadership is the Leadership We Need

#5 10 Tricky Questions About Ethical Leadership Answered

#6 10 Quotes to Inspire Leaders in Divisive Times

#7 Leading With Values During the Pandemic

#8 Ignoring Toxic Leadership is Not Worth the Tradeoffs

#9 Beliefs are Complicated

#10 Are We Focusing on Employee Engagement Metrics (And Missing the Point)?

If I had to pick a theme for these posts that were most popular in 2020, it would be Ethical Leadership in Divisive Times. This theme reflects our collective struggles as we dealt with acts of racism, conspiracy theories, and blatent disregard for safety measures that were supposed to protect us all during a raging pandemic.

Which post was your favorite? If you have ethical leadership topics you want to learn more about, comment to share your idea!

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

© 2009-2021 Leading in Context® LLC

Pandemic Leadership: 3 Questions To Ask in the New Year

What will make us successful in the new year?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Each year I raise questions that help leaders stay current as ethical expectations change. Here are three new questions to ponder as we head into a New Year. These are important questions about our ethical intentions, actions and impact that will help guide our choices in the coming year.

  1. What do employees want that would increase their engagement and improve their experience? If we know, why aren’t we doing it? What could we change that would make it possible?
  2. What have we learned during the pandemic that should stay ‘top of mind’ as we head into 2021? How can we leverage that awareness to benefit us and our constituents?
  3. What would it take to emerge from the global pandemic with our values more closely integrated with our practices, products and culture? Ethical integration is a trend that is providing organizations with an edge in challenging times.

As ethical expectations continue to increase, the answers to these questions will help us close the gaps between our current intentions, actions and impact, and what our constituents expect of us.

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

© 2009-2021 Leading in Context® LLC

Senior Leaders: Set Clear Expectations For Values

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Senior leaders set the tone for an organization’s ethics, but the responsibility for values leadership includes much more than that. Today, I’ll look at the senior leader’s responsibility for sharing clear expectations, and explore other important roles that go well beyond just setting the tone for expected behavior.

Setting Clear Values Expectations

What top leaders do typically becomes the accepted norm for behavior in organizations. So senior leaders need to do much more than keep themselves on the right side of ethics. They also need to ensure that values consistently drive the engine of the organization.

“Few companies set clear expectations for senior executives on ethics and compliance,” stated the LRN report. “Unless senior leaders regularly insist that business decisions incorporate company values, the correct tone at the top will never be set.”

Ben Dipietro, LRN

Championing the Use of Ethical Values

In a previous post, Critical Roles of the (Ethical) CEO, I wrote about these important senior leader roles: 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, and Ethical Culture Builder.

The roles I’ve named include many different approaches to setting and monitoring expectations. They show just how broad the responsibilities of senior leaders are when it comes to ethical leadership:

Advocate

Model

Monitor

Guard

Catalyst

Communicator

Coach

These roles include a number of functional categories that require different skillsets. Take a moment to ask yourself this important question – “Are your senior leaders ready?”

                                                                                                     

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 Actionable

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Some people think about ethics as a theoretical concept that lives in procedures and regulations, but they’re missing the point. Ethics is not just an esoteric concept. It’s an actionable responsibility.

Ethics requires moving beyond convenience and concern for self to concern for others.

Our ethics doesn’t live in the codes and manuals… Ethics is in the decisions we make. It’s in the way we resolve the tension between gaining personal benefit and creating value for others… Ethical guidelines are there to help us, but they do not become our ethics unless we choose to follow them every day.

Linda Fisher Thornton, Ethics Isn’t “Out There”: It’s Us And Our Choices

Leaders bear an even greater responsibility for ethical action because they must lead others to ethical performance through their guidance and example.

When an action is convenient and not appropriate, don’t call it leadership. Leadership is about moving beyond concern for self to also consider the well-being and success of others.

Linda Fisher Thornton, Leaders: What’s Missing in Convenient Actions? Values, Leading in Context Blog

As leaders, our ethical values show up when we take action that is grounded in ethical values:

  • Make important decisions
  • Choose employees to recognize, reward and promote
  • Model expected ethics for others to emulate
  • Treat others with respect and care

It’s in the time we take to teach employees about ethics and values, and the care we take to model ethical behavior so that everyone can see what it looks like in action.

Linda Fisher Thornton, Ethics Isn’t “Out There”: It’s Us And Our Choices

Now is a great time to move well beyond the ethics manual on the shelf and offering ethics training to “check off the box.” It’s time to move from insight to action – from what we know is important to what we actually do every day.

Clarify, Don’t Oversimplify

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Many of us are on a quest to simplify our lives, reduce our clutter and improve our focus. This is a positive step that can improve our lives, but unfortunately it doesn’t work at all when applied to our decision making.

When situations are complex, it is tempting to oversimplify them so we can move on and make a quick decision. This practice, though, sets us up for poor decision making and ethical mistakes.

“‘Satisficing’ leads the managerial leader to alternatives that tend to be easy to formulate, familiar, and close to the status quo. When one grapples with complex ethical considerations, this approach to decision making may not produce the best solutions.”

Charles D. Kerns, Graziadio Business Review, Pepperdine University

Kern’s term ‘satisficing’ makes me think of sacrificing the complexity of an issue to satisfy our need to move forward. It reminds me of our tendency to want things to be simpler than they really are, because digging into complex issues takes some effort.

This week, take a moment to consider where you might be ‘satisficing’ when you should be clarifying.

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.

Minimum Standard Leadership

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I tell my students that if you go through life just reaching for the minimum standard, you end up with a minimum standard life. The good things in life, including success and happiness are more likely to happen when we reach higher than the baseline that is expected of us.

Growth

Growth happens beyond the baseline requirements. If we aim too low, we may be content with a job that doesn’t bring out our full potential. Stretching to grow into a more demanding role, we find out what we’re capable of, and we grow. We become capable of more, which opens up new opportunities.

Opportunity

People are often tapped for new projects and promotions based on their current performance and their willingness to learn new things and take on additional responsibility. Doing these things makes them deeply valuable assets to groups and organizations.

Leadership

Minimum standard leadership doesn’t inspire others to greatness and build great organizations. It just keeps the cogs turning.

Leadership opportunities require stretching beyond the minimum standard because leaders need to do their own work and support the work of others. That means that their most important supporting tasks are evolving, not finite and collective, not individual. Leaders must embrace growth and adapt to change, setting an example for the people they lead and support.

From Minimum Standard Performance to Potential

I have been stretched beyond my comfort zone almost continuously over the past decade. I remember times when I felt like “coasting” because I was so exhausted by change and wanted things to be easier.

Overcoming that tendency to want to keep things as they are is important for breaking out of self-imposed limits on our potential and achievement. Every new opportunity will likely pull us beyond our comfort zone, stretching and expanding what we are comfortable with.

When we break away from a desire to keep things as they are, we are much better prepared to take advantage of all the good that life has to offer. And we are much better prepared to be good leaders.

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.

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.

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