Consumer Trends: 5 Things Brands Should Know

shopping-carts-2077841_1920By Linda Fisher Thornton

We’ve seen many articles about ethical consumerism, conscious capitalism and the responsible consumer. The bottom line is that consumers continue to expect much more from brands than an honest and perfectly executed transaction. This week, I share a high level view of 5 key things brands should know if they want to be successful in reaching responsible consumers.

Consumer Trends: 5 Things Brands Should Know

#1: Customers want more than a perfect transaction. According to Scott Lachut of PSFK, referring to the PSFK x Suzy Future Of Retail 2020 Survey, “63% are interested in purchasing a product that comes with related services to help them get the most out of their purchase” and “67% are interested in being invited to an exclusive event or activity in their favorite store.”

#2: Sustainability is becoming a way of life. According to Deloitte in Consumer 2020: Reading the Signs, an increasing number of (consumers) will be advocates for sustainability and demand it in products and practices.”

 #3: It’s important to understand where consumers are – by really listening to their concerns. Thomas Kolster, in the Adweek article It’s Time for Brands to Stop Climate Grandstanding and Listen to Consumer Needs says it time to listen, not preach. 

#4: Consumers expect authenticity AND transparency. Deloitte in Consumer 2020:Reading the Signs, says that consumers “will be likelier to sense when companies are not being genuine or authentic” and they will “expect and demand transparency.”

#5: Brands need to aim for common values that cross the spectrum of ideologies in a divisive climate. Gartner Inc., in Gartner Identifies Top Five Consumer Trends for Marketing Leaders in 2020 highlights the importance of “utiliz(ing) broadly appealing values in messaging to connect with consumers across ideologies.” 

It’s getting harder to adapt to changing consumer expectations, and keeping up with trends is the only way to meet the challenge. Stay tuned for more insights in future posts!

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Ignoring Toxic Leadership is Not Worth the Tradeoffs

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Toxic behavior is a problem in organizations across industries and it’s often ignored. Organizations that delay dealing with toxic behavior, though, will find that it spreads and erodes the integrity of an ethical culture.

Toxic behavior may be “allowed” to flourish because an employee or manager is a “top performer” in other aspects of the job. This is a dangerous bargain for organizations to make. By allowing the toxic behavior to continue unchecked, they keep the perpetrator’s top sales results, but the fallout is not worth it. Factoring in the negative impact on trust, the reduction in the quality of work-life for employees and colleagues, and the erosion of the importance of values in the organization, it’s a losing proposition.

If we SAY in our values that we demonstrate RESPECT and then we allow disrespectful behaviors, we are sending the message that respect is not really required. Since toxic behaviors destroy trust, customers and employees who expect to be treated better often leave to find a safer place to invest their money, time and talents.

The problem worsens if entry-level employees are handled differently from top leaders. If you coach a toxic front-line employee before taking performance action that may include termination, but you allow a leader to continue unchecked, you are applying a power dynamic that can make employees feel powerless and victimized.

What are employees thinking when the leader who is verbally assaulting them is keeping the job, not being coached, and getting bonuses and promotions? They are thinking that the company has a different standard for leaders than the standards it applies to employees.

A double standard not only lacks integrity, but also tells employees, customers and colleagues of the toxic leader “we don’t care about your well-being.” Our constituents have choices, and they will exercise them if they are not treated well. When was the last time you went back to a store where someone was repeatedly rude to you? The bottom line is that organizations can’t afford the fallout from sending a “we don’t care about your well-being” message to the employees, customers or colleagues of a toxic leader.

Resources For Learning:

13 (Culture-Numbing) Side Effects of Toxic Leadership

Can a Toxic Leader Be Ethical? Yes and No.

Unethical Leadership: Selective Respect

Every Decision Changes the Ethical Culture Equation

Take Positive Action When You See Unethical Leadership

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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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10 Tricky Questions About Ethics and Leadership Answered

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Go Into the New Year With Answers

What is the Ultimate Goal of Leadership?

“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?”

What Does it Mean to Take Responsibility in Leadership?

“These surveys reflect increasing expectations for business leaders  – the expectations that we take responsibility well beyond managing our own Profits, to also improve life for People, support the success of Communities and protect the Planet. Profits and Corporate Social Responsibility are no longer seen as mutually exclusive ideals.” 

Why Do People Often Disagree About The Right Thing To Do?

“Why is it so difficult to agree on the right thing to do? One of the reasons we may not agree is that each of us may be using a different definition of what is “good.” Here are 7 different interpretations of what is ethically good, based on the framework in 7 Lenses

What is an Ethical Workplace?

“Grounding our work in values is critically important but it’s not enough. There’s much more to being ready for the future of leadership than just staying aligned with positive values. This week I’m sharing a graphic about 5 other variables that need to be in place to build a positive ethical culture – the proper time orientation, focus, response, level and complexity.

What is Integrity?

“Following this definition, integrity is the alignment of our thoughts, actions and words with our personal values.  The tricky thing about integrity in organizations is that integrity is partly internal (what we think) and partly external (what we say and do).”

What is Conscious Capitalism?

“Conscious capitalism involves thinking beyond self-interests, demonstrating care for stakeholders at the global level, using a long-term time orientation and seeing the company’s role in the world through a systems view.”

What is the Greater Good?

“Many people refer to the “greater good” as an important part of leading ethically, and use different words to describe it. The descriptions they use collectively paint a picture of a responsibility to think beyond ourselves and to work for a better, inclusive society.”

What is Authentic Leadership?

“I believe that the following 14 personal, interpersonal and societal dimensions together form what we think of as authenticity. They involve overcoming the internal and external barriers to living an intentional, aware and ethical life.”

As you review these reader favorites, think about how you will adapt to changing ethical leadership expectations.”

As you plan for a successful year, keep in mind that ethics is a hot topic for consumers. How well you understand and apply ethical business leadership will have a strong bearing on your success.

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Top Post Series of 2019: Leading in Context Blog

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The Top Post Series for last year on the Leading in Context Blog this year reflected the challenges of applying ethical thinking and decision-making to complex problems.

This series answers the important question “How do we analyze and understanding the multiple connected variables in a changing context to make responsible choices? Today I’ll share a quote from each post in the series that will give you an overview of the topic.

Here’s the most popular Leading in Context Blog series of 2019 – 

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making  

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 1)

Complex issues just can’t be deconstructed and understood using shallow thinking. The meaningful insights are only found below the surface.

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 2)

“Without seeing the context – a broad and sweeping view of the issue we are discussing or trying to resolve and factors in the environment that affect it – we are just describing or trying to solve a SUBSET of the real issue.”

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 3)

“Complexity has become a way of life. To make ethical decisions, we must embrace it and incorporate it into our thinking processes. That means digging into issues until we understand their multiple dimensions, connections, and contradictions.”

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 4)

Treating everyone well means going beyond the superficial level, and beyond token gestures of concern, to offer the same high level of care and concern that we extend to our trusted groups.”

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 5)

“By embracing change, and “trimming our sails” to make incremental adjustments, we can stay in ethical waters as the tides and currents change.” 

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 6)

“Once you do the work to understand the context, you’re never done. Change is continuous. The ripple effect created by economic and social change in one time zone rapidly impacts life in another.”

This timely series includes the practical steps for upgrading ethical decision-making in your board rooms and training rooms this year. 

 

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Top 10 Posts 2019: Leading in Context Blog

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Of the 52 individual posts published on the Leading in Context Blog in 2019, these 10 were the most popular. See if you notice a theme that connects these new topics that readers accessed most frequently:

#1 Unethical Leadership: Selective Respect

#2 16 Answers to What is Good Leadership?

#3 Systems Thinking: Using the 5 Whys

#4 Respect, Interpreted Part 3

#5 Shallow Thinking

#6 Mindset or Competency: Which is More Important?

#7 Thinking Beyond Polarities To Both/And Thinking

#8 How Is Critical Thinking Different From Ethical Thinking?

#9 The Messages Micromanagement Sends

#10 Unethical Thinking Leads To Unethical Leadership

If I had to pick a theme for these posts that were most popular in 2019, it would be The Mindset You Need To Avoid Unethical Leadership

Which post was your favorite? If you have ethical leadership topics you want to learn more about, comment on this post, or tweet your idea to @leadingincontxt!

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A Message About Gifts

By Linda Fisher Thornton

It has been a challenging year. This week I reflect on the progress being made (that may not show up in the news headlines) and how we can use our gifts in pursuit of good.

“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” 

— Eleanor Roosevelt

This year I noticed people being more empowered to call out and stop unethical practices. I believe that it is up to each of us to use our gifts and talents to effect the kind of change we want to see in the world. 

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

—- Anne Frank

I noticed organizations stretching to meet rising expectations for transparency and social impact. We have made progress.

Always remember that our human progress is not defined by the scandals in the news headlines. They are the “what not to do” and a distraction from our more important work. 

“Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good.”

— Vaclay Havel

Always remember that you have gifts and capabilities that you have not yet tapped into that are waiting to be opened and used to build a better world. It’s time to open them.

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

― Nelson Mandela

I wish you a wonderful, joyful and hopeful holiday season.

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Ethical Thinking: 3 Questions to Ask in the New Year

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Each year I raise questions that help leaders stay current as ethical expectations change. Here are 3 new questions to ponder as we head into a New Year. They are important questions about our ethical intentions, action and impact that will help guide our ethical choices in the coming year.

  1. How closely do our strategic plans for the coming year align with our stated values and the ethical treatment of others? When our strategic plans don’t align with our values or aren’t ethical in some way, it raises a big red flag for constituents.
  2. How will we demonstrate to our constituents that our intentions and actions are responsible? Consumers want us to show them how we are ensuring responsible leadership, instead of telling them and expecting them to believe us.
  3. How could we have a more powerful positive impact on people, communities and the environment in the new year? Constituents expect us to have a positive social and environmental impact and we need to continue to stretch to meet increasing expectations.

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

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Why It’s Time to Stop Saying We’re “Better Than” Other People

By Linda Fisher Thornton

It’s time to stop telling leaders they will only succeed if they are “better than” the competition. It’s time for business schools to stop telling students that they are “better than” their peers in the class or “better than” students in other programs. It’s time for teachers and religious leaders to stop telling people they can be “better than” everyone else.

Why is the “better than” message so harmful? It focuses on status and power instead of relationships, trust and collaboration, which represent the real currency for success. It sends the message that we have to “beat out” others to succeed, leading people to use either-or-thinking, not higher level systems thinking which is needed for success in a systems world.

The old message “Look to your left, look to your right. One of those people won’t be here by the end of the year” advocates beating people down and throwing them away when they don’t perform, instead of lifting them up and helping them succeed.

Competent leaders and educators aren’t using or teaching this kind of “better than” language because it’s an unethical message. It leads to unwanted behaviors, undue interpersonal tension and unethical competition.

As we move toward an inclusive society that works for all, the message that anyone is “better than” others undermines our progress and perpetuates old paradigms that can be harmful. The only way we should be using “better than” is in terms of our behavior and performance, not in comparing ourselves to other people. Are we better than we were yesterday and the day before? That’s how we will reach the elusive win.

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5 Reasons Why We Want Learning and Not “Right Answers”

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Often when we test, our purpose is to assess progress toward learning objectives.  But there’s an inherent problem with over-testing or focusing too much on test scores. Testing can de-motivate learners. If our purpose is to improve learning, then we need to pay close attention to how testing impacts the motivation to learn. 

What Is Our Focus When We Test? 

Perfection?

When we test, we are comparing the performance of a person to a fixed standard. So the focus is on perfection. Since perfection is subjective, we are judging how close each person comes to a subjective measure of where they “should” be. Judging can demotivate learners, since it takes individual learning and meaning out of the equation and compares everyone to a subjective standard. When we test, feedback comes in the forms of marks indicating “wrong answers.”

Progress?

When we measure progress, improvement, skill development and learning (without focusing on test scores), the focus is on learning. Since learning is meaningful individually, the feedback can motivate the learner to continue learning.

“The desire to learn, to pursue the truth at all costs, cannot be taught. It can only be awakened by example, shown as a living reality. The greatest task of a teacher is to demonstrate, by her or his own example, the desirability and attraction, the unparalleled invigoration and joy, of being a lifetime learner and pursuer of truth.”

Vance G. Morgan, PH.D., Professor of Philosophy, Providence College,  in The Right Question, Providence College Magazine, Spring 2013

Which do we want – perfection or learning? Here are 5 reasons why I think we want learning and not “right answers:”

5 Reasons Why We Want Learning and Not “Right Answers”

  1. The stress from worrying about how someone will perform on a test can cause stress and interferes with learning. 
  2. “Perfection” is difficult to define – We could get a different answer from each person we asked. How will we be sure that the questions and answers represent current and relevant thinking across disciplines?
  3. There will always be a need for us to learn and adapt to new research and insights. The subjective measure of “perfection” on tests will need to change constantly to keep up – who revises their tests twice a month?
  4.  Testing can demotivate learners by counting “wrong” their higher level thinking that doesn’t fit into the “right choices.”
  5. We need to provide support and encouragement more than we judge and correct so that learning is enjoyable.

Is Testing “The Right Answer?”

Testing is a form of judgment, where we compare someone’s answers to the answers someone else came up with that were determined to be the “right” answers. This means that we may have to count the answer wrong if someone gives a more complex answer than the one we are looking for, or a more creative one, or a more current one incorporating newer research!

According to Harvard School of Education Professor Daniel Horetz, “there are limits to the meaning we can derive from test scores…The problem, in Koretz’s view, is that we tend to overestimate what tests can do. Tests are not designed to summarize all that students and schools can do.”

Because schools are evaluated based on test scores, there is a tendency to focus the test questions on the minimum level of knowledge required, rather than on a high standard of accomplishment.

Sandra Stotsky, Professor of Educational Reform at the University of Arkansas says that “Test driven, or force-fed, learning can not enrich and promote the traits necessary for life success.”

The Need For Positive Feedback 

Before you test, think about your purpose. Is it to judge someone against one interpretation of the “right” answer, or to determine whether someone has mastered complex content that includes many variables?  To support good judgment and decision making, we need to focus more time on good judgment and decision making and less time on narrowing things down to one right answer. Our ultimate goal is to ignite the love for learning, and to encourage learners to continue to stretch and grow. That will require lots of support and positive feedback (and minimal testing).

Also see: Testing, Teaching, Learning PBS.org

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The End of Ethical Compartmentalization

By Linda Fisher Thornton

That Was Then

What people did in their spare time used to be private, allowing them to assume varying personas in their different roles. Someone could be buttoned up and ethical at work, but make really bad decisions elsewhere. People could choose to think about their lives as made up of separate roles that had separate rules.

This is Now

With the extreme transparency social media provides, multiple personas are discoverable. Incongruent ones are easily identified. Any perceived protection from compartmentalization is erased.

“Moral responsibility requires us to move away from a role-based life game which leads us to compartmentalize and forget who we are and what we value at a significant cost.”

— Cecile, Rozuel, University of Lancaster in Business Ethics

Ethical compartmentalization is not good leadership. Leaders are expected to be authentic, not just “play a role.” And ethics is not something we can “apply only when needed.”

Authenticity and Ethical Values

Authenticity requires that we make ethical choices all the time, not just in certain settings. Our ethical values need to be applied consistently across settings. Otherwise we are only “partly ethical” or “intermittently ethical.”

“Authentic leaders are ethical leaders. They’ve identified their ethical codes, and they never compromise on what they believe to be right and wrong.”               

  Authentic Leadership, Mindtools.com

With the end of any perceived benefits from compartmentalization, our various roles are simply additional places to apply our positive ethical values. Authentic leadership is consistent across responsibilities, roles and settings, and that includes how we apply our ethical values. It’s time to do the work.

“We need to focus on how we can enable leaders to become more authentic, and give them the tools to do so. In this way authentic leaders will be able to create better lives for everyone they serve.”

Bill George, Senior Fellow, Harvard Business School

We need to help leaders learn how to put ethical values into practice in every setting, every time.

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How Are You Using Your Influence?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

With leadership responsibility comes a certain amount of influence. We can impact how people think. We can advise them on the choices they make and invite them to follow our lead.

“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.”                                                                              ― John C. Maxwell

 

How are you using your influence?

The best leaders use their influence for more than just achieving their own goals and the goals of their organizations. They use their influence to develop others and nudge them to grow into their own greatness. This not only helps the leaders who are supported and developed, but also all those people they will lead in the future. In this way. great leaders create a ripple of positive influence that extends beyond the tenure of their own leadership. 

Ethical influencers leave a positive legacy that outlasts their leadership.  

With leadership influence comes a certain amount of responsibility. We can impact how people take responsibility for their actions. We can advise them to make ethical choices and we can set the example as an ethical leader. 

How are you using your responsibility?

The best leaders take responsibility for their actions and encourage open dialogue about how to make ethical choices. They are not afraid to make mistakes and they admit them and learn from them. They help others understand that ethical business is not just “the right thing to do,” it helps define the organization’s ethical brand value and helps provide a competitive advantage.

Are you an ethical influencer in your daily leadership?

We can use our influence to develop future leaders (who will then go on to influence many others). Along we way we need to help them learn how to make ethical choices. That is the straightest path to leaving a positive leadership legacy in a world where identifying “the right thing to do” is challenging and complex. 

Are you an ethical influencer in your daily leadership? How will you use your influence to leave a positive legacy?

 

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What is Duality?

polarization-1201698_1920

By Linda Fisher Thornton

What is Duality?

What is duality? This is a tricky question, because the answer depends on your perspective and why you’re asking. Each discipline answers the question from a different angle. This post samples the varying disciplinary perspectives on duality.

Two Parts in Perpetual Opposition 

“Dualism (from the Latin word duo meaning “two”) denotes a state of two parts… Dualism can refer to moral dualism, (e.g. the conflict between good and evil), mind-body or mind-matter dualism (e.g. Cartesian Dualism) or physical dualism (e.g. the Chinese Yin and Yang).”

http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/duality?region=us dual nature

Duality in Human Nature   

“Stevenson describes how there is a good and an evil side to everyone’s personality, but what is important is how you behave and the decisions you make. The choices people make determine whether a person is good or not.”

Themes, Duality of Human Nature, BBC (On Stephenson, the Author of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde)

Duality in Language

“I take the term ‘duality’ to stand for an opposition or dichotomy between, or of, two entities.Some examples of dualities are: Day and Night, Left and Right (i.e., polarities of direction,and chirality, ‘handedness’), Positive and Negative (e.g., electromagnetic poles, values), Lifeand Death, Male and Female, Up and Down (i.e., polarities of spatial dimensions), True andFalse, Right and Wrong, etc.”

Begley, The Concept of Duality and its Representation in Language as Antonymy

Duality in Neuroscience and Cognition

“The idea that we have ‘two minds’, only one of which corresponds to personal, volitional cognition, has also wide implications beyond cognitive science.”

Frankish, The Duality of Mind

Duality in Leadership

In terms of ethical leadership, duality can refer to good and evil. But good and evil are not mutually exclusive. Someone is not “all good” or “all evil.”  We each have the capacity for both. So in ethical leadership, duality is an oversimplification. 

At the highest levels of leadership, thinking is more complex and duality is transcended.

Level 5 leaders are a study in duality: modest and willful, humble and fearless.” 

Jim Collins, Good to Great

We must stretch to see the complexity of ethical leadership, looking beyond the “all or nothing” “one or the other” thinking that duality represents. 

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WRIR “Inspire Indeed” Interview

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Christa Motley, host of Inspire Indeed at WRIR radio, invited me to the station to talk about the journey to writing my book 7 Lenses and how it is helping people who want to understand ethical issues. In the interview I give an overview of the 7 Lenses framework and how it is designed to be practical, clear and immediately used, not put on the shelf.

Using an example from the news, I show how the book’s 7-Lens model reveals the ethical impact of our decisions and actions. Christa asks if this journey has presented some challenges along the way… Listen in to the interview conversation by clicking the photo or the link below.

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WRIR’s Inspire Indeed is streamed through iHeart Radio. Special thanks to Christa Motley and all the volunteers at WRIR for having me on the show.

Listen to the Interview: https://inspireindeed.me/2019/10/15/ethical-leadership-with-linda-fisher-thornton/

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Rights, Responsibilities and Freedom

question-1422600_1920By Linda Fisher Thornton

While some people think of rights, responsibilities and freedom separately, in a compartmentalized way, I believe they cannot be separated. According to John Courtney Murray, freedom was always intended to be grounded in ethical values.

“Freedom was not conceived in terms of the sheer subjective autonomy of the will. Man’s freedom, like man himself, stood within the moral universe. It meant the objective right to act; it meant what Acton defined as “the right to do what one ought.”

John Courtney Murray, S.J., Freedom, Responsibility, and the Law, Woodstock Theological Library, Georgetown University

All Three Concepts Are Morally Defined

Here is an excerpt from a previous post I wrote that addresses the relationship between rights and responsibilities: 

“Can rights and responsibilities be separated? Clearly they are both part of good citizenship and ethical leadership. But what happens if we try to separate them? If we demand our rights but fail to live up to our responsibilities, we will have a negative impact on others. 

If we assert individual rights without also taking responsibility, we are asking for more than we are willing to give. We are conveying that what we want is more important than what others want. We are demanding that our needs be met without caring about what happens to others.

Under those circumstances the answer to “Can rights and responsibilities be separated?” is ‘Yes, but not ethically.'”

Linda Fisher Thornton, Leaders: Can Rights and Responsibilities Be Separated?,  Leading in Context Blog

All three concepts – rights, responsibilities and freedom, fall within what John Courtney Murray called “the moral universe.” To be whole, then, arguments advocating rights and freedoms must include a willingness to take responsibility. As ethical leaders, we need to talk about them as a “package deal” to ensure that we are always taking responsibility for our actions. 

 

 

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