19 Leadership Trend Reports for 2019

board-1647323_1920By Linda Fisher Thornton 

One of the challenges of responsible leadership is staying on top of fast-moving trends. This week, I’m making that process a little easier for you by sharing 19 interesting leadership trend reports. Get ready to read about leadership trends including disruption, adaptation and reinvention. You may scan the list and read a few or read them all. Why will leaders need to reinvent themselves to succeed? Find out in the trend reports below. 

19 Leadership Trend Reports for 2019

  1. 10 Hot Leadership Topics in 2019, Stephanie Neal, DDI
  2. Six Key Trends Successful Leaders Must Address in 2019, Christine Comaford, Forbes
  3. The 5 Biggest Leadership Trends to Watch in 2019, John Eades, Inc.
  4. Leadership in Disruption: Are You Ready? Mercer
  5. Technology and Leadership Trends to Watch in 2019, Pluralsight
  6. Leadership for the 21st century: The intersection of the traditional and the new
    2019 Global Human Capital Trends, Deloitte
  7. Top 10 Trends For 2019, Strategy Execution
  8. Trends in Leadership and Strategic Management 2019, Talent Edge
  9. Trends and Global Forces, McKinsey
  10. 2020 Vision: Future Trends in Leadership and Management The Institute of Leadership and Management
  11. The Business Roundtable Manifesto: What Should CEOs Do?, Josh Bersin
  12. 4 Trends to Watch For the Rest of This Year, Korn Ferry
  13. Inclusion A Hallmark of Modern Leadership, Wall Street Journal
  14. How Digital Leadership Is(n’t) Different, MIT Sloan Management Review
  15. How Leaders Are Navigating the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Deloitte
  16. New Leadership: Cities, regions and business continue to ramp up leadership as trust in national governments flounders, SustainAbility
  17. The Future of Leadership: Anticipating 2030 Grant Thornton
  18. The Future of Leadership Collective Leadership Institute
  19. Introducing: A New Breed to Future-Ready Leaders Korn Ferry

Wondering how you will get ready for the rapidly-changing future of leadership? To learn more, check out this video: 4 Connected Trends Shaping the Future of Leadership.

 

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

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

This series has explored 5 important spheres of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making. 

This week I’m summing it up in a checklist that will help you apply all 5 to your daily choices. When you are making a key decision, run it through the checklist to be sure you have considered all 5 important dimensions. 

Ethical Thinking and Decision Making Series

Leader Self-Check

 

Part 1: Deep Thinking

“When we dig into issues and explore their depths, we gain insights that we would otherwise miss. Complex issues just can’t be deconstructed and understood using shallow thinking. The meaningful insights are only found below the surface.”

Have I Used Deep Thinking?

___  I have looked beyond the surface level of the issue to learn about the connected variables that impact it.

___  I have asked for input from all constituent groups and listened carefully to what they see and believe.

___ I have carefully weighed conflicting information and evaluated the goals and needs of all stakeholders.

___ I have applied ethical values to make a responsible choice.

Part 2: Context

“Ignoring the context and making a quick decision often leads to costly and time-consuming fixes later… Taking the time to understand the context, we more easily make decisions that fall within the ethical zone.” 

Have I Carefully Considered the Context?

___ This choice is being made after looking beyond my usual sources of information and my trusted contacts to be sure that I see the whole picture from multiple perspectives.

___ This choice reflects careful consideration of information from a diverse collection of credible sources.

___ This choice “works” ethically in the particular setting.

___ This choice shows a willingness to adapt to a changing world and increasing ethical expectations.

Part 3: Complexity

“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.”

Have I Sought to Understand the Complexity of the Issue?

___  I have looked for, noticed, and talked about the complexity of this issue.

___ I understand the multiple dimensions, connections, and contradictions involved and I am avoiding rushing to a quick decision.

___ I have worked to find clear, appropriate and compelling ways to communicate about this issue so that others can understand its complexity. 

___ I am taking informed action after understanding the complexity of the issue and I am approaching this issue in responsible ways. 

Part 4: Inclusion

“Full inclusion requires that we extend our respect, our care and our concern to all people… Applying full inclusion, we see that everyone is within our purvue, everyone demands our consideration, and everyone deserves to be treated well.”

Have I Treated Everyone With a High Degree of Respect and Care?

___ This choice shows that I understand that diversity is an asset and inclusion is a leadership responsibility.

___  I have honored the needs and perspectives of all constituents. 

___ I have used language that builds trust and not language that divides or inflames.

___ I have gone beyond token gestures of respect and care to demonstrate sincere concern for others outside of my trusted group.

Part 5: Change

“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.”

Have I Watched Closely For Patterns of Change and Adapted to Them?

___ I am acknowledging change and treating it as dynamic and constant.

___ I have watched for and noticed subtle and overt patterns and trends that impact this issue.

___ This choice shows that I want to build a positive, inclusive society for the future.

___ By making this choice, I am demonstrating that I lead in ways that are in step with the ethical expectations of leaders in a global society.

 

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Want Top Talent? Pass the Reverse Interview

By Linda Fisher Thornton

HR Executives are telling me that job applicants are “interviewing their interviewers” to find out about their organizations’ ethics. It makes sense. Applicants want potential employers to treat them well and to demonstrate a positive track record in areas that matter to them. In this trend toward “reverse interviewing,” applicants are asking about people practices, community involvement and sustainability practices. 

“Today’s workforce is on the lookout for mission-driven employers. People want more than just a paycheck from the organization they work for, they want to have a sense of purpose in their job.”

— Neelie Verlinden, 11 Hottest Recruiting Trends For 2019, Harver.com,

How people are treated has become a key factor in whether or not candidates will accept a job. Top talent is looking for much more than being treated with a baseline of respect. Employers are in the position of being carefully evaluated for their management practices and culture. As Kristina Martic points out in 15 New Recruiting Trends You Should Implement in 2019 [UPDATED] at talentlyft.com, “the current job market is 90% candidate driven. That means you don’t pick talent anymore. Talent picks you.”

“Workers expect more from employers—more transparency, accountability and trust, said Mark Lobosco, vice president of talent solutions for LinkedIn.”

 Roy Maurer, 3 Trends That Will Shape Recruiting in 2019, SHRM.org

It takes more than a pleasant and knowledgeable interviewer to impress job candidates. Every step of the process matters, and must meet the high standards of the talented candidate (who could go anywhere). Your company has to provide a measurably better experience. And that measurably better experience needs to be based on values that matter to the job candidate. The entire company’s reputation will be a major factor in the decision.

“Take care of your reputation. Marketing the brand is not enough. Job seekers are cruising anonymous employer review sites to see what life is like inside the company.”

— SHRM, Recruiting is Tougher in 2019

LRN reports via globenewswire.com that “the vast majority of U.S. employees – 87% – say business today urgently needs moral leadership.” Chances are that your culture will be closely examined by that ideal candidate you really want to hire for the job. The one with the skills you need to reach your organization’s goals.  Ask yourself, “When we are interviewed by our ideal job candidate, will we pass the test?”

Resources: 

5 Reasons Ethical Culture Doesn’t Just Happen

Full Accountability For Ethics: The New Normal

40 Ways to Build an Ethical Culture

7 Questions For Ethical Culture Building

How to Build an Ethical Culture

Let’s Talk About Trust

50 Ways To Lead For Trust

TAP Into Trust With These 12 Principles

 

 

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Global Ethics: TMP Challenge 15

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I participate in a global think tank called The Milennium Project (TMP). As an invited reviewer, my focus is on Global Challenge 15: Global Ethics. Participants submit their observations on trends, help define the biggest problems and areas of opportunity and submit input on how to improve the course of Global Ethics.

The Milennium Project has produced a short video summarizing the global conversations on each topic. It details the global input on the most prevalent concerns and opportunities related to global ethics. Realizing that you cannot accurately portray every global ethics issue in a two minute video, it gives an overview of trends that global leaders should be aware of as they work to support our progress toward improving global ethics.

 

To learn more about The Milennium Project and explore its resources, watch this short video and visit TheMP.org.

For more on Challenge 15: Global Ethics, visit the TMP Challenge Page.

To watch videos on the other 14 Global Challenges, visit: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_VYU-OmDxOzlYJRUAJBVQg

You may also be interested the magazine Human Futures, which you can read on the World Future Studies Federation Website. 

 

 

 

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Ethical Thinking For Challenging Times

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Albert Einstein said “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Yet many leaders try to unravel increasingly complex issues using the same thinking process they have always used. 

New Ethical Thinking Course

I am delighted to announce that I am partnering with the University of Richmond Robins School of Business to offer a new Executive Education course “Ethical Thinking Through the 7 Lenses.”

 

University of Richmond Robins School of Business, Executive Education 

Ethical Thinking Through the 7 Lenses: This course will develop your ethical thinking skills in 7 important dimensions, help you understand local and global issues in a broader context, and equip you to make ethical decisions with increased confidence.

May 22, 2019 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 pm

Register For the Course

 

Why We Need Ethical Thinking

To celebrate the new course, I wrote an article for the University of Richmond Robins School of Business Executive Education publication EXCEED! that includes recent research about Why We Need Ethical Thinking. 

Read the article

 

It’s time to update our thinking the same way we routinely update our computer’s software. We know that updating our software is necessary for efficiency, effectiveness and risk reduction. It’s time to admit that updating our thinking is even more important for the same reasons.

 

 

 

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Mindset or Competency: Which is More Important?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This post will explore the interesting relationship between leadership mindset and competency. Which is most important? What happens to our leadership capability when our mindset is out of date? 

How we think about something impacts what we do about it. Nick Petrie, Center For Creative Leadership, writes in Vertical Leadership Development Part I that “In terms of leadership, the stage from which you are thinking and acting matters a lot. To be effective, the leader’s thinking must be equal or superior to the complexity of the environment.” 

An “Un-Fixed” Mindset

Keeping an open mind and adapting when new information is available is important for our leadership success. Capability, or what we can do, is still important, but it won’t get us far if we’re using an outdated mindset. Our mindset needs to be upgraded regularly as the context changes or we risk missing important parts of the picture.

“Cognitive scientists are finding that people’s mental maps, their theories, expectations, and attitudes, play a more central role in human perception than was previously understood.”

David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz, The Neuroscience of Leadership, strategy + business

Seeing From Multiple Perspectives

In Coaching Vertically, Jan Rybeck MCC writes that one of the significant elements important for vertical development is taking on the challenge of multiple perspectives. Besides helping us deal with complexity in general, being able to understand multiple perspectives helps us meet the needs of multiple stakeholders. It guides us to better decisions when we face difficult choices. It helps us navigate tricky issues that have many angles and helps us talk about them without rushing to take a side.

“The future of leadership is mindsets, not competencies.”

Charles Palus, Senior Fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership, Vertical Leadership Development For a Complex World

We need to carefully look at mindset, world view and assumptions before we move great individual performers into leadership positions. Sherryl Demitry, PhD writes in Training Industry that “it is common for people to be promoted into higher levels before achieving the vertical proficiency to be effective and successful at that level” (Disrupting Best Practices in L&D: Differentiating Horizontal & Vertical Development). Think about a time you observed a new leader using the mindset of a professional and making rookie leadership mistakes.

Mindset Problems Can Lead to Leadership Failure

When we broaden our mindset to adapt to change, we open up new terrain for learning and leadership. Gaining new competencies without the necessary mindset changes will be ineffective at best, and may even be harmful.  Think about a leader using an outdated mindset about human rights and treating certain groups of people negatively. That leader may “delegate effectively” in terms of how assignments are communicated and tracked, but may deny certain types of people access to opportunities to grow. This failure in leadership is due to a mindset problem that can quickly turn a “competency” like delegation into unfair practice.

I would have to say that leadership mindset is more important than competency. If you lack certain competencies or have the wrong competencies for the job, you can learn. If you have a “fixed” and outdated mindset, however, you will resist learning and potentially do more harm than good. 

 

 

 

 

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Your Culture is Not A Secret (So Protect Your Ethics)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

One of my favorite concepts for understanding how social media is changing the visibility of organizational culture is Trendwatching.com’s report Glass Box Brands. As Trendwatching.com eloquently explains, “In an age of radical transparency, your internal culture is your brand.” The key point I take away from this important report is that we can no longer assume that our culture is private. In fact, it’s completely public and it defines our brand. Any barriers that used to protect our culture from the public eye have vanished.

With nothing standing between our culture and the public eye, if we want to protect our brand value, we need to carefully tend our culture. Since we know that our culture is no longer a secret, what does that mean in terms of ethical culture building? That means our ethical choices define our ethical brand value. If we don’t carefully tend our ethical culture, we could develop a bad ethical reputation.

Today I’m sharing some of my favorite posts about how to build and protect an ethical culture:

5 Reasons Ethical Culture Doesn’t Just Happen

Every Decision Changes the Ethical Culture Equation

Leaders Are Culture Caretakers: 10 Actions For Success

5 Signs Your Culture is Failing

40 Ethical Culture Gaps to Avoid

40 Ways to Build an Ethical Culture (An Ethical To Do List)

7 Questions For Ethical Culture Building

13 (Culture-Numbing) Side Effects of Toxic Leadership

How to Build an Ethical Culture

We’re going to need a plan. We need to respond with urgency to this new inside-out culture transparency that brings our ethical choices into clear view. 

 

 

 

 

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500th Post: Index to 500 Articles on Authentic Ethical Leadership

 

By Linda Fisher Thornton

There are many ways to define “ethical leadership” but there is increasing global interest in learning “ethical leadership” in a holistic and authentic way. This authentic ethical leadership takes us beyond laws and regulations, beyond respect for others and beyond traditional definitions of a business “win.” It generates a positive leadership legacy and a better shared future. If this sounds like the kind of leadership you want to learn, you’ve come to the right place.

The Leading in Context Blog now includes 500 articles on high-level, holistic and global ethical leadership. This blog started off as a way to organize and share emerging research in my leadership classes.  Ten years later it has become a “go-to” site for organizational leaders across industries, university professors and seekers looking for a better way to lead. 

To celebrate having published 500 Posts over 10 years, I’ve shared a short video on one of my favorite reader questions – “What were you thinking including Profit (which has no moral grounding) in a model of ethical leadership? 

To help you on your ethical leadership learning journey, this Milestone post also includes a Leading in Context Blog Index.  What will you find? Every post published on the Leading in Context Blog since 2009, in date order with the newest posts first. If there is something you want to learn about ethical leadership, it is probably here. If it isn’t, post a comment to let me know what YOU want to learn more about. 

Do you want to understand how all of the ethical leadership concepts in these posts fit together? I distilled several years of intensive research into 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership, a clear guide to “seeing” ethical issues in seven important dimensions that apply across industries and geographic boundaries. Looking through all 7 Lenses you have a clear line of sight to making ethical choices and leading authentically for the long term. 

Enjoy the lifelong learning journey to ethical leadership… 

The Leading in Context Blog Index

 

 

 

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Top Post Series of 2018: Leading in Context Blog

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The Top Post Series this year reflects a concern I have that many other people must share. It is a concern about what can happen when we don’t use ethical thinking.

This series answers the important question “Why should we take the time to think intentionally about the ethics of our decisions and actions?” Today I’ll share a quote from each post in the series that will give you a quick overview of the topic.

Here’s the most popular Leading in Context Blog series of 2018 – Why Ethical Thinking Matters. 

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1)

“If we just teach people skills, without upgrading their thinking, we are not preparing them for success in the real world.”

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)

“You can’t solve a complex multidimensional puzzle a few pieces at a time.”

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

“In a world of ethical complexity, leaders need to learn CLEAR and COHERENT ethical thinking.”

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

“Leaders are ethical brand value ambassadors.”

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 5)

“Ethical thinking doesn’t just HAPPEN in a rapidly changing global environment.”

This timely series includes compelling reasons for making ethical thinking a priority in your board rooms and training rooms this year. 

 

 

 

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Human Rights: 70 Years

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I had the privilege of hearing best-selling author Blanche Wiesen Cook speak at The University of Richmond last night. Her topic was “Toward an Inclusive Democracy: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Legacy.”  Cook has spent many years researching and writing about Eleanor Roosevelt’s life and journey. During the inspiring talk, Cook noted that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Eleanor Roosevelt championed, is turning 70 this month.

Now is the perfect time to learn about Eleanor Roosevelt’s human rights journey and the Universal Declaration she championed. It is timely for us to reflect now on how far we have left to go on the journey toward honoring the rights and dignity of every human who resides in our global village. 

Cook shared Eleanor Roosevelt’s sage advice to “BE BOLD” and “Talk to one another when we disagree.” That advice will  serve us well as we work to overcome differences and uphold ethical values. Why is this 70 year human rights journey so important now? The baton has been passed to us, and we must run the next lap. 

Top 100 Leadership Blog

 

 

 

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©2018 Leading in Context LLC

 

MindTools Expert Interview Podcast With Linda Fisher Thornton

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Happy #GlobalEthicsDay2018! I recently did an interview with Rachel Salaman for the MindTools Expert Interview Podcast.  We had a lively conversation about ethical leadership and how to leverage the concepts from my book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership

Click on the graphic below to read the MindTools blog post by Rachel Salaman and listen to an excerpt from the podcast. In the excerpt, I walk you through a typical business problem using the 7 Lenses of Ethical Responsibility to show the power of this 7-dimensional model for revealing ethical issues and nuances. 

 

 

 

 

Now it’s your turn. Apply the 7 Lenses to one of your daily challenges to see if it’s a game changer for you. Use this overview of the model to guide you. Feel free to share what you learned. Follow @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses  to make ethical insights part of your daily learning journey. 

It’s Global Ethics Day and we can create better workplaces and a better future. Let’s get started. 

 

 

 

 

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70 Trends to Watch in 2019

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Each year I curate a list of sites that write about trends that will change how we do business in the coming year. This year’s list includes some ongoing trends from last year and some fresh ideas and new directions. Take a look at the 70+ trends at the links below and start getting ready for what’s ahead!

The Future of Retail, Trendwatching.com

4 Mega-Trends That Could Change the World By 2030, World Economic Forum

2019 Strategic Trends Glossary, Educause

Food Industry Forecast: Key Trends Through 2020, Emerson

John Hall, 5 Marketing Trends to Pay Attention to in 2019, Forbes

Diana Smith, These Tech Trends Will Dominate in 2019, Leader-Values.com

Business Trends That Will Reshape Your World in 2019, fastincnow

7 Digital Marketing Trends That Will Own 2019, SocialReport

Lisa White, The Vision 2019: The most influential macro trends for next year, WGSN

The State of Play, Trendwatching.com

Keep an eye on these trends in the coming months and take time to discuss what they could mean for your business. With change accelerating, having a plan for adaptation will be key. 


To learn how to adapt your leadership to increasing global expectations, read 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Future of Education: Ethical Literacy For Handling Global Complexity

By Linda Fisher Thornton

We are not preparing students for success in the world where they will have to live and work. Some of the ways we currently think about “teaching” need to be scrapped and replaced.

It will be increasingly important that teachers and other learning guides dig into complexity in order to help prepare students who need to handle increasing complexity in their lives and work. A focus on ‘knowing’ must be replaced with a focus on ‘how to think, problem solve and successfully navigate global complexity using ethical values’.

The risk in not quickly making the change to a much more current and engaging way of preparing learners is that every outdated textbook used by schools to save money will contain at best inaccurate information and at worst morally offensive content. Every smart phone will have access to more current and relevant information than is being taught in the classroom. 

Understanding The Challenge, Visualizing the Future

Students need to be able to think successfully at high levels of complexity in order to be effective workers, leaders and problem-solvers. Memorization of facts will definitely not help them be ready. In the old way of thinking, the more people are “taught,” the more they “know.” This thinking does not work because it ignores the important variables of motivation, relevance, learner engagement and the need to improve thinking capability. It ignores the importance of basing choices on ethical values, and focuses only on historical context. 

Learning has become highly self-directed and traditional approaches to teaching (“telling,” “sharing knowledge” and “testing knowledge”) do not support learner success in a complex global context. 

For example, does knowing the complete history of politics prepare learners to handle the current divisive political arena? No, but learning how to think about and act on ethical values will. Does knowing how to write catchy headlines that sell prepare learners for rapidly increasing expectations about appropriate social media posts? No, but learning how to think about and act on ethical values will. 

“Learning Future” Includes

  • A higher level of complexity in thinking (exploring shades of grey, not “right” and “wrong” answers with an answer key)
  • Technology-enabled, just-in-time, user-friendly learning
  • More individualized feedback based on skills needed for future job success 
  • More practicing and evaluating individual and group problem-solving
  • Less memorizing and testing facts (which are easily accessed)
  • More practice time spent learning how to think and act responsibly in the world
  • More awareness of how we fit into the global community
  • More engaging, self-directed work and less homework

A New Role for Leaders in Education

Today’s students are tomorrow’s professionals and leaders. Employers are not easily impressed by book knowledge – they want to know what you can do, for them, in their context, accurately, at high speed, while avoiding ethical mistakes. Adapting to this high employer expectation will turn our current public education practices upside down. 

Ethical literacy is more important than memorization and good test scores. It will define the success of tomorrow’s leaders. We need to make it our top education priority. To respond rapidly to changes in the skills and abilities they will need for tomorrow’s jobs, school administrators will need to adapt quickly to new leadership and learning research and engage everyone in making the change. Only then will we prepare students for success in an exciting, forward-thinking and competitive global arena.  

Masters of Complexity: Leading Effectively in Public Education will help leaders visualize challenges and opportunities for change and decide where to start. 

Top 100 Leadership Blog

 

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50 Trends to Follow in 2018

By Linda Fisher Thornton

What trends will impact your business this year? Get settled in with your favorite morning brew and review these 50+ trends impacting business and leadership decisions in 2018. Adapting to these broad changes will require constant shifts in leadership direction and focus, while staying grounded in positive ethical values.

50 Trends To Follow in 2018:

Digital Trends and Observations From Davos 2018, McKinsey and Company  (5)

Tech Trends 2018, Deloitte

5 Key Sustainability Trends For 2018, Britta Wyss Bisang, Ethical Corporation

Thinking inside the subscription box: New research on e-commerce consumers
Tony Chen, Ken Fenyo, Sylvia Yang, and Jessica Zhang, McKinsey

10 Workplace Trends You’ll See in 2018, Dan Schawbel, Forbes

14 Leadership Trends That Will Shape Organizations In 2018, Forbes

5 Trends for 2019,Trendwatching.com

Top 10 Global Trends For 2018, Euromonitor International

Upcoming Megatrends 2018 Report: When Trends Converge, Doug Warner, HP

9 Technology Mega Trends That Will Change The World In 2018, Bernard Marr, Forbes

6 Retail Trends For 2018, Gabrielle Mitchell, ANZ bluenotes

Top 5 IoT trends transforming business in 2018, Chris O’Connor, IBM

Help your leadership team be ready for what’s ahead. Keep an eye on these trends and discuss what they mean for your business.


To learn how to adapt your leadership to increasing global expectations, read 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership.

Top 100 Leadership Blog

Special 5 Post Series Celebrating the Second Printing of 7 Lenses

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 5)

Leaders: Can You Control Ethics?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The question for today is “Can we control ethics?” Leaders have tried to control ethics with compliance-based systems (based on rules and penalties) but that does not tend to inspire people to ethical action. Leaders have tried to control ethics by running a tight ship, closely managing workers, but that does not bring out the best in people and may lead to workers not caring about protecting the company’s reputation. 

How Can We “Control” Ethics?

The catch about ethical performance and action are that they are driven by a performance system, and a system cannot be “controlled” in the literal sense. Systems are complex, and one action does not necessarily generate a particular desired reaction. In other words, the performance context and leadership matter greatly in the results a company will get. 

Thinking Drives Behavior

Another complicating factor in the ethical performance system is that thinking drives behavior. Ethical thinking is a competence that many leaders have not yet mastered, and the gap is evident in the headlines about ethical scandals in the news. We cannot let reflexive thoughts drive our choices or we may only look out for our own interests and ignore a wide array of complex ethical issues. 

Does Control Have Any Place in Ethics?

I do believe that control has an important place in an ethical system. I’m talking about the important role of self-control. Self-control can be thought of as a “moral muscle” that improves with practice, according to Roy F. Baumeister

“Philosophers and psychologists have been discussing the importance of self-control for ages. Plato, for example, argued that the human experience is a constant struggle between our desire and rationality, and that self-control is needed to achieve our ideal form.”  

Kai Chi (Sam) YamHuiwen LianD. Lance FerrisDouglas Brown, Leadership Takes Self-Control. Here’s What We Know About It, Harvard Business Review

When leaders try to “control” others to manage ethics, their efforts are misplaced. Only by controlling themselves and carefully managing the ethical performance system will they be supporting ethical choices and building an ethical organization. 

Ethical leaders model self-control, putting in the effort to make tough ethical choices instead of making easy unexamined decisions.

Ethical leaders control their thoughts, intentionally aligning decisions with ethical values.

Ethical leaders control their actions, taking care that those actions are ethical and appropriate.

Ethical leaders control their tongues, aligning what they say with respect, care and inclusion. 

Leaders who commit to continual learning will see that they must

  • Support continual learning and demonstrate it for others
  • Manage their own ethics carefully and set an example for others
  • Hire ethical people
  • Manage the ethical performance system carefully, aligning expectations, training and support, feedback and rewards with ethical values

These leadership actions help create the conditions for ethical success. It all starts with the leader demonstrating self-control. 

Top 100 Leadership Blog

Special 5 Post Series Celebrating the Second Printing of 7 Lenses

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 5)

 

 

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