Prepare Now For The Future of Leadership

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Leading with positive values and demonstrating care are becoming expected ways of doing business. Leading now is not as much about leaders as it is about bringing out the best in those they lead and serve.

Part 3 of my book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership tells the story of how our understanding of the purpose of leadership is evolving.

Excerpt from 7 Lenses (Chapter 8 – Getting Ready For the Future of Ethical Leadership):

Our understanding of ethical leadership is continually evolving due to changes in the world and to the efforts of champions of responsible business. This evolving understanding incorporates the natural complexity of the challenges of leadership and the broadening scope of the constituents that leaders serve. As we move from thinking about leadership as “transactional” to thinking about leadership for the “greater good,” we increase our understanding of our moral responsibilities to others, our companies, our societies and our world…

Leadership was once considered transactional, without much of a human element in it at all. This one-way mindset was essentially based on “Tell people want you need them to do.” Fortunately, the general thinking about leadership shifted to include a service role, which brought the all-important human element into it. Later, we began to understand leadership as having a positive and transformative effect on individuals, groups and organizations. In this evolution, leadership had moved from being about self to considering self and others.

After incorporating others in our understanding of leadership, we began to add a consideration of society. Through the Corporate Social Responsibility movement, leadership responsibilities are seen to include sustainability and community well-being. We are currently experiencing a powerful leadership movement to support the greater good of society…

These changes in our understanding of the purpose of leadership have happened slowly over time. Understanding them helps us stay ahead of the curve, to be better prepared to lead in ways that meet future expectations.

Thornton, L. F. (2013). 7 Lenses: Learning the principles and practices of ethical leadership. Richmond, Va.: Leading in Context.  (© 2013 Leading in Context, All Rights Reserved)

If we focus on meeting current leadership expectations, we may be caught off guard. Don’t wait. Prepare now for the global-minded, values-driven future of leadership.

Special Event:

On Monday January 19th, 2015, I am the Guest Co-Host for the #LeadWithGiants Tweetchat with @DanVForbes. Our topic is The Future of Leadership

Join us at 7:00 pm Eastern Time on January 19th!

               

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© 2015 Leading in Context LLC

 

What is the Ultimate Goal of Leadership?

Goal of LeadershipBy Linda Fisher Thornton

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.

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 new book, 7 Lenses, I explore 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.

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For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

 

 

Understanding (and Preventing) Ethical Leadership Failures

Ethical Failures

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Understanding What Causes Ethical Leadership Failures

Ethical leadership failures can be caused by different types of problems that may compound. Some of these problems are individual and others may be embedded in the organizational culture.

In 7 Lenses, I describe the kind of proactive ethical leadership that builds ethical cultures. The book is a road map for how to lead ethically in a complex world. While 7 Lenses is written from a positive perspective to help leaders avoid ethical problems and create ethical cultures, I often get asked “What causes ethical failures? What goes wrong?”

So this week I am exploring that question from two perspectives – that of what individual leaders do (or don’t do) and common organizational problems.

Individual and Organizational Causes

Here is a starter list of some of the factors that can lead to ethical failure. The list includes things that individual leaders do (or don’t do), and things that organizations do (or don’t do) to set a positive example and support ethical thinking and behavior.

These factors are connected, and it is often difficult to isolate just one of them when something goes wrong. See if you recognize any of these happening in your organization.

Individual

Ignoring  Boundaries (Ignoring Ethics Codes And Organizational Values That Forbid An Action)

Failing to Use Self-Control (“I Will Do This Even Though It’s Not Allowed”)

Entitlement View (“I Definitely Deserve This Even Though It’s Not Allowed”)

Prominent Personal Values (“I Think This Is Really Fine To Do Even Though It’s Not Allowed”)

Crowd Following (“Everybody Else is Doing It, So It Must Be Fine”)

Lack of Moral Compass (“Nobody Specifically Said That I Can’t Do It, So It Must Be Fine If I Do It”)

Organizational

Lack of Clarity (“What Does Ethical Mean Around Here?”)

No Ethical Leadership and Behavior Standards (“There Are No Rules About This”)

Oversimplified Rules (“Just Do the Right Thing”)

Lack of Positive Role Models (“Who Is Doing It the Right Way?”)

No Training or Coaching (“How Will I Learn It?”)

No Accountability, No Enforcement (“Nothing Bad Happens If I Do It, Even Though It’s Not Allowed”)

No Performance Integration (“We Say We Want Ethics, But We Reward and Promote Based on Sales and Output”)

When Problems Happen, Scapegoats Are Quickly Fired (Instead of Learning From Mistakes and Fixing the Culture)

Compounding Factors

Keep in mind that ethical failures may or may not be due to just one of these factors, but several that compound to create a ripple effect. Here are a few examples where the problem is worsened due to a combination of factors.

  • There are no ethical leadership standards and no positive role models (no way to be sure what to do)
  • A leader has an entitlement view and there is a lack of clarity about what ethical leadership means in the organization (it is easier to justify entitlement, when ethical expectations are unclear).
  • A leader lacks a moral compass and the organization lacks ethical leadership standards (the leader may act based on personal ethics, which may be slanted toward self-gain).
  • A leader has trouble with ethical boundaries and there is no accountability for ethical behavior in the organization (It increases the chances of ethical problems when both the leader and the organization lack clear ethical boundaries).

Problems within the ethical culture clearly make it harder for individual leaders to stay on an ethical path.

Preventing  (or Identifying and Correcting) These Problems in Your Organization

Now imagine what can happen when you have 3 or more of these factors (and perhaps others not named here) happening at the same time. Each additional factor can make it easier for problems to develop. Our goal as leaders is to prevent the problems that lead to a failure of ethical leadership. To do that we need to start talking about the dynamics that cause ethical problems and how to keep them from happening in our organizations.  How do we start the conversation? Talk candidly with leaders at all levels about issues named above that may have become a problem in your organization. For a detailed conversation guide, see Leading the Conversation About Ethical Leadership. For an understanding of how to manage ethical performance in the organization see Managing Ethical Leadership as a Performance System.

Feel free to name additional factors that you have observed that can lead to ethical failure in your comments. 

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For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

 

What is Ethical Leadership?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

What is ethical leadership? I have been exploring that question on the Leading in Context Blog for the last four years. This week, I’ve chosen some highlights from popular posts to illustrate what leading in a complex world requires of each of us.

Leading ethically in a global society requires much more than following laws and regulations. We must take on a global mindset, maintain an openness to learning, actively build trust, and so much more.

We must move away from a compliance mindset, and reach for a values-based mindset that considers much more (see the highest level on this three-level graphic).

Which of These is Ethical Leadership

Expectations Beyond Compliance and Laws

“Following laws and regulations is just above the punishment threshold for ethical leadership. Expectations are moving to a much higher level, a level at which we are expected to do much more. Look at the third level, the highest level of the graphic. Aren’t transparency, sustainability and honoring human rights now expected of all businesses? I believe they are, and there are other factors we need to consider that are not on this list. The minimum standard is gradually moving to a higher level as we better understand the impact of our choices on others in a global society.”       

Linda Fisher Thornton, Which of These is Ethical Leadership?

Openness to Learning

“When we are not open to learning, we can easily misinterpret another perspective that does not match our own as a threat. That perspective that we are actively arguing against may in fact reflect a more current, more advanced, or more ethical perspective than ours. Failing to acknowledge that there are other perspectives on an issue (and that the people who hold them have a right to their views as much as we do) shows a lack of respect, and a lack of awareness…”

Linda Fisher Thornton, Civility and Openness to Learning

Inclusion

“Managing diversity without inclusion as the ultimate goal can make a big difference in the way employees experience our organization. We choose a way of thinking that represents what we’re trying to do and then build a process/program/structure or measurement based on that foundation. If diversity is our way of thinking, we may get an approach based on “differences,” rather than one based on creating an inclusive culture where a diverse group of people can do their best work.”

Linda Fisher Thornton, Differences or Inclusion: Which Are We Focusing On?

Service and Care

“One of the elements of ethical leadership that may be overlooked when we view ethics using a “legal lens” is supporting and developing the potential of the people we lead. While many leadership ethics programs focus on the risk side of ethics – compliance with laws and regulations, avoiding lawsuits, etc., there is an equally important side of ethics that involves care.” Linda Fisher Thornton, Ethical Leaders Care

A High Trust Environment

“On the surface, it doesn’t seem that curiosity and imagination are related to ethics. But think about what would happen in an environment where people were not able to use them. Could employees still be relied on to consistently behave ethically in an environment where they were not engaged in their work, and where they did not feel respected or fairly treated?”

Linda FIsher Thornton, Curiosity and Imagination Necessary Ingredients in Ethical Business

A Global Mindset

“When we see the world as a global society, we see that we need to act as if what happens to others, even people we may never meet, matters. We all share space, food and natural resources. We also share international communication and transportation systems and a global economy. Thinking about our planet as home to a global society, it is clear that we must act as if what happens to the environment matters. Our survival is dependent on the limited resources we have available and how responsibly we use them.” 

Linda Fisher Thornton, Ethical Leadership and… a Global Society

Honoring Human Rights

“As leaders, we are expected to protect human rights in all that we do. In our quest to lead responsibly, we must continually consider the question “How do we need to change in order to better honor human rights?” If you are in the process of developing a corporate human rights policy, A Guide for Business: How to Develop a Human Rights Policy (UN Human Rights, Global Compact) is helpful in beginning the discussion.”

Linda Fisher Thornton, Honoring Human Rights is Essential

Staying ready to lead ethically in a globally networked world will require continual learning and a broad understanding of what ethical responsibility includes. Let’s get started…

 

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For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 

Ethical Thinking is Intentional

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Some leaders think that they can continue to use outdated thinking about leadership responsibility. Beliefs like these, though, lead us to make bad choices when it comes to ethics:

  • “My success is all that matters. Everyone else is on their own.”
  • “Somebody has to lose for me to win.”
  • “I have been leading successfully for 20 years. I don’t need to change a thing.”

Ethical leaders don’t settle for the easy answers that offer them the most advantages. They intentionally take on tough questions like these:

  • “What do ethical leaders do every day that makes such a positive difference in their organizations?”
  • “How do we lead in ways that prepare us for the future and honor our ethical responsibilities?”
  • “How does the ethical leader of the future think?”
  • “Since our thinking drives our choices, what are the deep beliefs that will drive our leadership success in a connected global economy?”

This new Leading in Context Prezi presentation illustrates the intentional mindset of the ethical leader. Click HERE and then click on the screen to start the presentation.

Use the right arrow to move forward, the left arrow to move back. Take a look. Comment. Share it. Spread the word!

About Linda Fisher Thornton Linda Fisher Thornton is CEO of Leading in Context LLC. Her forthcoming book  7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership provides a clear road map for bringing out the best in people, organizations and communities through ethical leadership. Linda was named to the 2013 Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America. 

 

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For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 

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Leadership Responsibility: The Movement

LeadResponsMovement

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Taking Responsibility is “In”

We have reached a point in business where proactively taking responsibility as leaders has become a movement in its own right. We use many different words to talk about our leadership responsibilities.

Corporate Social Responsibility        Trust Building

          Sustainability             Character          Integrity

     Care                        Profitability                 Community Service      

Greater Good                  Ethical leadership        Compliance   

       Boundaries                 Impact                        Avoiding Harm

Leadership responsibility is multidimensional, and cannot be described in one or two words. It is personal, interpersonal, environmental and societal. Fortunately, that level of complexity is not stopping  leaders and organizations from taking the lead in demonstrating what it means to take responsibility in leadership. These articles describe the powerful movement toward proactively taking a high level of responsibility for our choices and our impact:

Understanding Our Impact

Our understanding of the purpose of leadership has evolved to include responsibility for a broad array of stakeholders over the long term. We have moved way beyond the command-and-control model. We now understand that our role includes bringing out the best in others and helping them achieve their potential while we all work toward the organization’s goals.

“Leaders of the future unleash human potential by instilling trust through authenticity, clarity of purpose and openness to continual learning. ”

–Giles Hutchins, Leadership for the future: diversity, creativity and co-creation, thegaurdian.com

We now are beginning to see the powerful impact that responsible leadership has on organizational performance, employee engagement and other important metrics. In the process of creating responsible organizations, we also help employees find meaning in their work.

“Values-led leaders help create emotionally and mentally healthy organisations, where business goals are met without sacrificing personal values.”

Corporate Social Responsibility: How the Movement Has Evolved Since the 1990’s by Paul Monaghan

We understand the importance of leading for the long-term and taking responsibility for our impact on others, the environment and society.

“If capitalism is to remain a healthy, vibrant economic system, corporations must participate in taking care of the society and the environment in which they live.”

Simon Mainwaring

Learning For Life

It is becoming increasingly clear that responsibility is not optional in a global society – it is at the heart of our leadership when we lead well.  Leadership development has become a critical priority as executives acknowledge the increasing complexity of leading in a global society. Leaders need help learning through this maze of terminology and leadership expectations.

This is an ongoing quest for leaders and for students preparing to be our future leaders. As Thomas Paine said, “When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary.”

 

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For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 

Building an Ethical Leadership Culture (Webcast)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

How Does Ethical Leadership Impact “Brand?”

Our “brand” is determined in part by our ethical leadership choices. These connected trends increase what is expected of us, and make it important for us to manage ethical leadership carefully:

  • In a socially connected world, our leadership is more visible
  • Citizen journalism means that everyone has a voice (and may speak out about their experience with our brand)
  • Employees are seeking out ethical organizations and agencies where they can do their best work
  • Organizations and agencies are judged based on the ethics of the entire supply chain
  • There is a higher expectation for ethical behavior and more pressure on leaders to lead responsibly

How Can We Develop Ethical Leaders Who Will Build an Ethical Brand? 

I was recently invited to co-present an ASTD Public Manager Webcast “Developing Ethical Leaders and an Ethical Government Brand” with John Umana.  While the Webcast which aired on March 19, 2013 was customized for government HR and Training leaders, the content is applicable across industries. ASTD has now posted the recorded webcast and made it available to the public.

The Webcast includes:

2013Webcast

  • Three very different perspectives on ethical leadership
  • Specific strategies for developing ethical leaders and an ethical brand
  • Managing ethical leadership as a performance system rather than a program
  • Understanding many connected aspects of building an ethical culture

Viewing the Webcast

This Webcast will help C-Suite leaders and HR/Training professionals discover the answers to these questions:

  1. What exactly is ethical leadership?
  2. How does an organization’s ethical leadership impact its brand?
  3. How is moral development related to ethical leadership?
  4. How should ethical leadership training be connected to the performance management system?
  5. What can we do to build an ethical culture?

To learn more about developing ethical leaders, see the complete ASTD Webcast Developing Ethical Leader and an Ethical Government Brand at http://www.webvent.tv/webinar/572.

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For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 

 

When is a Decision an Ethical One?

When is a Decision an Ethical One?By Linda Fisher Thornton

As we make leadership decisions, do we actively think about which ones are “ethical” decisions? Do we recognize the “ethical” decisions easily? Complying with laws and ethics codes clearly has ethical implications. But what about day-to-day decisions like these?

  1. “Who should we promote to a leadership position?
  2. “What kind of paper should we buy?”
  3. Which suppliers should we choose?”

These questions may seem routine, but they also have ethical implications. Let’s look at some of the ethical issues that we need to pay attention to when making these three decisions:

1. “Who should we promote to a leadership position?”  What are some of the ethical issues that we need to consider?

  • We should only reward ethical behavior during the promotion process.
  • We should only promote ethical employees to leadership positions, so that they can model the behavior that we want employees to use.
  • We should choose someone to promote who knows how to balance the needs of multiple stakeholders.
  • We should promote someone who uses respectful interpersonal behavior and knows how to build trust, so that they can help us build an ethical culture.

2. “What kind of paper should we buy?”  What are some of the ethical issues that we need to consider?

  • Should we buy recycled or partly recycled paper to reduce our environmental impact?
  • If we don’t use recycled paper, is the paper we choose sustainably harvested?
  • How does our choice need to support the sustainability goals of our organization?

3. “Which supplier should we choose?”  What are some of the ethical issues that we need to consider?

  • Does each supplier that we are considering use fair labor and honor human rights?
  • Does each supplier that we are considering use sustainable business practices and minimize environmental impact?
  • Does each supplier that we are considering demonstrate transparency about leadership practices?

The ethical issues listed above are only a sampling of the kinds of ethical issues involved in making these three decisions. Choosing suppliers, for example, requires checking reputation in more areas than just the ones mentioned here.

Ethical leadership in a global society incorporates so many broad elements of responsibility that most of our decisions will touch at least one of them. “Ethical” isn’t just a kind of decision-making. It is the way we need to think about all of our choices,  today and every day.

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For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 

 

Dealing With Complexity in Leadership

SAMSUNGBy Linda Fisher Thornton

Dealing with work complexity has become a major leadership development issue. And it is a challenge that has ethical implications. As our work becomes more complex, so do our ethical dilemmas.

What is Thinking Complexity?

We may want to lead responsibly but still struggle to make ethical decisions in highly complex situations. It would help if we could develop the thinking skills to navigate those situations more easily. If we were prepared to think at a high degree of complexity, we would be better able to understand the organization and its challenges from multiple perspectives when making difficult decisions.

“If managers and leaders are to scratch beneath the surface and delve into the substance of their organizations, what is needed is “cognitive complexity” which can be defined as “the intellectual ability of a manager or leader to envision the organization from multiple and competing perspectives so as to develop a depth of organizational understanding that is at least equal to the factors impacting its functioning.”

Richard Jacobs, Analyzing Organizations Through Cognitive Complexity, Villanova University

Considering multiple perspectives in decision-making provides an advantage to leaders and organizations as they juggle competing demands. How can we prepare leaders to do that?

Preparing Leaders

We are going to need to improve our thinking skills to be ready to deal with the increasing complexity of work in our networked global society. According to Nick Petrie, Center for Creative Leadership, we will need a completely new approach to developing leaders in order to deal with the level of change that is coming.

“There is one thing that I have become certain of and that is that the methods that have been used in the past to develop leaders really, truly, categorically will not be enough for the complexity of challenges which are on their way for organizations (and broader society).”

Nick Petrie, Future Trends in Leadership Development, Center for Creative Leadership

The ability to think through complex problems clearly is an asset to individual leaders and to the organizations they serve. We need to find ways to help leaders develop this ability, and to do that, it helps to understand what it is that leaders with a high degree of thinking complexity do.

What Do Leaders With High Thinking Complexity Do?

As you review this list, consider how you can seek meaningful leadership development experiences that support these practices.

Think in Multiple Dimensions and in Relationships

“Persons who are high in cognitive complexity are able to analyze (i.e., differentiate) a situation into many constituent elements, and then explore connections and potential relationships among the elements; they are multidimensional in their thinking.”

Streufert, S., & Swezey, R. W. (1986). Complexity, managers, and organizations. New York: Academic Press, online at The College of St. Scholastica

Deal Well With Ambiguity and Contradictory Findings 

“There are numerous studies which suggest that individuals who have high cognitive complexity tend to be more tolerant of ambiguity, more comfortable not only with new findings but even with contradictory findings. Moreover, such individuals have a greater ability to observe the world in terms of grey rather than simply in terms of black and white.”

J. Rogers Hollingsworth, Knowledge, Communication and Creativity, University of Wisconsin-Madison, online at wisc.edu

Use Systems Thinking

“To meet the needs of requisite complexity, Knowledge Era leadership requires a change in thinking away from individual, controlling views, and toward views of organizations as complex adaptive systems that enable continuous creation and capture of knowledge.”

Uhl-Bien, Marion & McKelvey, Complexity Leadership Theory: Shifting leadership from the industrial age to the knowledge era, University of Lincoln-Nebraska

Intentionally Seek and Integrate New Information

“Complex people tend to be more open to new information, rely on their own integrative efforts than new information, seek more novel information, search across more categories of information, and are less externally information bound. They tend to take in more information and form more well rounded impressions than less complex persons.”

Streufert, S., & Swezey, R. W. Complexity, managers, and organizations. New York: Academic Press, online at The College of St. Scholastica

Connect Employees, Processes and Tools to Meet Goals

Ultimately, these women and men – armed with cognitive complexity and the skills and techniques associated with best practice – will manage and lead their organizations to achieve their goals by uniting people, technology and process in a more efficient and effective human way.

Richard Jacobs, Analyzing Organizations Through Cognitive Complexity, Villanova University

Simplify Complexity For Those They Lead

Those leaders of the units judged to be ‘most successful’ were not those who demonstrated the higher levels of systemic thinking but, rather, seemed able to simplify complexity for their teams.

Keith Normal Johnston, Complexity of thinking and levels of self-complexity required to sustainably manage the environment, thesis submitted to Australian National University

Leaders who develop a high level of thinking complexity will be better able to help our organizations understand and work through a wide variety of challenges, problems and opportunities. They will make sense out of issues and problems that are multidimensional and connected. And they will be prepared to do what all great leaders do – help those they lead deal with increasing complexity.
To Learn More:
Capitalizing on Complexity (and Other CEO Reports), The IBM C-Suite Studies, ibm.com

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For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 

 

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Compliance With Laws Isn’t Ethical Leadership (There’s More)

12013CWord

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Beyond Compliance

I have intentionally avoided using the C-word (Compliance) in most of my posts, and I decided that it was time to explain why. In this post I’ll explain why laws are not enough, and why complying with laws does not mean that we are leading ethically.

Laws Are Not Enough

Many people equate compliance with ethics. Actually, compliance with laws is the minimum standard and does not adequately represent  “ethical leadership,” which is at a much higher level. Laws are the minimum threshold  – below which people are punished. When we settle for this level of ethics, we are simply working toward staying out of jail – and that is not enough to make us good corporate citizens.

Why is compliance with laws not enough when it comes to leading ethically? What else is there?

Here is an example that illustrates the broader responsibilities that ethical leadership includes. Which of these two views of ethical leadership do you think is the most ethical view?

‘Ethical Business’ Means Making as Much Money as I Can Without Going to Jail

If I tend to think in a win-lose way, then I may be more likely to seek gain for myself without concern for my impact on other stakeholders.

‘Ethical Business’ Includes the Responsibility to Respect and Serve 

If I tend to think in a win-win, service-focused way, then I may be more likely to seek positive solutions for others and consider my responsibilities to them more broadly.

Linda Fisher Thornton, Our Thinking is an Ethical Driver, Leading in Context Blog, December 12, 2012

Clearly, the second example demonstrates a higher level of ethical thinking and a broader sense of responsibility than the first. There are laws that say that I should not attack another person in the workplace. The ethical issues about how I need to treat others are at a much higher level than just restraint from physical violence. They include the need to respect others, demonstrate care and concern for them, and treat them with civility.

Learning Beyond Compliance 

Why don’t laws (that represent the “punishment threshold”) represent ethical leadership? Settling for compliance with laws might mean that we would not physically attack each other, but we may still be disrespectful in ways that erode trust and affect the well-being of employees, customers and other stakeholders.

If we focus just on compliance in our ethics training for leaders, we are aiming too low and we will always be scrambling to catch up as laws change. How can we move beyond just complying with laws (the minimum standard) to leading ethically in organizations (optimal)? These posts provide some guidance:

Developing Globally Responsible Leaders        Ethical Leadership Context

Developing the Ethical Leader of the Future

Instead of focusing on teaching leaders how to stay out of jail, let’s focus on teaching leaders what we want – the optimal level of ethical leadership.

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For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 

 

13 Leadership Temptations (to Conquer in 2013)

10 Temptations

By Linda Fisher Thornton

13 Leadership Temptations To Conquer In 2013

We’re starting a new year, with fresh possibilities, and it is a good time to think about our leadership values. What do we believe? How do we treat others? What matters to us? Can people determine our values just by watching how we treat people?

As we think about how we want to lead this year, we need to recognize that it is tempting to make easy short-term decisions that end up having ethical consequences in the long run.  Sometimes those seemingly easy decisions are “easy” because

  • we have oversimplified them
  • we have only considered how our choice benefits us and have failed to consider its impact on others, or
  • we have ignored important ethical factors.

The 13 leadership temptations below are very real and we have all faced them. As leaders, it is our job to carefully resist them. To do that, we first have to admit that they exist and that they challenge us, and then we must decide to take positive actions.

We all have the capacity to do good and to do harm. Let’s resolve to do good and to resist these 13 Leadership Temptations in the New Year.

Resolve to Conquer These 13 Leadership Temptations in the New Year

  1. The temptation to think that “ethics” is just about words and not about our choices
  2. The temptation to attack people instead of attacking problems
  3. The temptation to choose “quick fix” solutions that do more harm than good in the long run
  4. The temptation to judge others, and to think that differences are a threat
  5. The temptation to treat others with disrespect
  6. The temptation to avoid change when we really need to adapt
  7. The temptation to think that rules and laws are for other people, not us
  8. The temptation to profit at the expense of others
  9. The temptation to blame other people instead of examining our role and taking responsibility
  10. The temptation to treat employees as commodities rather than as human beings 
  11. The temptation to ignore feedback that we don’t like
  12. The temptation to only read that which confirms what we already believe
  13. The temptation to do anything that sets a bad moral example for others

Author’s Note: This post was inspired by British ethicist Mary Warnock in her speech about scandals in the British Parliament, shared on Vimeo by The School of Life. 

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For more, see new book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 

 

Our Thinking is an “Ethical Driver”

What Influences Our Approach to Ethical Leadership

By Linda Fisher Thornton

What Influences Our Approach to Ethical Leadership?

When we talk about “ethical leadership” we are talking about the intersection of multiple connected variables that affect our choices. We choose our approach based on a number of variables that are influenced by our level of learning, growth and experience.

Here are some of the variables (which may be influenced by learning and development) that converge to define our sense of what “ethical leadership” includes.

  • Our Thinking
  • Our Behavior
  • Our Integrity
  • Our Performance
  • Our Traditions
  • Our World View
  • Our Values
  • Our Level of Moral Development
  • Our Ability to Deal With Complexity
  • Our Adaptability to Change
  • Our Motivation For Wanting to Lead
  • The Degree to Which We Hold Ourselves Accountable
  • The Degree to Which We Manage Our Emotions and Impulses
  • Our Assumptions About the Purpose of Leadership
  • Our Assumptions About the Purpose of Business
  • Our Perceptions of Our Responsibilities to Multiple Stakeholders

…And this list of variables that make up our conceptual understanding of ethical leadership is only a starting point. Feel free to add others to the list.

Our Thinking Drives the Other Variables

What we think influences how we behave. We could even say that our thinking is in essence an “ethical driver” in that it affects the other variables that make up our leadership. Here are some examples of how our thinking influences our ethics as leaders:

Does Good Leadership Mean Control or Creativity?

“Good Leadership” Means Maintaining Control 

If I think that I need to exert control to keep my workplace from becoming chaotic, then my behavior will likely reflect a need to hover and direct the actions of my employees.

“Good Leadership” Means Unleashing People’s Creativity

If I think that people will do a good job if I support them, and that a little chaos is just part of the creative process, then I will likely tolerate higher levels of chaos and give employees room to use their own creativity and make mistakes.

Is Ethical Business Win-Lose or Win-Win?

“Ethical Business” Means Making as Much Money as I Can Without Going to Jail

If I tend to think in a win-lose way, then I may be more likely to seek gain for myself without concern for my impact on other stakeholders.

“Ethical Business” Includes the Responsibility to Respect and Serve 

If I tend to think in a win-win, service-focused way, then I may be more likely to seek positive solutions for others and consider my responsibilities to them more broadly.

Who’s Driving?

These examples illustrate the importance of being aware of how our thinking affects our leadership choices. If our thinking is an “ethical driver,” then we need to be intentional about our thinking so that we stay in the driver’s seat.

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For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

10 Thinking Traps (That Ethical Leaders Avoid)

Avoid These 10 Thinking Traps

What are some of the thinking traps that we fall into as leaders? I’m not referring to “correlation versus causation” and other logical reasoning problems. There are some common ways of thinking about business leadership that cripple our effectiveness and undermine our ethics. These misconceptions should have important names that reflect the wide swath of negative impact that they cause in organizations.

Here are 10 types of flawed leadership thinking that I have seen, with my own tongue-in-cheek descriptive names for them…

The message? Ethical leaders avoid these 10 types of flawed thinking.

Which one of these is your favorite? My favorite is #10.

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For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

Differences or Inclusion – Which Are We Focusing On?

by Linda Fisher Thornton

A Diversity Focus Can Be Divisive

When we talk about diversity, we are noticing differences. That may not seem like a profound statement at first, but think about it for a moment. In a work environment, diversity is about having different types of employees, right? And that’s a good thing for productivity and innovation, isn’t it? It is a good thing. But it’s not enough.  

Managing diversity without inclusion as the ultimate goal can make a big difference in the way employees experience our organization. We choose a way of thinking that represents what we’re trying to do and then build a process/program/structure or measurement based on that foundation. If diversity is our way of thinking, we may get an approach based on “differences,” rather than one based on creating an inclusive culture where a diverse group of people can do their best work.

How we Perceive “Different” Has Ethical and Organizational Implications

“There are a number of ways to perceive people who are different from us and ideas that are different from ours. Some are more positive and productive than others” (Linda Fisher Thornton, “Ethical Implications of How Leaders Perceive ‘Different'”).”

As leaders, how we choose to handle people who are “different” from us in some way shapes our organizational culture in important ways. Tamara Erickson, McKinsey award-winning author, calls for a higher level of diversity understanding in organizations:

“There is a third stage of diversity, perhaps aspirational for most today, represented by a fundamental shift in attitudes toward people who are in any way different… My wish for 2011 is that more organizations will include programs aimed to reach this stage as an important component of their diversity goals.”

Tamara J. Erickson in Level Three Diversity: Moving Beyond Political Correctness,” Diversity Executive, January/February 2011

As leaders, we need to understand our choices and the potential ethical impact of those choices on our employees and our organizations. Honoring human rights fundamentally means honoring everyone, regardless of background or perspective. Are we living that every day in our organizational leadership?

In Inclusive Organizations, Differences are Seen as Enhancing Organizational Innovation

The excerpt below is from Leading in Context® Training Module “Ethical Implications of How Leaders Perceive Different” which provides a framework for thinking and talking about how we handle “different” in our organizations.

Perceptions of “Different” Impact Our Behavior

“How we think as leaders directly impacts our leadership behavior.  It compels us to act and to make decisions in the context of the value judgments we make.”

“Unfortunately, we don’t always use the word “different” to describe things and people and ideas that are new to us. We often use less friendly words that indicate that the person or idea is wrong, misguided or harmful. When we are perceiving “different” as wrong, misguided or harmful, we are more likely to treat people in ways that are not respectful. When we are open to hearing “different” perspectives we are more likely to lead in responsible, inclusive ways.”

“Because our thinking process shapes our decisions, as leaders we must be careful to use thinking processes that are inclusive and that respect the rights of other people to have their own perspectives and opinions.”

Excerpts from “Ethical Implications of How Leaders Perceive Different” by Linda Fisher Thornton

As Howard Winters said, “Civilization is the process in which one gradually increases the number of people included in the term ‘we’ or ‘us’ and at the same time decreases those labeled ‘you’ or ‘them’ until that category has no one left in it.”

“The ‘different’ perspectives and opinions of those we lead do not undermine our leadership position. In fact, it is those new ideas and perspectives that will help us keep our company adaptable, engaging and competitive in a global marketplace.”  (Linda Fisher Thornton, “Ethical Implications of How Leaders Perceive ‘Different'”).

At its highest level, inclusion is about honoring human rights. Consider whether you are managing diversity or working toward full inclusion in a way that respects human rights. These resources will help you explore the differences between leading with a diversity-based approach and leading for full inclusion.

Resources for Moving From Differences to Inclusion

ILR Impact Brief: Diversity and Inclusion: Is There Really a Difference? Cornell University, ilr.cornell.edu

The Netter Principles, glaxdiversitycouncil.com

A Framework for Building Organizational Inclusion, Working Paper Number 2, Bormann and Woods, The Workplace Diversity Network, Cornell University, ilr.cornell.edu

What is Inclusion? Inclusion Network, Inclusion.com

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For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

What Does Ethical Consumerism Mean for Business?

by Linda Fisher Thornton

What is Ethical Consumerism?

Ethical consumerism means that more customers are choosing to purchase goods that are ethically sourced, ethically made and ethically distributed. In her article “Ethical Consumerism and Conservatism: Hand in Glove” in the Heinz Journal, Jacqueline Payne describes the ethical consumer this way:

“An ethical consumer is someone who buys things that are produced ethically. Depending on the context, ethical production may mean producing something that is recycled, using labor that is produced in facilities without the use of slavery and child labor, or processing food that is raised organic or free range. If you buy one of these products, you could be an ethical consumer and not even know it… or you may not be one. However, the whole point of the ethical consumerism movement is that you ‘know’ what you are buying and that you buy things that are produced ethically because not ‘knowing’ leads to abuse and exploitation.”

Jacqueline Payne, “Ethical Consumerism and Conservatism: Hand in Glove,” The Heinz Journal, Carnegie Mellon University

What Do Ethical Consumers Want?

Consumers are increasingly purchasing ethically sourced and prepared foods. In Top 10 Global Food Trends, Fiona Haynes, lowfatcooking.about.com, says that “More people want to eat eggs, meat or chicken that was raised or killed humanely or to know that the people who grew the coffee they buy were fairly paid.”

In “Ethical Consumerism and the Purchase of Human Rights Clothes” Human Rights Support describes the increasing consumer demand for ethically produced clothing:

An industry that is seeing a push for high-quality products that are produced in a way that supports human rights is the clothing industry. Consumers are demanding human rights clothes and looking for ways to purchase them.

“Ethical Consumerism and the Purchase of Human Rights Clothes”, Human Rights Support, cdhrsupport.com

Trendwatching.com’s 12 Crucial Consumer Trends for 2012 decribes an “eco-cycology” trend in which “Brands will increasingly take back all of their products for recycling (sometimes forced by new legislation), and recycle them responsibly and innovatively.” According to Trendwatching.com, “trading in is the new buying.”

In “Top Trends for 2012: Purity, Authenticity and Sustainability Lead the Way” Innova Marketing describes the customer demand for pure products, and points out that in a customer’s mind, “sustainability is a given.”

According to GlobeScan.com, even consumers in developing companies see the value of the new “green economy” where doing business sustainably is the norm:

GlobeScan’s and SustainAbility‘s most recent survey of global consumers, conducted in collaboration with National Geographic, shows that those in emerging economies are even more likely than their developed-world peers to reject the notion that environmental responsibility and economic prosperity are mutually exclusive.

The survey among consumers across 17 countries asked them to say whether they thought a Green Economy would be more or less effective than today’s economy in addressing a range of environmental and social challenges—and found that, globally, consumers thought a Green Economy would be more effective in all areas except for the creation of low-paying jobs.

Developing World Consumers More Upbeat About Economic Impact of a Green Economy, GlobeScan.com

How Should Businesses Respond?

Ethical consumers want much more than a good product for a good price. They also look for these things in a company, brand or product:

  • Natural, Pure Ingredients
  • Ethical Sourcing, Production and Distribution
  • Clear Information About Nutrition
  • Transparency
  • Fair Labor
  • Honoring Human Rights
  • Protecting Human Health
  • Respecting the Environment
  • Sustainability
  • Ethical Marketing and Advertising
  • Renewable/Recyclable Packaging
  • Giving Back to the Community and Society

Businesses need to carefully examine how well they are meeting the evolving ethical expectations of consumers. They will be simultaneously responding to ethical consumerism trends and figuring out “how to remain profitable yet sustainable in a flat economy.” (Experts Split on Whether Growth and Sustainable Consumption Compatible, GlobalScan.com)

How far ahead or behind is your company in responding to today’s ethical consumer? Use the questions below to explore how ethical consumerism will impact the way you do business in the next 5 years.

Questions for Discussion:

1. How might the ethical consumerism trend affect our business in the next 1-5 years?

2. What will we need to change to keep up with what ethical consumers expect?

3. How will responding to these trends help our business and our customers?

Resources:

8 Reasons Why You Should Take Ethical Consumption More Seriously, TomorrowToday.uk.com

Ethical Consumer: From Margin to Mainstream, EthicalConsumer.org

12 Crucial Consumer Trends for 2012, Trendwatching.com

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For more, see new book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

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