The Missing Domain: Ethical Thinking (Part 2)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The first post in this series, “The Missing Domain: Ethical Thinking” explored WHY leaders need to fill the gap and help people develop ethical thinking. This post will begin to unravel HOW to do that.

I included this guidance on ethical thinking in a previous post:

Ethical thinking means we never lose sight of our positive purpose. We choose to be the sum of our values, not our challenges.

How do we make sure we are acting as the sum of our values and not our challenges? We need to find ways to keep ethical values alive so that the “values voice” is heard just as loudly as these voices:

  1. Shrinking profit margins
  2. Tight product development timelines
  3. Lean staffing and heavy workload

Exercising Our Values Voice

When our “values voice” is at least as loud as those other voices, we can avoid these unethical scenarios that can happen when we address our challenges without values:

  • Shrinking profit margins  (Unethical Scenario: making more money by ignoring ethics)
  • New product development timelines (Unethical Scenario: cutting safety corners to meet deadlines)
  • Lean staffing and heavy workload (Unethical Scenario: overworking employees instead of finding innovative ways to do work)

Don’t let it happen in your organization. Challenges are “loud” and urgent.

People need to learn how to think through their difficult challenges while staying grounded in ethical values. The first step is making it clear that our values always drive our choices. To avoid having your team get  pulled away from ethics, exercise your “values voice.” 

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Talking About What Matters (Part 3)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I have heard from readers that this topic is timely and they hope this series will not end with just 2 posts – so here is Part 3

Talking About What Matters

In the post Talking About What Matters (Part 1) I explored how talking about ethical values engages people, helps them find meaning and improves the organization’s metrics. In Talking About What Matters (Part 2), I explored how leaders need to “not have the answers” and be ready to engage in conversations about applying values. 

In Part 3, I want to offer some questions that lead to meaningful conversation. These are not questions that have known answers, but questions that dig into what is weighing on people’s hearts and minds, and identify gaps and opportunities in applying ethical values. 

Questions to Ask

Open ended questions help define appropriate behaviors in the context of your organizational values. They help leaders tolerate “not knowing” and get the conversation started. 

These questions are ones I proposed in an article published by the Association For Talent Development (formerly ASTD) in Training and Development Journal and in a Best of Leadership Development issue. They are helpful conversation starters:

  • What are the specific ethical behaviors that are required of all organizational leaders?
  • What are the consequences if they don’t behave ethically?
  • What are the situations that people encounter that could lead them into a grey area?
  • How should those grey areas be handled?
  • What does it look like when leaders perform according to the organization’s stated values?
  • What does it look like when they don’t?
  • How should people make decisions when they encounter difficult situations?
  • Where might our leaders fall into grey areas while implementing our goals and values?
  • What are areas where we will not tolerate compromise?
  • What are areas of flexibility?
  • Where do we need to clarify our mission and values, to make it clear that we are an ethical organization, and ethics is not negotiable?
  • How can we more effectively recruit, recognize, and retain ethical leaders?

Linda Fisher Thornton, “Leadership Ethics Training: Why is it So Hard to Get it Right?”  reprinted in Training and Development: The Best of Leadership Development, American Society for Training and Development. (March, 2010)

Leading In The “Figure It Out Space”

When we ask questions like these, and open the conversation, we have to set aside our need to be “right.” Values (when brought to life) live in the collective organizational space, not in the domain of any one leader. They also live in the “figure it out” space. It is the struggle to “figure out” how to apply the organization’s values in day to day work and leadership that brings them to life. 

 

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5 Sites for Globally Responsible Business Leadership

By Linda Fisher Thornton

It has become clear that a global economy requires more than local or regional thinking. Our information and commerce are globally connected. Our greatest human challenges are global and must be solved globally.

We are connected by a shared future, with one region’s success deeply connected to another’s success. Global changes tend to either move us forward together or backward together. What steps can we take now to adapt to major global change and become part of the solution? How do we create the future world we imagine?

These 5 sources are good resources for learning, reflection and conversation:

5 Sites For Globally Responsible Business Leadership

UN Sustainable Development Goals

The SDG Compass (A guide to aligning company strategies and measures with the SDGs)

Caux Roundtable Principles For Business

World Economic Forum, “Responsive and Responsible Leadership”

Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative

Together, these sources paint a picture of the future. It’s a future that requires global thinking and action. It’s a future where business leaders take global responsibility for their decisions and actions. It’s a future where we move the metrics on important measures of collective well-being. 

How do we get there? We decide to be part of the solution, and use these resources to plan our next steps. 

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Learn How to Recognize and Apply all 7 Ethical Dimensions 

Includes how ethical expectations are increasing, and what you can do to stay ahead of the curve.

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Do Laws Set the Standard For Ethics?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

“Do Laws Set the Standard For Ethics?” may be a simple question, but the answer is complicated. They do and they don’t set the standard. 

Laws set the MINIMUM standard for ethical behavior. This is the level that I call the punishment threshold. If your behavior drops below this level, you will be fined, sanctioned, sent to jail, or otherwise punished. The reason there are punishments when laws are violated is because they are considered the rock bottom of what we should be able to expect from people. Obviously, we don’t want everyone behaving at this level. 

Ethical values set the OPTIMAL standard for ethical behavior. They define the desired behaviors – what we want people to do. Applying ethical values requires a broad understanding of our responsibilities and a willingness to take responsibility for our role in the workplace and society. 

No one should use “following laws” as a measure of their good citizenship. It’s ethical values that are the true measure of leaders and organizations.

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Learn How to Apply all 7 Ethical Dimensions of Leadership

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Yes, Leaders. Behavior Matters

By Linda Fisher Thornton

As leaders, we are expected to uphold the highest standards of ethical behavior, and that includes interpersonal behavior (HOW we get the results we get, and how our behavior impacts others).

This week I’m sharing a review of behaviors that are a “NO GO” for ethical leaders. Click on each link to learn about why the behavior is outside the bounds of ethical leadership.

Yes, Leaders. Behavior Matters

It is not okay to blame, name call, bully, threaten, or shame.

It is not acceptable to yell and use foul language.

It is not fine to get angry and attack people who disagree with us.

It is not okay to avoid information that conflicts with our beliefs.

It is not acceptable to exclude those who aren’t like us.

It is not okay to treat only certain people with respect.

It is not acceptable to damage relationships with our negative behavior.

It is never okay to skip learning because “we are already a leader.”

Isn’t It Obvious?

These reminders may seem obvious (yes, we learned them in Kindergarten), but don’t leave it to chance. Be sure your leaders are all on the same page about appropriate interpersonal behavior. Your employees, customers and communities will thank you.

Use this post as the basis for conversations about ethical interpersonal behavior in the workplace and beyond.

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Ethical Leaders Stay Current as the World Changes

 

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Everyone is a Stakeholder at Some Level

By Linda Fisher Thornton

“Everyone is a stakeholder at some level, and all stakeholders are important. We should consider all stakeholders as we lead – those we serve, those we lead, the powerless, the silenced, the planet, and all of humanity.” 

I shared this insight in a previous post – it was an aha moment from a Tweetchat I guest-hosted on Leading With Ethics. To reflect on where you are in the journey to leading with the mindset that “everyone is a stakeholder at some level,” explore the answers to these important questions:

  • How am I adding value for customers, employees and partners?
  • What ripples am I creating on the global landscape?
  • If everyone followed my lead, would they be showing that all stakeholders are important, regardless of who they are or where they live?
  • How well do I consider the interests of stakeholders who aren’t at the table, including the planet?
  • Have I explored and conquered my own “inner terrain” well enough to manage my biases so that they don’t impact my leadership?

To accomplish the ideal of considering all stakeholders in even our smallest decisions, we’ll have to do more than just imagine the possibilities. We’ll need to do the work.

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Ethical Leaders Stay Current as the World Changes

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5 Things Money Can’t Buy (Even Now)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I had the opportunity a few years ago to hear Michael Sandel, professor from Harvard and author of What Money Can’t Buy, speak at the University of Richmond about “the sky-boxification of society.” He talked about how easy it is today to buy your way into a better situation (or a sky box). I just finished reading Tom Friedman’s book Thank You for Being Late and in it Friedman refers to and builds on Sandel’s observations. 

I started thinking about some of the qualities that are highly valuable and make leaders great that money can’t buy – some of the priceless qualities that define great leadership. Here are 5:

5 Things Money Can’t Buy (Even Now)

  1. Trust – (only achieved through intentional use of positive interpersonal behaviors that build mutually beneficial relationships over time)
  2. Integrity – (only achieved when thoughts, words and deeds align)
  3. Authenticity – (only reached through personal struggle, service to others and an intentional growth journey)
  4. Sincerity – (only achieved when you avoid lies, partial truths, rules that apply to others but not to you, and choices that harm others)
  5. Growth – (you can pay for education, but being open to learning and growth must be chosen)

Money may be a token of exchange in the global marketplace, but so are these 5 priceless leadership qualities that money can’t buy. It is these essential priceless qualities that enable leaders to bring out the best in diverse, connected groups of people working toward a common goal. These are leadership qualities that kindle people’s imagination, creativity and innovation (which are needed to solve today’s complex problems). 

What other positive qualities (that money can’t buy) define great leadership? Feel free to comment with your additions to the list. 

If you enjoy the Leading in Context Blog, here are 5 ways you can help this important movement: 

  • SPREAD THE WORD: Encourage others to subscribe, or share a link to your favorite post
  • READ THE BOOK: Get a copy of 7 Lenses, in  Paperback or for Kindle, iPad, and Nook. Share it with a friend, or with your Book Club or leader group. 
  • SCHEDULE A WORKSHOP: Help your team or organization gain insight into positive, proactive ethical thinking and action with a workshop led by 7 Lenses author Linda Fisher Thornton.
  • PARTICIPATE IN THE CONVERSATION: Engage in dialogue on social media. Imagine better leadership with others. Let people know what you’re learning. Include @leadingincontxt in your Tweets. 
  • SUGGEST A TOPIC: Suggest a future topic you want to learn more about by commenting on a blog post or contacting Leading in Context. 

Together, we can make a positive difference. 

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Ethical Leaders See Their Choices Through All 7 Lenses

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400th Post: The Journey to Meaning (Growth Required)

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

I set out to answer a question. In the process of answering the question, I started a journey that changed my life. It happened the way that life happens to all of us. It wasn’t always by conscious choice or in a logical progression. I lost someone I loved (my grandmother). I suffered a sudden reduction in consulting projects during the 2009 economic downturn. While recovering from these blows, I took a hard look at what I wanted to accomplish with the rest of my life. 

I began to realize that if I wanted to make a positive difference in the world, I needed to make some drastic changes. I started a blog and found out what it was like to learn out loud. I jumped into the social conversation. I began to intentionally live outside of my comfort zone.

I starting thinking about a nagging question that I couldn’t get out of my head. I heard from people who wanted to lead ethically but needed help. I started to write down thoughts on my blog and later started a book. I struggled to build a clearer, whole model of ethical leadership (that wasn’t oversimplified) to help people learn how to easily apply it.  

Looking back on this journey so far, I  believe that life’s hardest challenges are waiting to be turned into opportunities. Taking the journey isn’t always easy – it requires persistence, commitment, imagination, patience and endurance. When we put in the effort and take on the challenge,  though, we can become capable of so much more. We can find purpose and meaning (which require personal growth).

What would have been different if I hadn’t started this journey? I may have had a deep sense that something was missing. After reflecting on my definition of “The Meaning of Life” for an Excellence Reporter series, I realized that this process of growth is more than just something that happens while we’re doing other things – it’s what helps us find meaning and have a positive impact. 

It’s not reaching the desired destination according to an expected timetable that gives us a sense that we have a meaningful life. It’s the journey itself. It’s using our abilities in service to others.  It’s chasing the elusive “best we can be” as the world expects more and we race to keep up. 

I want to extend a “Thank You!” to Leading in Context Blog followers, 7 Lenses readers, clients, partners,  and all of you engaging in important conversations about “the right thing to do” in a global society. 

 

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Ethical Leaders Understand 7 Different Lenses of Ethical Responsibility (That Are All Important)

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Do Good Things Come to Those Who Wait?


By Linda Fisher Thornton

I don’t particularly like the quote “Good things come to those who wait.” This quote, attributed to British author Violet Fane (Mary M. Singleton) in 1892, may be true but it leaves out important parts of the story. Good things may come to those who wait, but only after certain important conditions have been met:

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait (If They Also….)

  1. Work hard
  2. Use what they are learning to help others
  3. Keep working hard
  4. Improve but still keep learning
  5. Keep using what they learn in service to others
  6. Don’t give up, even when progress is slow and success is uncertain
  7. ….and so on (perpetually repeating numbers 1-6 above)

Doing these things keeps people in a service mindset, making it easier to wait for good things to happen. And, of course, while they are working diligently, they are not just waiting. Without the rest of the context, the quote seems to imply that just “waiting” is enough. 

What are your thoughts about the context of this quote? What other well-known quotes might be missing an important part of the story?

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Ethical Leaders See Their Choices Through All 7 Lenses

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Ethical Leadership is About Service, Not Privilege

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

I was noticing how many drivers seem to be in a hurry, and I realized that some people are rushing so quickly that they don’t stop to consider their impact on others (on the road or elsewhere).  They just want to get wherever they’re going as quickly as possible.

Some leaders act this way, too. While their purpose should be to enable the success of those they lead, they stop their circle of purpose at themselves and don’t let concern for anyone else’s well-being slow them down. I wonder what values are at the center of that kind of leadership? Speed? Money? Power? Efficiency?

If someone were to shadow you for a day, what would they say that you value? Would it be Supporting Others? Building Mutually Beneficial Relationships? Respect? Care? Or would they name Speed, Money, Power and Efficiency?  Who’s well-being do you consider to be part of your leadership responsibility? 

Ethical leaders don’t play favorites. They consider their impact broadly. They think before they act, and their thinking includes a wide circle of constituents. Besides the broad view they take of their constituents, there is another important way ethical leaders approach their role that sets them apart and helps them bring out the best in people and organizations. 

Ethical leaders understand that their role is one of service and not of privilege, and that informs every choice they make. 

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Top 10 Posts 2016: Leading in Context Blog

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Of the 52 posts published on the Leading in Context Blog in 2016, these 10 were the most popular. See if you notice a theme that connects these topics that readers accessed most frequently:

10 Ways the Leadership Relationship is Changing (Part 1)

Great Leaders are Other-Focused

The Future of Learning Isn’t About “Knowing”

15 Quotes for Leadership Insight

Leaders, Don’t You Care? (9 Red Flags That Tell Employees You Don’t)

5 Insights Into the Future of Leadership Development Part 1

Every Leader is a Work in Progress (Yes, Even You)

What Does “Good Leadership” Mean?

What Does it Mean to “Be a Leader?”

Ethical Failures: What Causes Them?

If I had to pick a theme for these posts that were most popular in 2016, it would be “Understanding Leader Roles, Responsibilities and Relationships.” Which 2016 post was your favorite? If you have ethical leadership topics you want to learn more about in 2017, comment here, or tweet your idea to @leadingincontxt!

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Prepare For Ethical Leadership Future – Learn To See Through All 7 Lenses

Includes case examples and questions.

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What Does it Mean to “Do the Right Thing?”

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

The “Keep it Simple” approach is good for many situations, but keeping it simple will set you up for failure in ethics. Using an oversimplified approach to solving a complex ethical problem just means you leave out variables you should be considering.

5 Reasons a “Do the Right Thing” Message Isn’t Enough

  1. Nobody knows what it means
  2. Even though it is positive, it is too vague to direct good choices
  3. Everyone defines it differently, and acts on their definition
  4. Unless you painstakingly define what you mean by “do the right thing,” there is no common understanding of ethical expectations across the organization
  5. A vague definition can be used to justify unethical choices that “seem right” when you’re not using an ethical framework

“Do the Right Thing” is a wonderful starting point, but we need to define it in great detail. Otherwise, people will do whatever THEY think is the right thing, and that could pull your organization off course.

Ethical leaders don’t just ask people to “do the right thing.” They share examples of people who have done the right thing. They explain ethical performance standards that define “the right thing” and bring it to life in discussions about how to handle competing interests. This approach keeps everyone headed in the same positive direction.

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Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future – Help Them Learn To See Through The 7 Lenses®. 

Learn how ethical expectations are increasing, and what you can do to stay ahead of the curve.  

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What Does it Mean to Win?

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

What it means to “win” in business has changed. Driving this change is a greater awareness of the impact we have on each other:

  • A better understanding of our global connectedness
  • An awareness that laws aren’t ideal ethical standards, just punishment thresholds
  • A greater focus on human rights and dignity and human well-being
  • Increased attention on the well-being of communities

The message used to be “WIN at all cost” to achieve strong financial performance. Then we began to consider what happened to  other people when we “won at all cost” and “Win-Win” became the mantra. As we gradually became aware of our many stakeholders, “Win-Win-Win” looked better – paying attention to the triple bottom line, our impact on Profits, People and the Planet. 

When we consider our interdependence and the leadership context, the way we think about a “win” changes. 

Driving this change is also a greater awareness of the global context:

  • Our constituents are global, and our impact is global
  • We are part of a connected, global economy
  • We are experiencing dwindling natural spaces and increasing demand for natural resources
  • Global citizenship is a growing issue as we deal with border management and complex social issues
  • Leadership and ethical duties are inseparable if we are going to create a positive environment, locally and globally

The triple bottom line, a great improvement over “win at all cost,” is only the beginning. The future of work will require much more. Taking extended stakeholders and the broad responsibilities of corporate social responsibility into account, we are ultimately looking for a 7 Way Win. To learn more, see The Triple Bottom Line is Just the Beginning and 7 Definitions of “Good” (Why We Disagree About Ethics).

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Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future. 

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5 Insights Into Leadership Development Future (Part 3)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This is the third installment in a series “5 Insights Into Leadership Development Future” Each post in this series will address a trend in leadership development and offer tangible actions for helping leadersIn case you missed them, here are the previous posts:

Part 1 on Global Trends

Part 2 on Wholeness 

This third post in the series is about the trend toward growth and human developmen– that includes growth in leadership and growth toward becoming a better person. 

We are talking more about the benefits of growth, and there is an awareness that people become better leaders through experience, travel, challenge and struggle. Here’s the bottom line –

There is a vast difference between a leader who KNOWS and a leader who GROWS.

The leader who grows is:

  1. More self-aware
  2. More humble
  3. More willing to adapt
  4. More open to learning
  5. More supportive when others make mistakes as they are learning
  6. Better equipped to support others as they grow
  7. More likely to attract and keep great performers

Today’s leadership development must move away from “infusing people with knowledge” and focus on “helping them grow.”

5 Actions to Take Now

How do we apply the growth trend to the way we develop leaders? 

  1. Give them a sense of what human growth looks like, what it requires and the rewards of taking the journey. 
  2. Let leaders know that the goal is improvement, not perfection, and that they will make mistakes while they are learning (that is part of the learning journey).
  3. Give them clear values to aim for – this helps them orient their growth toward a higher purpose. 
  4. Give leaders activities that cause them to stretch and struggle to make sense out of things – take them outside of their comfort zones – prepare them to handle complex leadership challenges.
  5. Create experiences that expand their understanding of the world and help them understand the struggles of others (this is easier than it used to be – you can travel the world via YouTube).

More to Come: I will be continuing this series with more important trends in leadership development and actions you can take to help your leaders adapt.  Stay tuned for Part 4!

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Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future – Help Them Learn To See Through The 7 Lenses®. 

Includes how ethical expectations are increasing, and what you can do to stay ahead of the curve.

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

How Can HR Professionals Support CSR?

It-takes-a-strong (5)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Sarah Hood included some of my advice to HR Managers about CSR in her feature article about Corporate Social Responsibility in the March/April 2016 Edition of HR Professional Magazine. In it she explores the role of the HR professional in supporting and advancing an organization’s CSR efforts.

According to the article, The Rewards of Giving Back: Corporate Social Responsibility and the HR Function, there are specific and important actions HR Managers can take to directly support their HR Professional The Rewards of Giving Backorganization’s efforts to “do good.” Successful support requires an awareness that CSR is important for the success of multiple stakeholders.  

Read the full article here:

The Rewards of Giving Back: Corporate Social Responsibility and the HR Function by Sarah Hood, in the March/April Issue of HR Professional Magazine.

 

 

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Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future – Help Them Learn To See Through The 7 Lenses®. 

Includes how ethical expectations are increasing, and what you can do to stay ahead of the curve.

Click the cover to read a free preview!

 

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

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