Shallow Thinking

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The question of the day is “How does “shallow thinking” lead to ethical mistakes?” By shallow thinking, I mean thinking that is limited in breadth and depth. 

Think about taking a stroll on the beach as you read the characteristics of shallow thinking below. How do these characteristics describe the kind of thinking that can lead to ethical mistakes and decision gridlock?

Characteristics of Shallow Thinking

  • Shallow thinking wades at the edge of the waterline instead of diving in.
  • When shallow thinking gets its feet wet up to the ankles, it thinks it “knows the ocean.”
  • Since it thinks it “knows the ocean,” shallow thinking considers deep thinking to be misinformed or misleading.

Using shallow thinking leads to making decisions out of context. Blissfully unaware of the deeper issues, we may make decisions that set off a chain reaction of unintended consequences. 

Be on the lookout for times when you may be tempted to stay in the shallows instead of diving in to understand the real scope of a complex problem. Ocean-size problems can’t be solved from the shallows. 


Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2019 Leading in Context LLC


Ethical Thinking Through the 7 LensesMay 22, 2019




22 Resources For Developing Ethical Thinking

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This week I’m sharing a collection of hand-picked resources that will help you upgrade your thinking. With all of the ethical messes in the news recently, this seems to be the right time to help you focus on PREVENTION as applied to thinking. It’s our thinking, after all, that determines what we decide to do under pressure. 

Ethical thinking has many important qualities, and one of them is that it is INTENTIONAL. It doesn’t happen on its own. Passive thinking is not likely to lead to ethical decisions or actions. Ethical thinking has to be intentional, developed and practiced. 

Use these resources to develop your ethical thinking skills. After upgrading your skills, you’ll be able to handle ethical issues at a higher level of complexity:

  The Missing Domain: Ethical Thinking

 The Missing Domain: Ethical Thinking Part 2

FINAL CHANGE THIS MANIFESTO_Page_01 What is Ethical Thinking? (and “What Ethical Leaders Believe”)

Ethics To Understand Complexity, Use 7 Dimensions of Ethical Thinking

Rethinking “Smart” Leadership in an Ethical Context

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)

Ten Thinking Traps That Ethical Leaders Avoidthinkglobal8 Posts and a Trend Report on Global Thinking

Ethical Leaders Take Time to Think

Context and Responsibility 3Ethical Leaders Understand the Context


Ethical Grey Areas: Our Choices Define Us

Our Thinking is an Ethical Driver

Which Values are Ethical Values?

Fear is a Poor Advisor

Thinking Beyond Disciplines: Why We Need It

Five Unintended Consequences of Linear Problem-Solving

Take Your Thinking up a Notch: Strategies For Solving Complex Problems

Traps in How We Think About Leading: The Case of Focusing Too Much on Budget

Passive thinking does not work. As humans, we are flawed thinkers, and if we don’t manage the flaws in our thinking, those flaws will drive our choices. 

Get ready to lead in the volatile and unpredictable future. Read one of these resources each day to upgrade your thinking.


Follow The Leading in Context Blog for a new article each week!

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To Learn More, Read the Guide To Ethical Thinking and Leadership: 7 Lenses, Now in Its 2nd Printing!

Guest Interview: Stay On Top Of Your Work Podcast

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This week you can listen to a brand new interview I did with Kate Kurzawska, host of the Stay on Top of Your Work Timecamp Podcast! In the interview, I answer Kate’s top questions about ethical leadership, including these:

  • How do you lead teams ethically?
  • What should you consider when making a decision?
  • Why do people fail as leaders? 
  • What practices could help us avoid failing as leaders?
  • How do you manage the risk connected with people, with profits, with money, with every aspect of the company?
  • What’s the number one rule you couldn’t manage your work without? 

These questions are timely for leaders. Check out the answers in the podcast interview and transcript by clicking on the image above. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!


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)


Top 100 Leadership Blog  

©2018 Leading in Context LLC

Leaders, Why You Need Disequilibrium (Part 2)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This post is Part 2 in a series. In case you missed the first one, here is 450th Post: Leaders, Why You Need Disequilibrium (Part 1). In the first post, I explored why leaders need to embrace disequilibrium. In Part 2, I explore how disequilibrium helps leaders deal with catastrophic change.

Disequilibrium Drives Adaptation

Accepting disequilibrium instead of trying to fight it, we can turn our attention to figuring things out as the landscape changes around us.

“Pulling us out of our insulated silos.  Requiring leaders to seek out the signals reverberating out of these shifts, continually deciphering and determining what these signals are saying and asking ‘What you are going to do about it?'”, Transforming Tension and Disequilibrium Into Breakthrough Experiences

Deciphering the signals of a changing system, environment, organization and world keeps us on our toes. It helps us keep up with catastrophic change and still make good leadership choices. It helps us adapt instead of retrench when we face rapid change.

It Helps Us Navigate Perpetual Uncertainty

Change is not something we can prevent, or even”manage” in the traditional sense. Embracing disequilibrium helps us move forward, adapting our approaches and strategies to better “navigate the uphill terrain of perpetual uncertainty.”

5 Questions 

Use these 5 questions to check how well you are responding to disequilibrium:

  1. How deeply am I embracing disequilibrium?
  2. Where could I be fighting it, causing more difficulty than is necessary for myself and others?
  3. If I admitted that my earlier definition of “normal” was no longer possible, how would I think and lead differently?
  4. How will I carry out the improvements described in my answer to #3?
  5. How will those changes improve my leadership and the performance of my teams?

Subscribe to the Leading in Context Blog For a New Article Each Week!


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)


© 2018 Leading in Context LLC



What Does it Mean to “Be a Leader?”


By Linda Fisher Thornton

Leadership is not about being “in charge” or standing “at the front of the room” or “exercising personal power.” Authentic ethical leadership flips that paradigm. 

The authentic ethical leader is:

  • Standing beside, encouraging, supporting, guiding
  • Standing in the back offering encouragement
  • Stepping aside when people are capable of doing the work without support
  • Stepping forward to remove obstacles and clear the path for success
  • Taking responsibility and sharing credit
  • Being available and ready to help

This is the work of leadership.

Do not be fooled by someone trying to use power for personal gain. Bottom line — If it’s loud, self-serving and egotistical, it’s not leadership. 


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

Click the cover to read a free preview!  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC



5 Insights Into Leadership Development Future (Part 2)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This post is Part 2 in a series called “5 Insights Into Leadership Development Future.” Each post in this series will address trends in leadership development and how to prepare leaders for success in a complex, connected global society (In case you missed it, Part 1 addressed trends in ethical awareness, leading with values and changes in the learning landscape). 


We are beginning to think more holistically about the leadership role, including its global scope and broad impact. Today I want to describe the important trend toward wholeness that is helping us improve our effectiveness in many arenas and will be changing our approach to leadership development.  

Have you noticed that: 

  • In health care, we are moving away from just treating symptoms to supporting wellness
  • In the workplace, we are moving away from focusing on treating specific individual groups of people well toward a goal of full inclusion
  • In education, we are (slowly) beginning to embrace preparing the whole child for a good life rather than focusing only on knowledge and test scores
  • In religion, we are beginning to understand common values, rather than focusing only on separate religious traditions
  • In business, we are beginning to think about ourselves as one global community rather than just a disparate set of countries and boundaries

This trend toward wholeness is informing approaches to leadership development in important ways. To see how well you’re helping leaders adapt to this trend, ask yourself:

Are we giving leaders the whole picture and expanding their awareness of how things connect? Are we helping them see global patterns and trends? – Help Them See the Connections

Are we developing them as whole leaders, addressing their thinking processes and habits and not just their observable skills? – Help Them Understand Their Own Leadership Terrain

Are we giving them a holistic picture of leadership responsibility and not just focusing on laws and ethics codes? – Help Them See the Full Scope of Ethical Leadership Responsibility

Applying the trend toward wholeness to the way we develop leaders can have powerful positive effects. For example, we can help leaders examine and improve their leadership thinking – to find out where they might be thinking narrowly and not holistically. 

Marian N. Ruderman, Cathleen Clerkin, and Carol Connolly From The Center For Creative Leadership extend an invitation in their white paper Leadership Development Beyond Competencies: Moving to a Holistic Approach – “We call upon leadership developers to work together as a concerned community, to move beyond the established competency approach to offer deeper levels of leadership development.”

Specific Actions You Can Take Now to Help Leaders Adapt:

  1. Address leader learning on the internal as well as external aspects of leadership, helping leaders learn to manage their unconscious thoughts and become aware of how their thoughts can affect their behavior
  2. Help leaders understand the dimensions of what it means to take responsibility in leadership
  3. Get them talking about the places where they are observing a trend toward wholeness, and the impact of this trend on their lives and leadership

More to Come: I will be continuing this series with more important trends in leadership development and actions you can take to help leaders adapt.  Stay tuned for Part 3!

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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!  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

No Shortcuts WIll Get You There

Good-leaders-know-that (1)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

A for-profit company is an integral part of the global community, and its role is to provide value-creating services through the good work of good people. 

Good companies, like good citizens, make a commitment to positive purpose, positive intent and positive impact. That means that they do what’s right in the right way, showing concern for constituents and silent stakeholders.

People have tried shortcuts that go around respect, civility and tolerance, but there is no acceptable shortcut on the road to profit (or power) that “goes around ethics.”                                                                             — Linda Fisher Thornton

– See more at:

Good leaders don’t divide the world – they don’t treat people well only when it’s convenient or profitable. They treat people well because that is what good people do. Morally developed leaders understand that despite our differences, we are all part of the same group – the human group. Treating people that way build good neighborhoods and communities, on a local and global scale.

Shortcuts won’t get you there. Good leaders know that the road to profit leads through good work, good leadership and good ethics.  While it’s tempting to take shortcuts, our global understanding of “good leadership” is moving past a self-centered view of things. It’s time for leaders to step up.

Read more insights from Trust Across America Trust Alliance Members and Top Thought Leaders in this post on the FCPA Blog.


Top 100 Leadership Blog




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

Learn how ethical expectations are increasing, and how to stay ahead of the curve.

Click the cover to read a free preview!  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC


What is “Good Food” (In an Ethical Sense)?

20140927_160727By Linda Fisher Thornton

What is “Good” Food?

I was reading an article that ranked food products, and I began to think about how many different variables define “good” or “best” when we’re talking about food products. One variable is how good the food tastes. But there are many more. Shoppers may consider variables that include:

  • flavor
  • appearance
  • convenience
  • number of servings
  • packaging
  • cost

That list is missing something, though. What about all of the decisions that happen before the food gets to the store that also impact the consumer? Many of those decisions determine whether or not the end product contributes to our overall health. 

“Good Food” Supports Health and Well Being

There are many ethical dimensions of food products. We don’t see them – they may not be advertised, and are decided well before the product reaches us. They are determined by big and small decisions made by others, including business leaders. And they impact our health and well-being.

Consumers are frequently using widely available information and reviews when choosing foods, and they often consider ethical variables in addition to the obvious ones listed above. There is a movement toward supporting well-being, and consumers increasingly want to know that foods they buy contribute to their overall well-being.  

If we started with a blank chalkboard and listed aspects of food and food production that support well-being and represent ethical practices, what would we list? What are the variables that define “good food” from an ethical standpoint? Below is a starting list of 12 ethical dimensions of “good food.” Feel free to suggest others!

Ethical Dimensions of “Good Food”

  1. Nutritional Value (vitamins, minerals, nutrients, calories, fat, sugar, fiber, salt)                             
  2. Simplicity (how little it has been altered from its natural state – avoiding alterations that negatively affect human health)
  3. Purity (avoiding toxins, additives and filler ingredients)
  4. Growing Conditions (plants – avoiding use of suspected carcinogens and toxic pesticides; animals – avoiding using drugs or additives or feed that risk human health, humane conditions)
  5. Sourcing (ethical labor and production)
  6. Distribution (eco-transport)
  7. Brand (transparent, avoiding greenwashing and false claims)
  8. Sales and Marketing (honest and accurate, appropriate)
  9. Glycemic Index (impact on blood sugar levels)
  10. Inflammation Effect (immune system response)
  11. Avoidance of Harm (food is safe and does no harm)
  12. Wellness Impact (enhances overall wellness)

There are multiple dimensions of what “good food” means and expectations are continuing to increase.  Ideally good food would have a high nutritional value and would contribute to overall wellness, be ethically grown, produced, sourced, transported and sold. What does all of this mean for leaders? There’s a lot to consider beyond the taste test.

What other ethical variables would you add to this list?

Top 100 Leadership Blog






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

Includes case examples and questions.   Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™

©2015 Leading in Context LLC

Finding Meaning Requires Growth

By Linda Fisher Thornton

When Nicolae Tanase at asked me to submit an entry for his Meaning of Life project, I hesitated. It was a question I had often thought about. But it was a big one, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to tackle it publicly. After thinking it over, I decided that the question was related to my work in human development and leadership, and that a clear answer could be valuable to readers. I agreed to participate and submit an entry.

What is the Meaning of Life?

After pondering the question for a couple of week, I realized that the way we interpret the meaning of life depends on our perspective, our stage of life and our level of human development. Clicking the link below takes you to my answer to Nicolae’s question. As you read, think about how you would have answered his question. 

Linda Fisher Thornton: The Meaning of Life and Human Development via Excellence Reporter

Questions to Ponder:

1. What makes your life and leadership meaningful and fulfilling?

2. How might your answer change as you go through the different stages of your life?

3. How could your answer impact how you lead others?

Follow @leadingincontxt and @7Lenses for insights into leading through complexity without losing sight of ethical values.

Top 100 Leadership Blog


Cut Through the Complexity — See Through The 7 Lenses®. 

Includes compelling graphics, case examples and questions.   Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2015 Leading in Context LLC

Leadership Development S-T-R-E-T-C-H-E-S To Prepare for the Future


By Linda Fisher Thornton

In a recent post, I acknowledged that “leaders face information overload, globalization and increasing complexity. And they hold the key to your organization’s future. Make it a priority to help them be ready.”

How can we prepare leaders to succeed in a socially and globally connected world? What are the strategies that will help them handle a wide variety of unpredictable situations while making ethical choices?

There are specific strategies that will help your leadership team prepare for the future. Organizations employing these strategies will help leaders S-T-R-E-T-C-H to stay on top of changing expectations.


To prepare leaders to make confident values-based choices, leadership development needs to be clear and based on positive ethical values. To make it worth the time spent participating, every aspect must be relevant to meeting their current challenges.


Leaders need support as they learn to embrace complexity (and seek meaning in an age of information overload).We will need to use a growth mindset, letting leaders know that we understand that learning to lead responsibly is a lifelong journey. We will need to honor learning trends and acknowledge that in many cases, leaders can be the architects of their own learning.


Welcoming open dialogue about any aspect of leadership will help leaders feel comfortable asking questions. If we are going to make responsible leadership a way of life in our organization, we will also need to help them steep their leadership in mutual trust – which includes trusting others and being a trustworthy leader.


If we prepare leaders to handle today’s problems, that doesn’t mean they will be ready to handle the problems of tomorrow. The solution? Aim well ahead of the curve of change, to where the field of leadership is headed.

Leaders need a strong infrastructure grounded in ethical values and lots of opportunities for learning and conversation. With the pace of change accelerating, how does leadership development need to change? We must prepare leaders for where they’re going to be (not just where they are now) and help them stay competent in a rapidly changing world.

Learn More:

Changing Ethical Leadership Expectations

16 Trends Shaping the Future of Ethical Leadership.

11 Paths to Ethical Leadership Competence

Top 100 Leadership Blog






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

Includes case examples and questions.   Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™

©2015 Leading in Context LLC

12 Trends Shaping the (Responsible, Human) Future of Learning

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Much of our success in a rapidly changing world will come from our ability to learn our way through difficult situations that have no clear solutions. Since we can’t use a scripted response for unexpected situations, we need to help people learn how to handle complexity and information overload and still make ethical choices. 

This graphic pulls together 12 important trends in learning that will be important to our success in the future. I believe that the transition from a focus on content to a focus on learner success in the real world is already underway.  It transcends settings, being equally important in classrooms and corporate training rooms. 

Trends Fut of Learning REV

Together these trends give us a picture of learning that is deeply human, grounded in respect for the learner and in helping people reach their full potential. We have the opportunity to change lives and organizations by igniting a love for learning. The right column in this graphic describes the environment and approach that will accomplish that. 

Take a moment to consider how you will help forward the (responsible, human) future of learning in your organization.


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Are you leading through all 7 Lenses?
   Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™

©2015 Leading in Context LLC


5 Ways To Bolster Your Organization’s Ethical Immune System


By Linda Fisher Thornton

I was thinking about organizational culture recently, and noticed an interesting parallel. Actions such as eating healthy foods, exercising and getting enough sleep all boost our individual immune systems. What actions can we take to boost our ethical immune systems? And how could doing that help us create more ethical organizations?

Building a healthy ethical culture where people take steps to protect ethics and reputation takes intentional effort. It requires regular attention, similar to the way we must eat healthy foods and exercise daily to maintain our individual health.

An ethical organizational culture doesn’t just “happen” without leadership support. To support the overall ethical health of your organization, I recommend taking these 5 important leadership actions (and avoiding the corresponding DON’TS that undo the positive effects of ethical immunity).

1. DO Intentionally Ground Every Aspect Of Your Culture in Positive Ethical Values

(DON’T Leave ethics vague and just expect people to “do the right thing”)

2. DO Clarify Exactly What Ethical Leadership Looks Like in Action 

(DON’T give people ethical guidelines and leave them to figure out how to apply them to their ethical challenges)

3. DO Provide Resources For Ethical Thinking and Decision Making

(DON’T assume that people can make sense out of highly complex situations and choose the most ethical choices)

4. DO Create a Safe Environment For Talking About Ethical Challenges and Questions

(DON’T let the conversations happen only in ethics training – that’s not where people struggle with getting ethics right)

5. DO Model Ethical Leadership From The Top Down*

(DON’T Exempt the CEO and Senior Leadership from accountability for ethical leadership)

 *Failure to model ethical leadership at the highest levels of leadership is a common problem, and it destroys ethical immunity. 

For more guidance on ethical culture building, see these related articles:

7 Questions For Ethical Culture Building

Critical Roles of the (Ethical) CEO

How to Build an Ethical Culture


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Linda Fisher Thornton’s book 7 Lenses is your guide to proactive ethical leadership (in 7 dimensions that are all important).   Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™                                                                  

©2015 Leading in Context LLC

12 Gifts of Leadership (Will You Give Them This Year?)


By Linda Fisher Thornton

How do we lead when we want to bring out the best in people? These 12 Gifts of Leadership are on the wish lists of employees around the world. They aren’t expensive. They don’t require dealing with the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, and one size fits all. Sure, these gifts are harder to give than a fruitcake, but they will be life-changing for those you lead.

12 Gifts of Leadership

  1. Ethical Awareness – When we make it a priority to stay ethically aware, people can count on us to protect their interests and the interests of the company.
  2. Care – When we show every day that we care about people (not the FAUX care that we see so often, but the REAL kind), they feel valued and secure.
  3. Humility – When we lead without looming over people, instead working beside them and involving them, they can contribute their best work.
  4. Competence – When we stay competent, we set the bar high for others, and create a learning environment that brings out everyone’s best.
  5. Open Communication – When we welcome input from everyone, regardless of level, we send a message that we value the insights and talents of the entire workforce.
  6. Respect – Respect makes people feel safe, and when they feel safe, they are usually more productive and engaged. When we are respectful, that helps build a respectful workplace.
  7. Trust – Being trustworthy is a great gift to those we lead. Trusting them back is the ribbon that makes the gift complete.
  8. Clear Expectations – Letting people know what you expect gives them the security of knowing the boundaries that should guide their work.
  9. Support for Success – When people can count on you to support their success, they will be more and do more, and enjoy their work more.
  10. Inclusion – People come in all shapes, sizes, races, religions, etc. Each person needs to be able to maintain dignity and dreams for the future while working with you.
  11. Appreciation – Everyone wants to know that someone notices what they do. Make it a point to appreciate everyone, even if what you appreciate is a small improvement someone makes toward a goal that seems far away.
  12. Values – Basing your leadership on ethical values lets people know what they can expect from you, and focuses the efforts of the whole organization on a positive outcome.

Will you give these 12 Gifts of Leadership this year? Be aware that these “must-haves” for employees are expensive, but not in the way you might expect. They require soul-searching and personal growth. Doesn’t your organization deserve these generous gifts from you? The journey to ethical leadership transforms people and organizations, so don’t be afraid to dig deep to give these 12 Gifts of Leadership this year.


Vote for your 10 favorite CSR thought leaders at Global CEO’s Top 100 CSR Leaders (Linda Fisher Thornton is #32).


7 Lenses™ Workshops Engage Organizational Leaders in Learning:

  • What leading with “integrity” really means
  • Moral awareness and ethical competence
  • Leading in ways that bring out the best in others
  • Centering daily work in ethical values
  • Building lasting trust
  • Using clear ethical thinking and decision-making
  • How doing all of the above transforms organizational results


We believe that ethics, integrity and trust are critical to our success. …But what are we doing to clarify them, to tether our work to them, to apply them?

 …Are we doing enough?


Schedule a 7 Lenses Workshop for 2015:


Ethical Leadership 2015: Graphics That Tell the Story

get ready

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The graphics at the links below tell the story of the future of responsible leadership. They describe the kind of leadership that is respectful, caring and ethically aware. This is the positive leadership that engages employees in meaningful work and helps builds an ethical culture.

My hope is that you will share this story with your leadership team and plan now for the future, using the questions that follow.

16 Trends Shaping the Future of Ethical Leadership
10 Forces Fueling the Values-Based Leadership Movement
5 Elements of a (Proactive) Ethical Workplace
Managing Ethical Leadership as a Human Performance System

The kind of leadership described in these graphics doesn’t just happen on its own. It requires intentional ongoing preparation by individual leaders and organizations. 2015 is almost here. Use these questions to develop your plans for meeting the future prepared for success:

Individual Questions

1. How well does my leadership measure up to the leadership described in these graphics?

2. What are the most important changes I need to make now to be ready?

3. How will I be accountable for making those changes and what support will I need to make them?

Organizational Questions

1. How well does our organizational leadership match up with this vision of the leadership of the future?

2. What are the most important changes we need to make now to be ready then?

3. How will we make those changes in a way that ensures that the change is deeply rooted and not superficial?

Business is changing. Let us know how Leading in Context can help you prepare. 
522For 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  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses


 Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™                                                                                       

©2014 Leading in Context LLC

What is Integrity? Beyond “I’ll Know It When I See It”

20140821_143302By Linda Fisher Thornton

During the recent 2014 NeuroLeadership Summit, Jamil Zaki (an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Stanford) talked about an interesting experiment the Stanford Neuroscience Lab did. The team took a large number of Fortune 100 statements of company values and generated a word cloud from them to see which word would appear most often. Which word was it? Integrity was the most frequently used word. This experiment reveals a general agreement that integrity is important, but what exactly does it mean? People may understand it in very different ways.

The word integrity evolved from the Latin adjective integer, meaning whole or complete.[3] In this context, integrity is the inner sense of “wholeness” deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character. As such, one may judge that others “have integrity” to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold.

Wikipedia, Definition of Integrity

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

When we demonstrate integrity, what we think, say and do are all aligned. But aligned with what?

I think that something that many organizations include in the concept of “integrity” is good moral character. People with good character would be morally aware and ethically competent. This leads me to ask some important questions:

Do your leaders know which values you want them to act on when they “Use the highest integrity in all that they do?”

Do they know what those values look like?

Do they know how to honor them while balancing the needs of multiple stakeholders?

Without clarity about the ethical values we should honor in our work, integrity is individually interpreted, based on the personal values of each leader. To help them lead ethically at a high level, though, we need to answer a deeper question  – “Which ethical values should we uphold in what we think, say and do?”

Are your leaders crystal clear about which ethical values are most important to your organization?

If your leaders are all perfectly clear about which high level ethical values to uphold and how to demonstrate them, you are probably incorporating complexity into your leadership development. You are also probably providing leaders with the level of detail about ethical values that they need to navigate through information overload, constant change and demands from multiple stakeholders. If not, you may be rolling the dice by taking an “I’ll know it when I see it” approach to ethics.

Follow the Leading in Context Blog for weekly posts that help you Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™



For more, see 7 Lenses  and the related 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  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 


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