Ethical Leadership: Complexity, Context and Adaptation

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ethical leadership requires growth, a willingness to acknowledge complexity and an understanding of the broader context in which we lead. Use these resources to improve your ethical awareness, learn about how the leadership context is evolving and check for learning blind spots.

To Learn About Ethics and Complexity:

To Learn About Ethics and Context:

To Learn About Ethics and Adaptation:

 

 

Special Series Celebrating the 2nd Printing of 7 Lenses

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 5)

 

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©2018 Leading in Context LLC

What Happens When You Ignore Complexity?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ignoring complexity reduces the number of variables considered in a decision. That may seem convenient (see last week’s post) but it also removes the nuanced thinking that is necessary for ethical decision-making. With all the information available in a socially connected world, it is easy to fall victim to the quick oversimplified understanding of issues. This “quick glance” way of gathering information doesn’t reveal the breadth and depth of what’s really going on.

“The contemporary context also reflects the fact that issues associated with access to information and with technology may enhance the temptation and ease of making unethical choices.”

Mark Winston, The Complexity of Ethical Decision Making, Information Ethics

Basing decisions on “quick glance” information gathering is not just uninformed and unwise, it can be harmful. It is definitely in a leader’s best interest to learn about the nuances and avoid the temptation to make a quick potentially unethical decision. Here are some ways that removing complexity can get us into deep ethical trouble:

  • Without acknowledging complexity, we may only look at the variables we already understand and ignore others that are critical to the decision
  • Without acknowledging complexity, we may only look at the short-term impact and ignore the long-term risks
  • Without acknowledging complexity. we may decide only based on self-interest and personal gain
  • Without acknowledging complexity, we may leap into something that does more harm than good
  • Without acknowledging complexity, we may quickly show our ignorance to others who took the time to understand the nuances
  • Without acknowledging complexity, we may make our own job harder by creating more problems than we solve

We can’t simply review one or two articles that reinforce our own beliefs about an issue and make an ethical decision. It takes more effort than that to understand the variables. Who are the constituents? What are their needs and goals? What is the presenting problem? Is that a symptom of a bigger problem? Do we understand that bigger problem and how the two are connected? If we try to fix a symptom without addressing the cause how will that make things worse? What other global issues and trends impact this problem? How? What are the most ethical options given all of the connected variables? 

“Solving a problem” without understanding the context is like changing individual notes in a song without considering the effect on the song. The result can be a meaningless mess. 

Here’s the key point – There is no good leadership without ethical thinking and ethical thinking requires digging into the nuances of complex issues. In a global society, our problems are connected in intricate boundary-spanning ways. Globally, we have the thinking power to untangle our complex problems and make the best choices. We just need to choose to use it. 

 

Special Series Celebrating the 2nd 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

LeadinginContext.com  

©2018 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

 

Ethical Leaders Understand the Context

By Linda Fisher Thornton

In a previous post, I addressed some of the risks of not taking time to THINK before making decisions. Today, I want to explore why it is so important for leaders to understand the CONTEXT before they make decisions. 

As shown in the graphic, the context (in all of its complexity) becomes the central feature in building awareness of any ethical issue. Without the context, we are not aware – we only see the parts of an issue that we want to see. 

 

Context and Responsibility 3

Learning about the complexities of an issue helps us see the potential impact of our decision on others. 

We live in a world of human, economic, organizational, environmental and societal systems. Those systems interact globally in complex ways. Solving a complex problem without understanding it well can have unintended consequences

A clear understanding of the context is an important part of staying ethically aware and competent, and both are necessary qualities for responsible leadership. 

Ethical leaders know that there can be no ethical awareness without understanding the context, and without awareness, competence and responsibility are also out of reach. 

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Learn to Think in all 7 Ethical Dimensions 

 

 

 

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©2017 Leading in Context LLC

Ethical Leaders Take The Hidden Path

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ethical leaders seek shared value. They look for ways to meet the needs of others while they champion their own projects and ideas. Why? Because they understand that they are responsible for honoring their well-being AND the well-being of others. 

Ethical leaders take responsibility for supporting the noble goals of others and have the persistence and character to reach for the situation where “We Both Win.” 

Shared value and mutual benefit are principles at the core of Corporate Social Responsibility and ethical leadership. To achieve them, we must think beyond outdated notions of what it means to win (including the one-dimensional false dichotomy “I Win, You Lose).” We have to look for the alternative path. 

This path to shared value may seem to be a “hidden path” because we have to look deeper and work harder to find it. It takes more work and effort. It requires thinking beyond the immediate moment and the one-sided “win.” It builds lasting relationships that benefit all parties. 

While seeking mutual benefit may take more effort up front, that doesn’t mean that it’s optional. Taking advantage of others to make a quick buck doesn’t create meaning or build real relationships. It doesn’t demonstrate a commitment to ethical values. 

In every situation where we think we have to do what it takes to get our immediate needs met, there is another path we can choose – pursuing a mutually beneficial solution that lasts.

The path to mutually beneficial solutions is not always easy to find. Great leaders realize that it’s their job to seek out and take this hidden path. 

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NEW Leadership Webinars –  Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership!
6/8/17 – Communicating About Ethical Values: How To Talk About What Matters
7/11/2017 – Developing Leadership That Inspires

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Ethical Leaders See Their Choices Through All 7 Lenses

Includes case examples and questions.

Click the book cover for a preview.

 

 

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

 

5 Warning Signs Of Oversimplified Ethics

 

20150718_184838

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Leaders and organizations can get into real trouble if they oversimplify ethics. Some examples of what that might look like include dormant ethics statements (that look good on paper but are not brought to life) and grandiose statements (that are vague and not well understood). 

Here are 5 warning signs to watch for that signal an oversimplified approach to ethics:

5 Warning Signs Of Oversimplified Ethics

1. Ethical values are communicated, but never explained or practiced.

2. Ethics is thought of as a program or a requirement, not a way of thinking and acting.

3. Ethical values and ethical learning are treated as separate from the core mission of the organization,

4. Discussions about ethical grey areas are quickly discouraged.

5. Ethics training and leadership training are separate (which won’t prepare leaders to make ethical decisions in their daily work).

To make the boundaries of ethics clear, we need to explore the borders and grey areas. Trying to make things CLEAR and keeping them SIMPLE are not at all the same.

 

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 Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future 

7 Lenses offers practical and compelling guidance for ethical leaders.

 

 

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