Ethical Leaders Don’t Put the Brakes on Learning

By Linda Fisher Thornton

When leaders stop learning, they generate friction. Professionals who work with a leader who has “put the brakes on learning” are likely to experience conflict and dissatisfaction. A leader’s failure to learn starts a chain reaction that harms individuals and teams. 

How a Leader Who Puts the Brakes on Learning Affects a Team

  • Leader decisions based on outdated information frustrate competent team members and reduce their effectiveness.
  • Uninformed leader decisions often stray into unethical territory, with the leader pushing forward, pressuring team members to do what they know is not ethical right. 
  • Some highly talented team members working with an uninformed leader begin to look for other work.
  • Team members pressured to do things they know are not ethically right leave the team to find better working conditions. 
  • The departure of highly talented team members further reduces the effectiveness of the team.
  • The reputation of the team is damaged, making it hard to attract good people to fill positions.
  • Positions that remained unfilled put additional pressure on existing team members. More team members may decide to leave to find better leadership.  

When leaders put the brakes on learning, it cripples the whole team, starting a downward spiral to ineffectiveness. It damaged reputation and engagement metrics. It affects results. 

Ethical Leaders Learn

Responsible leaders know that learning must continue for a lifetime. Only then can they be ready to  make ethical choices as they handle the challenges of leadership. 

Good drivers don’t drive with the emergency brake on. Good leaders don’t put the brakes on learning. 

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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)

 

 

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)

 

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©2018 Leading in Context LLC

Dealing With Complexity? Use Ethical Thinking (Guest Post)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

We all need better ways to deal with difficult situations. Thinking on autopilot or going with our “gut instinct” won’t guide us through the ethical grey areas. Michael McKinney published an article I wrote that digs into how to lead through complexity. It is a timely topic, and as I shared in the article, “many leaders I talk with have a feeling that there is a more meaningful way of thinking and leading than what they’ve been seeing. “

EthicsThis article explains that “there is no ‘good leadership’ without ethical thinking” and shares the framework from the book                  7 Lenses as a tool for making ethical choices in complex situations.

When we ground our choices in ethical values, we consider our impact on constituents in the short run and over the long run. That’s what good leadership is all about.

Read the article on the Leading Now Blog. Comment here to let me know what you think!

 

 

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

 

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 5)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

To celebrate 7 Lenses going into its second printing, this is the fifth post in a special series focused on Why Ethical Thinking Matters. In case you missed them, take a look at Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1),  Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2), Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3) and Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)I’m hoping the strategies shared in this series will give you a fresh perspective on your plans for developing leaders in 2018.

You may already realize that ethical thinking is important, and if you do, I ask you to spread the word. To help you champion the cause in your organizations and on social media, I have included the business case below.

If you ask a room full of leaders to define ethical thinking, you’ll get dozens of different answers. Leaders struggle with increasing complexity and accelerating change and they may think that they know how to use ethical thinking. The problem is that the ethical thinking they have been using for years isn’t helping them now. Our thinking skills don’t just upgrade themselves as if set on “automatic upgrade.” Leaders have to practice struggling through ethical issues at increasingly higher levels of complexity.

Ethical thinking doesn’t just “happen” by itself in a rapidly changing global environment – the landscape is constantly changing and ethical expectations are increasing

As ethical challenges increase, leadership thinking needs to increase accordingly for leaders to keep up. If we use outdated software to run our most critical systems, they won’t be reliable and our business credibility will break down. The same is true for outdated leadership thinking. 

Ethical Awareness is Increasing

Corruption has long been approached with the implicit attitude that it is a victimless crime. This is now changing fast, as it has become impossible to ignore the links between corruption, poverty, conflict, and human rights violations.

Alison Taylor and James Cohen, The future of business ethics: Hyper-transparency and other global trends, FCPA Blog

Ethical Problems Must Be Handled Fast, In Real Time

“The caliber of the decision maker is decisive—especially when an immediate decision must arise from instinct rather than from discussion.”

Kenneth R. Andrews, Managing Uncertainty: Ethics in Practice, HBR

Developing Leaders Supports Employee Engagement

“The third factor in “irresistible” management is leadership development: Organizations with high levels of employee engagement focus on developing great leaders. They invest heavily in management development and ensure that new leaders are given ample support.”

Josh Bersin, Becoming Irresistable: A New Model For Employee Engagement, Deloitte Insights

A New Leadership Algorithm is Required

“The definition of strong leadership is evolving. Several interviews discuss topics relating to updating the leadership algorithm or leadership mindset to enhance the overall capacity.”

Maureen Metcalf, What Top Leaders And Academics Are Thinking About Leadership In 2017, Forbes.com

Pressure on leaders is increasing to make good choices and ethical brand value is a key part of organizational success. A bad choice captured on video can go viral on social media, causing the value of a company to plummet in hours. Don’t let your most critical brand ambassadors and coaches (your leaders) use outdated ethical thinking. 

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©2018 Leading in Context LLC

 

18 Quotes To Inspire Leaders In The New Year (Part 1)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Are your leaders prepared for the year ahead? Each day will bring new challenges, and to succeed within ethical boundaries, we’ll all need a clear picture of “good leadership.”

This series is an annual tradition and this year’s post includes 18 quotes (each linked to a post with leadership guidance) to inspire you to grow your leadership skills to be ready for whatever 2018 may bring. Part 1 includes the first 9.

Leaders who solve complex problems need a special blend of qualities – the curiosity to untangle the variables, the persistence to keep trying, and the openness to change beliefs and strategies as answers emerge from the chaos. 

Firing answers at each other doesn’t involve listening or self-reflection, but answering questions we have in common (and living into the answers) will require both. 

As leaders, it’s our job to create an engaging, ethical, high-trust environment where people can do the very best work of their lives. And while we’re doing that, the world is watching. 

When ethical leadership is required, the QUICK answer is risky business. 

Without the context, we are not aware – we only see the parts of an issue that we want to see. 

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.”

Ethics-rich leadership, after all, isn’t about position power – it’s about values power. It treats values as the essential business tools they are.  Ethics-rich leaders will reap the ultimate rewards – in transformational performance. 

It turns out that truth, like ethics, is multidimensional. One sound bite is not going to capture it.

While uncertainty is hallmark of great leadership, there is one thing leaders should always be sure about in a rapidly changing global context. It helps them navigate the uphill terrain of perpetual uncertainty. What is it that they should always be sure about? Their values. 

As we approach 2018, make sure each leader in your organization is clear about values and ready to adapt to increasing ethical expectations. 

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©2017 Leading in Context LLC

The Trouble With Certainty

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Leaders may think that being decisive and “sure of things” helps them succeed, but if they do, they may be harboring an outdated view of leadership.

What has changed about how we see leadership and certainty? 

Being certain carries with it the connotation of not engaging others in the conversation and using one-way communication. It evokes images of an iron fist pounding on a desk, not a leader who enjoys “working beside” a talented and diverse team.

Imagining a leader who’s “certain,” we may think about someone who operates as a lone wolf or someone who is holding fast to an outdated world view and refusing to adapt as the world changes. 

The Quest For Uncertainty

Whereas certainty is “out,” uncertainty is the new hallmark of great leadership. Uncertain leaders ask more questions and engage more stakeholders. They see value in dialogue and in the somewhat messy but always interesting process of learning. Uncertain leaders know that the minute they become “certain” and unwilling to adapt to change, they are at risk of making an ethical mistake. 

When is certainty a good thing in a global environment?

While uncertainty is hallmark of great leadership, there is one thing leaders should always be sure about in a rapidly changing global context. It helps them navigate the uphill terrain of perpetual uncertainty. What is it that they should always be sure about? Their values. 

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The Questions We Have in Common

By Linda Fisher Thornton

On October 2nd, Krista Tippett gave a talk on “The Adventure of Civility” at the University of Richmond. One of the important things I gleaned from her talk was this recommendation:

Instead of trading in “competing answers or statements made to catch, corner, incite or entertain” we should “share the questions we have in common” and “live into the answers.”

Here are my observations on her important words: 

The big questions we are trying to resolve together cannot be understood using one-way broadcasts. 

Even in a fast-paced, social-media enabled world, it would be wrong for any leader to act as though important and complex issues could be managed responsibly without deep listening and dialogue

Firing answers at each other doesn’t involve listening or self-reflection, but answering questions we have in common (and living into the answers) will require both. 

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What Does It Mean To “Do The Right Thing?”

Seen Through 7 Lenses of Ethical Responsibility

 

 

Click the cover to read a free preview!

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©2017 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

4 Connected Trends Shaping the Future of Leadership

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Our understanding of good leadership is advancing. In this video, I describe 4 powerful trends that are increasing leadership expectations and shaping what leaders will need to be ready to handle in the future. 

These 4 trends shaping the future of leadership are connected and accelerating. They give us a clear picture of where we need to take our leadership. 

The greatest challenge leaders face is to keep up as the bar continues to be raised. At the rate expectations are increasing, it is clear that we will never “arrive.” We must be adaptable, open to developing new skill sets and mindsets, while at the same time staying true to the values of ethical leadership. 

Being open to learning makes or breaks our success as leaders.

Adaptability is no longer just a competitive advantage. It’s an ethical imperative. 

 

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Upcoming Event! NEW Leader Webinar  7/11/2017 – Developing Leadership That Inspires

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Ethical Leaders Stay Current as the World Changes

Includes case examples and questions.

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Values Drive Business Success (But Only If They’re Clear and Applied)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial Survey Executive Summary reported that according to responses from 7700 employed millennials from 29 countries, “the values that support long-term business success are people treatment, ethics, and customer focus. While people treatment, ethics, and customer focus may be the values that drive business success, that only works if they’re applied across the organization. Do people know what the values are? Are they evident in the everyday actions of leaders? Are they factored into daily decisions? 

Even if a company has clear values, applying them is not as easy as leaders might think. According to Gallup (2016), just 23% of U.S. employees strongly agree that they can apply their organization’s values to their work every day.  Leaders might think that values are self-explanatory, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s in the nitty-gritty application of values that people have deep questions. Here are two examples: 

A manager has been told to hire according to the company’s values and to meet or exceed all goals. The candidate that is most likely to improve the department’s chances of meeting goals is not always respectful to others. Which is more important?

An employee sees a disconnect between the company’s stated values and the actions of a new senior leader. Should she follow the stated values or the leader’s direction? 

Leaders must start the conversation and keep it open, model the application of stated values, clear up areas of confusion and use the company’s values to guide daily work. Then and only then will values be “powered up” to drive business success. The power of values is not in stating them on the website and glossy brochures – it’s in the much more difficult process of living them in our everyday choices.  

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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

Labels Divide, Values Conquer

 

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I have noticed that when people speak from LABELS (their group identity, their belief system, their affiliation), they are talking from the interests of that label. This can quickly become divisive if that label doesn’t include everyone. If a label is broad enough – like the label “human” –  it can automatically be an ethical and inclusive conversation. But since most labels aren’t that broad, we need to use ethical values to guide us. 

When people speak from VALUES (respect, care, inclusion, sustainability), the conversation more naturally moves to “How can we live out that value?”(all of us, together) instead of “What can we (members of this label) do that is best for us?”

Labels DIVIDE people into groups, and highlight their special nature and interests. 
Values UNITE people, and highlight shared interests and common concerns. 

Labels can be positive. helping us unite people around a common issue, but they need to be used carefully. Why? 

Using LABELS without also using ethical values means that we are probably declaring ourselves special at someone else’s expense.

VALUES help us conquer the human tendency to act in our own best interests. They remind us that we are responsible for more than our own success and that we need to make sure that our impact on others is positive. 

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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 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

Includes case examples and questions.

Click the book cover for a preview.

 

 

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

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Ready to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)? Part 4

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Leadership is not easy. Leaders need to be inspired to lead with positive values while dealing with the goals and expectations of multiple stakeholders. 

Here are the previous posts in the series if you missed them: 

Ready to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)? Part 1 (Improve Accountability)

Ready to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)? Part 2 (Improve Leader Impact)

Ready to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)? Part 3 (Manage the System)

The focus of this week’s post is on Ways to Inspire Leaders to Lead With Positive Ethical Values. Here are 3 ways to inspire leaders to reach for positive values – that also help you “do good” in your organization, community and world. 

Ready to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)?

Inspire Leaders to Lead With Positive Ethical Values

  1. MAKE LEADING WITH VALUES A NON-NEGOTIABLE STANDARD:  Non-negotiable performance standards should include respect, care, trust building and full inclusion.
  2. TEACH HOW TO LEAD WITH ETHICAL VALUES:  Leaders will need to talk through complex issues and explore how to maintain the “non-negotiable” values while making good business decisions at the same time. 
  3. MAKE LEADING WITH VALUES PAY OFF: Leaders who consistently model the “non-negotiable” values should be rewarded so that others get the message that those values are just as important to the organization as profitability and growth. 

These 3 ways to change the ethics quo will inspire leaders to reach for ethical values and ethical outcomes, fueling long-term organizational success. 

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See The Whole Picture Through 7 Lenses (That Are All Important) 

Includes case examples and questions.

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

A Message of Hope

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Thank you, friends, for reading and sharing this Blog in 2016. I appreciate all the ways you have helped forward the movement toward authentic ethical leadership. Only by bringing out our best as leaders are we able to bring out the best in those we lead. 

As we head into this holiday season, I wish you hope. Hope is what keeps us going when problems seem impossible to solve, when time is short, and when solutions are distant. If your hopefulness should ever falter, remember these important words:

“Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all.”

Emily Dickinson

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

Albert Einstein 

“There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.”

Bernard Williams

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.”

Desmond Tutu

“We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Great leaders inspire hopefulness. They imagine a better world, and they build the future accordingly.

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

Includes case examples and questions.

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

Great Leaders Are Other-Focused

By Linda Fisher Thornton

There are many important roles leaders play. The common thread through all of them is that leadership is about enabling the success of others. Leaders are supporters, developers, guides, team builders, and imaginers. They are culture caretakers, roadblock removers and inspirers. All of these roles require being other-focused. 

As leaders, we seek to bring out the best in individuals, the best in teams, and the best in organizations, pulling together diverse collections of people striving toward common goals. We create the conditions for success, we build trust and we model and reinforce ethical choices. Doing these things consistently enables those we lead to do their best work. 

How do we define our success as leaders using this mindset? It’s simple – Great leaders create the conditions for success, intentionally building trust and an ethical culture, enabling people to do their best work. Their best work fuels the economic and social success of our organizations. We succeed when they succeed. 

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Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future. 

Learn 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

 

Ready to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)? – Part 3

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The first post in this series addressed ACCOUNTABILITY. The second asked you to evaluate your IMPACT. These four ways to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good) focus on MANAGING THE SYSTEM.

Ready to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)?

Manage the System

  1. COMMUNICATE OPENLY ABOUT ETHICAL ISSUES: Are ethical expectations clear and widely communicated? Does widely communicated include open conversations about grey areas? If not, start those conversations, framing them as important ways to change the ethics quo and improve the organization. 
  2. BRING ETHICS TO LIFE: Does ethics have a life beyond procedures and the shelf full of ethics manuals? Are the materials readable and relatable so that people can succeed in applying them? Are they current? Are they followed? If not, find ways to bring ethics to life so that people know it’s “the way we do things” and not “that binder on the second shelf.”
  3. REWARD ETHICAL CHOICES: Is ethical behavior rewarded just as much as financial profitability (in promotions, awards and public recognition)? If not, the message of your ethics system is “we are ethical unless it interferes with making money.” Get it straight by making ethics at least as important as (or more important than) profits.
  4. INTEGRATE ETHICS INTO EVERYTHING: Is ethics an integrated part of all training and performance management instead of being “separate?” If ethics training is separate that may give the impression that ethics can be separated from good performance and good leadership. If performance is rewarded based on results and not ethics, you’ll get results without ethics. Make sure that ethics is a thread woven through every learning experience for every audience and through the fabric of your culture. 

We may think that things are going well when there are no major problems, but that’s a “false reading” for ethics. Without prevention and taking the steps recommended in this series, we will be “putting out fires” and cleaning up damage to our organization’s reputation. Don’t wait for that to happen. This week, work on these important ways to MANAGE THE SYSTEM.

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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.  

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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