5 Ways to Avoid Opinions That Lack Insight and Understanding

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Lately we’ve been seeing too much content that is not grounded in understanding. Some of it is intentionally misleading and some of it is well-intentioned but misinformed.

What this means is that we have to learn how to recognize misinformation, but also, and even more importantly, carefully tend how we convey our own opinions.

“A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding.”

― Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man

Before sharing your opinion, use the questions in this Self-Check; make sure you are on track to sharing your opinion in a way that leads to insight and understanding.

Opinion Self-Check

  1. Do I get angry when I think about this?
    • Anger clouds our judgment and bypasses our moral checks
    • If it makes you angry, slow down
  2. Have I researched the issue using multiple reputable sources?
    • Spreading misinformation is ethically problematic
    • Do your research first
  3. Have I thought it through before expressing an opinion?
    • Speaking without thinking is a recipe for disaster
    • Think about the issue and how your opinion could be perceived by others
  4. Have I listened to what a diverse group of voices is saying on the subject?
    • Our social media feed will share content that agrees with what we already believe, entrenching us in a narrow perspective
    • Seek out differing opinions from people and groups before you make up your mind on the issue
  5. Have I stayed open to changing my mind?
    • A closed mind isn’t going to change as the world changes
    • Stay open to changing your opinion as you learn more and reflect on the issue

As Clara Barton famously said, we “cannot afford the luxury of a closed mind.”

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Human Leadership is the Leadership We Need

By Linda Fisher Thornton

As we struggle with compounding challenges around the world, people are more and more frequently seeking information about human or humane leadership. Why is the topic so timely? I believe it’s critical now because in a crisis we need a leader who can make people feel safe, respected and protected.

Here are some inspiring quotes about important elements of human leadership:

“Human leadership is grounded in self-respect and unconditional love. It comprehends and honors all people’s equal right to equity, dignity and integrity. It recognizes all people for who they are, accepts their unique contribution, treats them with respect and recognizes their value.” 

Sesil Pir, Human Leadership: What It Looks Like, And Why We Need It In The 21st Century, Forbes

As our understanding of what “good leadership” means continues to change, we are incorporating more of what it means to be human into the ways we lead.

“Businesses have started to treat employees like human beings, rather than workers whose only relevant wishes are company related.”

Daniel Ross, Six Ways Leaders Can Humanize an Organization, SHRM’s Executive Network, HR People + Strategy

“The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.”

— John Buchan

Being human with others and leading them with zeal won’t be enough. Our leadership must demonstrate the highest character.

“Leadership consists not in degrees of technique but in traits of character.”

— Lewis H. Lapham

“Humans will probably always need the help of especially gifted moral leaders in order to extend the bonds of caring and trust beyond the easy range of the family and the face-to-face community. Such bonds have become essential to the future of humanity.”

—Paul R. Lawrence, Driven To Lead: Good, Bad, and Misguided Leadership

Ethics is at its heart about treating other people well. Human leadership is based on essential ethical principles, with ethics treated as central, not as an afterthought.

Ethical principles help us bring out people’s best and create a positive environment, and when they are central to our thoughts, words, and actions we can nurture a workspace that is human-friendly.

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Ethical Leaders Are Fixed and Flexible at the Same Time

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ethical leaders are fixed and flexible at the same time. They stay anchored to ethical values AND adapt as the world changes. Both are critically important aspects of ethical leadership success.

Ethical leaders stay fixed on values.

They keep values at the center of their daily choices and they don’t put money where morality should be. They realize that ethical values are an important part of their responsibility to others and society.

Ethical leaders never stray from ethics.

When things get tough, they hold fast to their ethical principles even when others “go along” with unethical choices. They realize that values are precious, life changing and worth protecting.

Ethical leaders are flexible in applying ethical values in a changing global society.

They adapt to increasing expectations and current issues and do the work to raise their game. They see other ways of life as interesting and non-threatening.

Ethical leaders embrace change.

They see changing to keep up with the times as a challenge and a responsibility, not an inconvenience. They are willing to do the work to change their mindset and assumptions when they have become outdated.

Ethical leaders use a growth mindset.

Ethical thinkers realize that authentic learning is more important than looking smart. They see negative feedback as an opportunity to get better, not a personal affront.

Is a leader who stays anchored to ethical values an ethical leader? Not necessarily. Just holding on to ethical values will not get you all the way there if you’re not staying competent as times change. To qualify as “ethical leadership,” values need to be APPLIED in ways that honor society’s rapidly changing expectations for honoring a myriad of ethical dimensions including human rights and sustainability.

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©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

COVID-19 Response: 12 Resources for Business

By Linda Fisher Thornton

It’s important to weigh both the business and human impacts of the Coronavirus when making critical business decisions. A sound understanding of the situation combined with ethical values will help us make leadership decisions that will be good for our customers and the long-term viability of our businesses.

These 9 resources are filled with insights that will help businesses of all sizes make good decisions in challenging times.

9 Resources For Helping Businesses Deal With the Coronavirus:

  1. COVID-19 Implications For Business, March 2020 Executive Briefing, McKinsey.com
  2. Coronavirus (COVID-19): Leadership Resources for Times of Crisis, Center for Creative Leadership
  3. COVID-19 Human Resources Policy Survey Report, Gallagher
  4. Implementation of Mitigation Strategies For Communities With Local COVID-19 Transmission, CDC.gov
  5. Coronavirus Small Business Guide, US Chamber of Commerce
  6. Three Elements of Value® For Consumers Take Precendence During a Pandemic, Eric Almquist, Bain.com
  7. COVID-19 Business Resources, Gallagher
  8. For B2B Companies, Six Elements of Value® Matter Most in the Coronavirus Pandemic, Jamie Cleghorn and Eric Almquist, Bain.com
  9. 4 Strategies to Help Your Business Recover From Coronavirus, Greg Schwartz, Entrepreneur.com

And 3 More Resources For Applying 7 Lenses of Ethical Leadership

Making decisions based on values requires long term thinking and carefully balancing the best interests of our constituents with concerns for our own future. Looking through any one lens won’t help us achieve that balance. We need a kaleidoscopic perspective to get a clear view of the ethical implications.

Here are 3 more resources based on my book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership that will help as you make difficult decisions in challenging times.

Learn how to use the 7 Lenses Model to evaluate your choices.

Seeing the Nuances of Ethical Leadership: A Developmental Model

Linda Fisher Thornton’s Leadership Podcast Interviews On How to Use the 7 Lenses of Ethical Leadership

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©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

5 Insights For the Class of 2020

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I have a special message for our 2020 graduates. This year has not turned out as we had hoped or planned that it would. You are probably feeling a great sense of loss from missing out on milestone events and celebrations related to graduation. You are also entering the next chapter of your lives at a time of great divisiveness, instability and unrest.

You are likely wondering what will happen now that the entire landscape has changed, and so little is certain about your future. Take heart and learn from the stories of those who have dealt with great hardship and overcome it.

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” — Arnold Schwarzenegger

As you try to rebuild your image of your future plans in these difficult times, I have 5 pieces of advice to share that may be useful. I wish someone had shared these life insights with me when I was a new graduate beginning the next chapter of my life.

5 Insights For the Class of 2020 

  1. Find Ethical Role Models – While many others around you will stray from the path and make bad choices, your ethical role models will keep you looking forward toward becoming your best.
  2. Manage Your Information Consumption – It is easy to become overwhelmed or fearful when we are constantly exposed to the worst of what’s out there or comparing ourselves to others. Intentionally follow good news and manage your media time so it doesn’t take time away from relationships or building your own good life.
  3. Become a Truth Beacon  Become the one others can count on to evaluate information and determine whether it is “fake news” or an important truth. You will ground yourself, and become a person that others can count on to cut through the chatter to find what matters.
  4. Take One Step At a Time, One Day at a Time – A wise person once said to me at a difficult time in my life “All you have to do is get through this for one day.” I realized I had been taking on the stress of challenges I would face in the future that were not directly before me. Using a “one day at a time” focus, we can overcome our challenges without becoming disheartened.
  5. Find Meaning Through Service – There are many different approaches to life. Some of them are self-serving and others are deeply focused on serving others. I believe that it is through service to others that we find our true happiness. As we shift our focus away from our own troubles and toward serving others, we find a sense of meaning in our lives.

While the world will pull you in many different compelling directions, it is your values that will keep you anchored. Become aware of them. Nurture them. Know what you believe in. Live it. Set an example for others by building a good, ethical life in a chaotic world.

We are counting on you.

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©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

Leading With Values During the Pandemic

By Linda Fisher Thornton

As we all grapple with the pandemic, I am grateful to see so many businesses sharing resources and ideas freely and finding a way to do some good for others. Our current challenges can only be managed with everyone pulling together to make good choices.

Today I’m sharing three key values that should drive our decision making at this time when everything we carefully planned has been turned upside down.

Well Being is Paramount

During a pandemic, leaders must put the well-being of employees, customers and other stakeholders ahead of profits and administrative routines. While offering paid sick leave to part time employees may be an unplanned cost, allowing part time workers to take paid sick leave would increase the chances that they will stay home when sick.

Keeping Values at the Center of Our Decision Making

Leaders have an obligation to make decisions that respond to the human need employees have for protecting themselves and caring for children, spouses, parents and other loved ones.

Three ethical values that are particularly important for leaders to demonstrate during a pandemic are Do No Harm, Demonstrate Care and Communicate Transparently.

Do No Harm
• Act before anyone in the organization becomes infected and work toward the goal of no one becoming infected
• Minimize employee travel, take in-person gatherings online and take other precautions
• Look for ways to make it likely that sick employees will be able to stay home and not infect others

Demonstrate Care
• Help people learn how to prepare themselves.
• Adapt policies to support people who are quarantined or sick or caring for loved ones
• Maintain a sense of community to support each other during the crisis

Communicate Transparently
• Keep people informed about changes and why they are being made and communicate new procedures
• Include how the changes will benefit them
• Help people understand what they need to do

Leaders and organizations who apply all of these values during a crisis demonstrate that they care about their employees and customers. Knowing that precautions are being taken and that they will be kept informed will help employees manage their fear and move forward with what they need to do. To get the tactics right, leaders will need to keep values central to their decision making and demonstrate a high level of flexibility and concern for others.

See Linda Fisher Thornton’s advice for HR Managers in the April Issue of Virginia Business.

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Truth and Misinformation: How to Spot False Narratives (Part 3)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This is Part 3 in a Leading in Context series sharing information on how to spot misinformation and false narratives. In case you missed them, Part 1 explored truth and narrative, and Part 2 examined how data and motives relate to the truth. Part 3 will address the importance of media literacy.

What Role Does Media Literacy Play in Discovering the Truth?

Misinformation relies on people having an emotional reaction and immediately sharing information with others without taking the time to evaluate its credibility.

“Ask yourself: Is this a complicated subject, something that’s hitting an emotional trigger? Or is it a breaking news story where the facts aren’t yet able to be assembled? If the answer is yes, then you need to be ultra-skeptical.”

Miles Parks, Fake News: How to Spot Misinformation, NPR

To avoid being misled, when you have a strong emotional reaction to a story, look for the source of the information and look for corroborating information from other sources. (Miles Parks, Fake News: How to Spot Misinformation, NPR)

How can you spot a source of misinformation and false narrative?

One way to avoid misinformation is to check out whether or not the story is real before buying into it, sharing it and telling other people about it.

Sources of misinformation and false narrative may not share sources backing up the story OR the sources they share are not reliable. Media literacy is how we avoid being tricked.

Misinformation and false narratives may come from a dishonest leader or organization, or from a source who is motivated by CLICKS and ad revenue. These sources have a self-interested motive (and do not care about us or our well being). Whatever the source, our job is to stay literate as misinformation becomes more sophisticated and harder to spot.

Healthy Media Consumption

How You Can Stop the Fake News Madness

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Truth and Misinformation: How to Spot False Narratives (Part 2)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This is Part 2 in a Leading in Context blog series sharing information on how to spot misinformation and false narratives. In case you missed it, Part 1 explored the concepts of truth and narrative. In Part 2, we’ll explore how data relates to the truth.

How Does Data Inform the Truth?

“If there is no longer an objective truth to be uncovered in our data or if we are no longer interested in listening to the voice of data that may tell us uncomfortable truths, what is the point of even turning to data?”

Kalev leetaru, Is There Such a Thing as Objective Truth in Data or is it all in the Eye of the Beholder?, Forbes

Data, taken in pieces or without context, can be presented as “truth” but the fragmented picture you will see is only informative in the context of the greater whole. In that sense, data is just as easily used for misinformation and false narrative as it is to give you a clear picture of the truth.

“This kind of viral half-truth is part of the fabric of today’s internet, and the kind of anger it inspired has been turned into a dangerous commodity… (used) by scammers raising money online, and by authoritarian governments to spread hate and fear.”

Adi Robertson, How to Fight Lies, Tricks and Chaos Online, The Verge

“Also, Tromble says, the “sticky thing” about someone’s perceptions—be they true or false—usually involves some ’emotional contact.’ If false claims come wrapped in exciting or agitating contexts, and the subsequent fact checks arrive in sober, academic language, the false claims are ‘stickier.’”

Charles Babington, The Disinformation Age, GW Magazine

Emotional awareness is an important part of evaluating whether or not something is true. We can consider whether the content we’re seeing is specifically designed to activate a deep emotional response and think about why that may be the case. A person wanting to discover objective truth will need to dig in to evaluate the motives and hidden agendas of information sources. That leads me to the second way to spot misinformation and false narrative.

How can you spot a source of misinformation and false narrative?

Sources of misinformation and false narrative will often give you an emotionally-charged and opportunistic spin on a situation and call it the truth. People who question it may be attacked to deflect attention from a hidden motive.

A misinformation provider wants you NOT to question its motives as it shares a piece of information that is not giving you the whole truth. It relies on you wanting to believe that it is true so much that you will not question it.

Misinformation and false narrative rely on raw intimidation power (and not truth power). Look for truth power that stands on its own merits and doesn’t need to attack to deflect attention.

Watch for Part 3, Coming Soon!

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Top 10 Posts 2019: Leading in Context Blog

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Of the 52 individual posts published on the Leading in Context Blog in 2019, these 10 were the most popular. See if you notice a theme that connects these new topics that readers accessed most frequently:

#1 Unethical Leadership: Selective Respect

#2 16 Answers to What is Good Leadership?

#3 Systems Thinking: Using the 5 Whys

#4 Respect, Interpreted Part 3

#5 Shallow Thinking

#6 Mindset or Competency: Which is More Important?

#7 Thinking Beyond Polarities To Both/And Thinking

#8 How Is Critical Thinking Different From Ethical Thinking?

#9 The Messages Micromanagement Sends

#10 Unethical Thinking Leads To Unethical Leadership

If I had to pick a theme for these posts that were most popular in 2019, it would be The Mindset You Need To Avoid Unethical Leadership

Which post was your favorite? If you have ethical leadership topics you want to learn more about, comment on this post, or tweet your idea to @leadingincontxt!

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The Voice of the (Un)Ethical Leader

By Linda Fisher Thornton

There is great variation in how leaders “use their voice” in pursuit of their work. Some use it to engage and empower others, others use it to deflect unwanted observations or to create distance that isolates them from people they don’t want to listen to.

Some leaders may not be aware that how they speak tells us volumes about their ethical awareness and competence. 

When an ethical leader speaks, the tone conveys service and concern for others. 

  • Humble: There were many people who made this happen.
  • Open-Minded: I always listen to learn, even when we disagree
  • Inclusive: I demonstrate respect for everyone.
  • Caring: I am concerned about you and your challenges. I want to help.
  • Service-Oriented: I know I’m here to help you succeed, not the other way around.

When an unethical leader speaks, the tone is noticeably different.

  • Hogging the Credit: It was all because of me.
  • Closed-Minded: If you don’t agree with me, you’re an idiot.
  • Exclusive: I respect people I like.
  • Self-Interested: My needs are what matter most.
  • Lacking Empathy: Your problems are not my concern.

 

Words matter. Be aware of the tone you use when you communicate. People who speak like ethical leaders are more likely to be respected and more likely to be followed. They are more likely to be selected and more likely to be trusted. They are more likely to have a positive impact on others and on the global community. What message is your language sending to others?

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Beyond Civility

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Civility seems like a minimum standard or a fallback position, certainly not a desired end. We expect so much more from ethical leaders.

Without civility, communication is chaotic and difficult (if not impossible). Civility adds choosing words more carefully and avoiding blaming and attacking others. When I think about people “being civil” I get a picture of people who don’t like each other very much struggling to maintain their composure.

The origin of the word and its uses are interesting.

“The word civil has about twelve different meanings; it is applied to all manner of objects, which are perfectly disparate. As opposed to criminal, it means all law not criminal. As opposed to ecclesiastical, it means all law not ecclesiastical: as opposed to military, it means all law not military, and so on.” [John Austin, “Lectures on Jurisprudence,” 1873] https://www.etymonline.com/word/civil

Extrapolating on this definition, perhaps civil interpersonal behavior is “all behavior not criminal.” I advocate Civility, but not as an ideal. Just as law is the minimum standard of acceptable individual behavior in a society (below which you are punished) civility seems to be the minimum standard of interpersonal behavior (so as not to get in trouble with the law). Use these posts to learn about the nuances of civility as an ethical issue.

Civility is an Ethical Issue

Civility and Openness to Learning

The Questions We Have in Common

 

 

 

 

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Respect, Interpreted Part 1

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I believe that respect is a key structural beam supporting the organizational “house.” Without it, trust falls, productivity falls, engagement drops and turnover increases. It becomes harder to attract top talent for open positions in organizations where respect is not a minimum standard. Without respect, an organization’s culture becomes structurally unsound and devolves into “a house of cards” at risk of many negative impacts beyond those mentioned here. 

With respect as a minimum standard for which people are held accountable, an organization creates a “positive shield’ that deflects a wide range of negative interpersonal behaviors. If we require respect, for example, then discourages a wide range of negative behaviors including judging, blaming, name-calling or excluding.

By requiring respect as the MINIMUM standard, we are creating a preventive and protective shield that protects the organization’s culture. 

Think of what happens to a house when a structural beam is removed. It collapses in on itself. That is what begins to happen to organizational culture the moment a single word or action that is disrespectful is “approved” through silence. Why is silence considered approval? Thomas Paine famously said “A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.” When leaders look the other way, they are on the path to making a disrespectful act appear “right” whether that was intended or not. Granted, talking about respect is difficult and we don’t have clear instructions for how to build a culture of respect. Or do we? Stayed tuned for Respect, Interpreted Part 2.

 

 

 

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Ethical Thinking: 5 Questions to Ask in the New Year

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Each year I raise questions that help leaders stay current as ethical expectations change. Here are 5 new questions to tackle as we head into a New Year. 

  1. Where are our areas of strength and our gaps in adapting to increasing ethical expectations?
  2. What will we do to close the gaps we’ve identified within the next 3 months?
  3. What evidence will we look for to prove that we have closed the gaps?
  4. How will we make this a regular conversation so that we can avoid gaps in the future?
  5. How will we help others answer these important questions?

Expecting ethical challenges is easy. Preparing to handle them well is more difficult. Schedule time to work through these difficult questions with your teams as we head into the New Year. 

Top 100 Leadership Blog

 

 

 

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©2018 Leading in Context LLC

Human Rights: 70 Years

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I had the privilege of hearing best-selling author Blanche Wiesen Cook speak at The University of Richmond last night. Her topic was “Toward an Inclusive Democracy: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Legacy.”  Cook has spent many years researching and writing about Eleanor Roosevelt’s life and journey. During the inspiring talk, Cook noted that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Eleanor Roosevelt championed, is turning 70 this month.

Now is the perfect time to learn about Eleanor Roosevelt’s human rights journey and the Universal Declaration she championed. It is timely for us to reflect now on how far we have left to go on the journey toward honoring the rights and dignity of every human who resides in our global village. 

Cook shared Eleanor Roosevelt’s sage advice to “BE BOLD” and “Talk to one another when we disagree.” That advice will  serve us well as we work to overcome differences and uphold ethical values. Why is this 70 year human rights journey so important now? The baton has been passed to us, and we must run the next lap. 

Top 100 Leadership Blog

 

 

 

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Seeing Beyond Borders and Walls

By Linda Fisher Thornton

When you make a commitment to ethical values and ethical choices, boundaries and walls only indicate the boundaries of new places to apply those ethical values and choices. Beyond them, ethical values matter just as much as they matter within your own walls. You could argue that they matter more, because you are stepping into other cultures and ways of life and need to take special care to show respect.

Any argument that we can be disrespectful or harmful to others who live outside of our borders is based on flawed thinking, self-interest, myopia and a lack of moral awareness.

Ethical leaders see beyond walls. They don’t dehumanize people to improve their own position.

Ethical leaders think beyond themselves on a global scale. They don’t excuse their own or anyone else’s bad behavior or unethical choices.

 

 

 

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Also see:

Yes, Leaders. Behavior Matters

Just Say No to 10 Behaviors That Kill Competence

Inclusion: The Power of Regardless

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