5 Sites for Globally Responsible Business Leadership

By Linda Fisher Thornton

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

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

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

5 Sites For Globally Responsible Business Leadership

UN Sustainable Development Goals

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

Caux Roundtable Principles For Business

World Economic Forum, “Responsive and Responsible Leadership”

Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative

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

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

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Scholars and Practitioners: Debate or Collaborate?

Working Together to Advance Our Understanding

Scholars and practitioners often see the world from different perspectives, providing an opportunity for them to learn from one another.  Such an opportunity only helps us advance our understanding of ethics and ethical leadership if we take advantage of it.

Marshall Goldsmith, in his article “The Sunk Cost Fallacy” in Talent Management Magazine (November 2011) remembers behaviors he has observed in his colleagues.

When my UCLA colleagues would respond defensively, even violently, to well-meaning constructive criticism of their research papers, I saw it as another sign of the sunk cost fallacy. They were so attached to their years of hard researching they couldn’t brook an alternative viewpoint.

Marshall Goldsmith in The Sunk Costs Fallacy, Talent Management Magazine, November 2011

Scholars seek to prove that ideas are valid through research, and practitioners seek to prove that ideas “work” in today’s complex and connected society. It takes both a research focus and a focus on real-world relevance to provide the kind of clarity about ethical leadership that today’s leaders need.

Choosing Respectful Collaboration

I am saddened by the many times I see scholars and practitioners judging one another and trying to prove each other wrong. Defensive and judgmental reactions to other people’s ideas and feedback signal an unwillingness to learn.

Linda M. David, in her article “Perspective Shift – The Power to Change Your Mind” (Training and Development, November 2011) says that “the concept of shifting perspectives is a tool that will give you a wider view of most situations you encounter and, with practice, expand the options for how you perceive your world.”

Philip Friedrich points out in his article “Feedback as a Gift” (Training and Development, January 2012) that

Too often we reject the gift of feedback before we even understand it by explaining, justifying or rationalizing our actions. Explaining why we did or didn’t do something is a form of defensiveness that slams the door on opportunities for growth.

Choosing A Learning Perspective

Learning to shift our perspective and to be open to the ideas of others keeps us learning. The alternative choices (being defensive and  judging others) do not.

When we are defensive, we aren’t hearing valuable insights and observations that others offer, and we are:

  • Protecting our “turf” (our ideas)
  • Pushing away anyone who is “too interested” and “getting too close for comfort”
  • Closed to the ideas of others that could make our work better

When we are judging others, we are not open to learning from them.  When we judge we are:

  • Discouraging others from doing their “good works”
  • Moving away from a collaborative mindset, and
  • Missing the learning opportunity

When we choose to adopt a learning perspective, we believe that:

  • Ideas are made to be talked about and improved
  • We are more knowledgeable collectively than we are individually
  • We grow and advance our work by learning
 I am optimistic that we can enrich our understanding of ethical leadership with the experience of executive leaders and the rigor of scholarly inquiry, without devaluing either, and achieve the clarity that today’s leaders need.
Related Leading in Context Blog Posts: 

Thinking Beyond Disciplines: Why We Need It

Ethical Leadership Thinking: When We Attack An Issue

The Ethical Leadership Puzzle: A Broader View

Ethical Grey Areas: Our Choices Define Us


For more, see new book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

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