17 Leadership Paradoxes

By Linda Fisher Thornton

COVID-19 has brought us many challenges including balancing economic and human factors, moving quickly but taking time to show compassion and so on. This Center for Creative Leadership video succinctly introduces 6 paradoxes in the essential leadership skills required in a post-COVID world. You can visit their website to download the related white paper.

The PWC publication “Six paradoxes of leadership: Addressing the crisis of leadership” shares 6 more paradoxes of leadership and notes that “learning how to comfortably inhabit both elements of each paradox will be critical to your success.” The paradoxes are expanded on in this COVID-19 related article “The urgent need for sophisticated leadership.”

And I’ll add these 5 paradoxes from my post Building Trust: Paradoxical Qualities to Cultivate

Cultivating these qualities in ourselves and our organizations helps us build a high trust workplace where people can do their best work:

Be Dependable and Open to Change

Be Fully Present Right Now and Think Ahead

Be Crystal Clear About What’s Expected and Open to Hearing Input From Others

Be Confident and Humble

Be Decisive and Flexible

Great leaders possess seemingly paradoxical qualities. They know when to use each end of the spectrum, depending on what is most needed to move individuals and groups forward.

Building Trust: Paradoxical Qualities to Cultivate, Leading in Context Blog

Leaders need to be be adaptable good thinkers to work their way through all of these paradoxes at the same time. The pandemic simply raises the stakes on us to get it right.

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©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

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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©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

Who’s Accountable For Ethical Artificial Intelligence?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Who is accountable for ethical artificial intelligence? How do you build accountability into your organization’s use of AI? I was recently invited to answer those questions in a guest blog post published on the EDUCAUSE Professional Development Commons and EDUCAUSE Review.

There is more to think about when implementing AI than just efficiency and time savings. There are ethical implications at every step in the process. This article includes an overview of those ethical implications and steps organizations can take to build ethics into current and future AI projects.

“Determining who is responsible for ethical AI turns out to be more complicated than identifying the person who created the program. There are potentially multiple responsible parties, including programmers, sellers, and implementers of AI-enabled products and services. For AI to be ethical, multiple parties must fulfill their ethical obligations. IT departments should be ready to assess and manage ethics before, during, and after AI deployment.”

Linda Fisher Thornton, Artificial Intelligence and Ethical Accountability, EDUCAUSE Professional Development Commons and EDUCAUSE Review.

While the article was written for higher education IT professionals, the principles apply to any IT department in any industry that is directly or indirectly (through vendors) using AI.

The article is governed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.

Share this article with your team to establish a baseline understanding of ethical accountability for AI, and to incorporate key steps into your planning and implementation processes.

This article was originally published in the EDUCAUSE Professional Development Commons (blog) and EDUCAUSE REVIEW, Artificial Intelligence and Ethical Accountability, EDUCAUSE Review, July 31, 2020.

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©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

Top Post Series of 2019: Leading in Context Blog

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The Top Post Series for last year on the Leading in Context Blog this year reflected the challenges of applying ethical thinking and decision-making to complex problems.

This series answers the important question “How do we analyze and understanding the multiple connected variables in a changing context to make responsible choices? Today I’ll share a quote from each post in the series that will give you an overview of the topic.

Here’s the most popular Leading in Context Blog series of 2019 – 

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making  

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 1)

Complex issues just can’t be deconstructed and understood using shallow thinking. The meaningful insights are only found below the surface.

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 2)

“Without seeing the context – a broad and sweeping view of the issue we are discussing or trying to resolve and factors in the environment that affect it – we are just describing or trying to solve a SUBSET of the real issue.”

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 3)

“Complexity has become a way of life. To make ethical decisions, we must embrace it and incorporate it into our thinking processes. That means digging into issues until we understand their multiple dimensions, connections, and contradictions.”

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 4)

Treating everyone well means going beyond the superficial level, and beyond token gestures of concern, to offer the same high level of care and concern that we extend to our trusted groups.”

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 5)

“By embracing change, and “trimming our sails” to make incremental adjustments, we can stay in ethical waters as the tides and currents change.” 

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 6)

“Once you do the work to understand the context, you’re never done. Change is continuous. The ripple effect created by economic and social change in one time zone rapidly impacts life in another.”

This timely series includes the practical steps for upgrading ethical decision-making in your board rooms and training rooms this year. 

 

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©2020 Leading in Context LLC

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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©2020 Leading in Context LLC

16 Answers To What is Good Leadership?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The theme I noticed in the most viewed posts on this blog in 2018 was Looking For a Better Kind of Leadership. Google reported that the most popular Google searches in 2018 were about how we can be good people. It sounds like it’s a great time to explore the question “What is Good Leadership? 

While it’s tempting to over simplify leadership and think about it as any one thing, good leadership can only be fully understood by thinking about it in multiple ways. Here is a starter list of 16 defining characteristics of good leadership:

  1. Purposeful

  2. Ethical 

  3. Intentional

  4. Thoughtful

  5. Meaningful

  6. Respectful

  7. Caring

  8. Open

  9. Invites Dialogue

  10. Globally Responsible

  11. Up-to-Date

  12. Trustworthy

  13. Culturally Inclusive

  14. Ethically Inspiring

  15. Embraces and Adapts To Context and Complexity

  16. Continual Learner

This list of 16 is designed to get you thinking. There are many more characteristics we could add. Think about great leaders you’ve had in the past (or not). What defining characteristics of good leadership would you add to this list? Share your ideas in the comments!

 

 

 

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©2019 Leading in Context LLC

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

MORE READER FAVORITES:

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!

Top 100 Leadership Blog

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

How Do You Make Better Decisions?

By Linda Fisher Thornton
 
How do you make decisions? Do you consider a series of important questions? Do you find out the needs of the people involved? Do you consult a diverse group of advisors? Or do you just wing it? Some of the ways we may be tempted to think through our challenges (how to stay within budget or how to be most profitable, for example) leave ethical values out of the equation. 
 
Ethical thinking helps us make good leadership decisions. When we use intentional ethical thinking, we make decisions based on ethical valuesUsing ethical thinking doesn’t just help us do the right thing. It also helps us resolve our most difficult leadership problems by broadening our awareness. 

Ethical thinking keeps us grounded in values, and on track to reach for shared solutions. That helps us make better decisions.

  Here are some of the many challenges that ethical thinking helps us resolve:
  • How to deal with new situations/issues/people
  • How to make tough decisions when multiple stakeholders are involved
  • How to be consistent
  • How to lead based on positive ethical values
  • The need for the time and space to figure things out

While there are many different ways to make decisions, not all them lead to ethical outcomes. The beauty of ethical thinking is that once we learn and practice it, we take it with us, and it becomes the basis of our decision-making (no extra time and space required).

Top 100 Leadership Blog

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Ethical Leaders See the Whole Picture

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

 

20 Quotes To Inspire Leaders in the New Year (Part 2)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

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

This series includes 20 quotes (linked to posts with leadership guidance) to inspire you and help you improve your leader development. Part 1 included the first 10. Here are 10 more:

Demonstrating care is one of the hallmark requirements of good leadership. 

We are learning our way forward in developing leaders for the workplace of the future while they are learning their way forward through complexity, economic challenges and catastrophic change.

Leaders are the key to values alignment – they model and reinforce values and hold people accountable for following them. 

The triple bottom line, a great improvement over “win at all cost,” is only the beginning. The future of work will require much more.

Leaders are culture caretakers. To fulfill that role successfully, they need to know what a positive ethical culture looks like.

Hands-off leadership can be as bad as micromanagement in terms of its ultimate impact on organizational ethics.

Understanding what causes ethical failures can help us build a more robust infrastructure for preventing them.

We must grow into our ethical leadership competence… intentionally…over time. 

Trust transforms.

Leading with positive ethical values builds trust and brings out the best in people, which brings out the best in the organization, which leads to great results.

As we approach 2017, be sure your leadership team is ready for what’s ahead. Use these links to consider how to improve leadership development in your organization. Make sure each leader is clear about what “good leadership” looks like in action. 

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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.

Click the book cover for a preview.

 

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

Leaders Are Culture Caretakers: 10 Actions For Success

 

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

There are many ways to understand culture, and some of the definitions are very complicated. My favorite way to think about culture is as an infrastructure or scaffolding that supports the behaviors we want. Culture drives what people do, and is the setting and framework for great work.

What leads to strong ethical cultures? Here are 10 critically important actions every leader should take:

  1. Keep Ethics Alive and Relevant
  2. Build an Engaging, High Trust Culture
  3. Establish Positive Conditions for Success
  4. Learn Ethical Thinking
  5. Develop Ethical Leadership Competence 
  6. Demonstrate Organizational Integrity
  7. Manage Ethics as a Performance System
  8. Have Meaningful Conversations About Staying Ethical
  9. Tend the Culture Carefully to Prevent Gaps
  10. Weed Out Negative Interpersonal Behaviors

Leaders are culture caretakers. To fulfill that role successfully, they need to know what a positive ethical culture looks like. Start the conversation today. 

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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.  

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LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

Is Moral Development Observable?

 

 

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Most of us have some idea about human development because we have watched people grow up and pass through stages and milestones in their lives. We have seen babies roll over and sit up, and later walk on their own. We have watched children grow into teenagers and become adults.

Moral development is just as important as physical development, and should be going on at the same time as physical development, but it is not visible in terms of a person’s appearance. Because it is not visible, its important role in human development is sometimes overlooked.

Moral development is dependent on learning, so it is vital that organizations provide an environment that forwards moral learning. There are specific things that organizations can do to encourage moral development in leadership. They include teaching systems thinking and how to seek mutual benefit when making decisions.

Moral development requires learning. It doesn’t just happen.

There are also things parents can do to encourage moral development in children. “Young people need help learning how to succeed in living positive ethical values in a world filled with distractions and negative messages. Our job is to help them center themselves in positive ethical values and get to know themselves as good people.” (Thornton, Helping Young People Become Ethical Leaders, Leading in Context Blog)

To “observe” someone’s level of moral development, look beyond what they say to their behavior and their choices. Notice how well they treat others. Look for how well they seek solutions that benefit all parties, not just themselves. Notice what they value. Notice how consistently they think beyond their own interests and concerns to attend to the concerns of others.  These are the ways that moral development is made visible. 

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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!

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

Ready To Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)? – Part 1

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Each day brings new challenges for leaders. They struggle to deal with uncertainty and complexity and sometimes the most ethical choices are not obvious. In this kind of environment, we can’t assume that things are going well even when there are no lawsuits or imminent ethical crises. What we need to do is build an ethical workplace that will discourage ethical problems.

The focus of this week’s post is on Ways to Improve Accountability For Ethics. Here are 3 ways to avoid relying on the status quo – that also help you “do good” in your organization, community and world. 

Ready to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)?

Improve Accountability For Ethics

 

  1. EXPECT MORE FROM SENIOR LEADERS: Think of several examples of senior leaders who were coached, penalized or fired for ethical violations. If you can’t think of any, does that mean your organization prevents problems or lets senior leader infractions slide by? Always hold senior leaders to the highest standards since they model what others throughout the organization should do.
  2. HAVE ALL LEADERS MODEL AND REWARD ETHICAL ACTIONS: Keeping in mind corporate ethics policies and company values, examine what leaders are making important by their actions.  What are they doing? What are they holding people accountable for? Make sure that ethical decisions and actions are modeled and rewarded.
  3. SEE YOUR CEO AS THE “ULTIMATE ETHICS OFFICER”: Take a careful look at who is responsible for ethics in your organization. Is it just the compliance officer and HR Manager? It is the CEO and 1 or 2 other managers? Or is it every manager and every associate? Make sure that everyone is responsible, and be sure that the CEO is actively playing the role of the “Ultimate Ethics Officer.”

These 3 ways to change the ethics quo improve accountability for ethics. Are you ready for MORE actions you can take to move your organization toward ethical prevention and practice? Read on for more posts in this series!

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

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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!

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

5 Signs Your Culture is FAILING

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Building a positive ethical culture is a long-term process. It involves much more than just company trappings and perks – leaders must make a commitment to people and to creating a positive work space. When things seem to be going well, it’s easy to miss signs that the culture may be off track.

Mistakes slow our culture building progress, and we may lose ground if they are not fixed quickly. Have you seen signs of any of these culture-eroding problems in your organization?

5 Signs Your Culture is FAILING

  1. Closed (Lack of Transparency, One-Way Communication)
  2. Behind the Times (Failing to Stay Competent, Not Adapting to Change)
  3. Aiming For Minimum Standards (Focusing On Laws Instead of Values))
  4. Toxic (Allowing Teasing, Bullying and Other Negative Behaviors)
  5. Loose (Performance Standards and Values Are Not Enforced)

If you see culture warning signs like these, address them quickly. If left unchecked, they unravel the fabric of the culture, leaving holes that can lead to ethical problems.

Top 100 Leadership Blog

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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!

 

 

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

5 Insights Into Leadership Development Future (Part 5)

20160705_190731

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This is the 5th post in a series called 5 Insights Into Leadership Development Future. 

Here are the 4 previous posts in the series in case you missed them:

Part 1 on Global Trends

Part 2 on Wholeness 

Part 3 on Growth and Human Development

Part 4 on Positive Ethical Values and the Search For Meaning

This final post will build on the previous 4 posts in this series and discuss how to prepare leaders for the workplace of the future. 

To help leaders adapt to increasing global leadership expectations and catastrophic change, we’ll need to: 

  • RETHINK everything we’re doing to help people succeed in leadership
  • ZOOM OUT to give them the whole picture, and 
  • REBUILD their leader awareness at a higher level

Author’s Note: I have packed three years of leadership research across disciplines into the guide 7 Lenses to help you navigate the process. Chapters where you’ll find specific topics are noted below.

To respond to increasing ethical expectations and the need for meaning and growth, we’ll need to discuss:

  • Leadership as Both a Responsibility and an Opportunity (Part I)
  • Leadership as Relational (Chapter 5)
  • The Impact of Ethical Values on Creating a Positive Workplace Culture (Chapters 2 and 5)
  • The Human Impact of Trust (Chapter 5)

To help leaders take their thinking to a higher level, to handle the complexity of their challenges, we’ll need to dig into:

  • How Thinking Drives Behavior (With or Without a Leader’s Permission) (Chapter 6)
  • The Broad-Reaching Impact of Leader Choices (Chapter 3)
  • How Ethical Leaders Must be Personally and Contextually Congruent (Chapter 4)
  • The Kind of Thinking That Ethical Leaders Choose to Use (Chapter 6)

To help leaders stay motivated while they’re learning, we’ll need to provide:

  • Insight Into the Long-Term Nature of the Leadership Learning Journey (Chapter 1)
  • Tangible Benefits (to Leaders and Organizations) of Proactive Ethical Leadership (Chapter 2)
  • Tools and Strategies for Handling Complexity (Chapter 3)
  • Our Evolving Understanding of the Purpose of Leadership (Chapter 8)

We are learning our way forward in developing leaders for the workplace of the future while they are learning their way forward through complexity, economic challenges and catastrophic change. We will need to stay ahead of that curve to prepare them. 
Top 100 Leadership Blog

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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!

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

Leaders, Don’t You Care? (9 Red Flags That Tell Employees You Don’t)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Demonstrating care is one of the hallmark requirements of good leadership. In addition to caring about what happens in our own careers, we must CARE about people, about their success, and about creating a positive work environment. If leaders don’t seem to care, that harms the organization’s culture.

The 9 behaviors below are red flags for employees – pointing out that a leader doesn’t care.

9 Red Flags That Tell Employees You Don’t Care

  1. Being too busy to meet with people
  2. Not showing interest in people or their success
  3. Asking about how someone is doing, then losing interest or becoming distracted when they answer
  4. Breaking promises, not acting on commitments
  5. Telling people you’re sure they’ll figure it out on their own when they come to you for help
  6. Failing to recognize accomplishments and milestones
  7. Asking people to do some of your work, then taking credit for it
  8. Withdrawing during times of change when support is most needed
  9. Making YOUR OWN success more important than THEIRS (missing the point that as a leader, their success is the measure of your own)

All 9 of these choices hurt employees who want to do their best and who want a manager who believes in them. They are behaviors that damage trust, reduce engagement and limit productivity. 

The bottom line? Acting like you don’t care might work if you’re leading a team of robots – but people expect more.

Top 100 Leadership Blog

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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!

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

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