What is Meaningful Leadership? – 4 Common Threads

By Linda Fisher Thornton

What is meaningful leadership? I recently wrote a 5 part blog series exploring different facets of that question.

Part 1 of this series looked at how leaders generate meaningful environments where others can thrive. Part 2 explored a leader’s own quest for authenticity. Part 3 looked at the role of powerful conversations and a focus on relational ROI. Part 4 examined how meaningful leadership requires truth-seeking based on ethical values. Part 5 focused on how meaningful leadership makes a difference by building a better society for the future.

Common Threads

There are four common threads that emerged from exploring the topic that I want to share today.

These are ways that leaders think about and approach their role that helps them create meaningful work experiences:

  1. Thinking global – considering the full impact of decisions on a global scale
  2. Valuing authenticity – seeing the leadership role as a process of growing into higher levels of leadership, not a position of power over others
  3. Seeking collective success – working with others for the good of the group, not the good of the leader
  4. Seeing beyond portfolio growth to human growth – valuing each individual and nurturing them to reach their potential (which requires seeing well beyond the bottom line)

The Leadership Mindset

It is interesting, but not surprising, that all of these approaches rely on the leader being able to take a long-term, “self-aware but humble” view of the leadership role.

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Where Ethics Should Be

By Linda Fisher Thornton

We need to be talking about where ethics should be… how and where it fits into real life. Too many leaders and organizations have crossed ethical boundaries and that seems to be all we’re seeing in the news headlines.

Starting the Conversation

When ethics is central to our decisions and actions, we are more likely to make good choices. To make that happen, we need to be talking about where ethics should be in a leader’s day to day schedule and an organization’s infrastructure.

  • How should ethics factor into an organization’s strategic plans?
  • How can we emphasize it in performance feedback and rewards?
  • Where should it be in monitoring and reporting?

If we aren’t having these conversations, we may have gaps in how we’re handling ethical prevention that can result in unexpected high visibility mistakes.

Places Where Ethics Should Be 

Organizations that tap into the power of ethical brand value and actively seek to prevent problems do more than talk about where ethics should be. They live it by making it central to their operations.

Here are some important conversation starters about where ethics should be in your thinking, your schedule and your goals and plans for the future:

Beyond the Shelf (not just in codes and manuals)

Plans and Strategy

People Management

Company Values 

Executive and Leader Development

Top of Mind (not afterthought or damage control)

Rewards and Promotions

Employee Hiring

Leader Expectations

C-Suite Behavior and Actions

Bringing ethics to life in an organization requires a systemic approach and powerful ongoing conversations. Where else do you think ethics should be in day-to-day leadership?

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Grey Areas: Our Choices Define Us (Part 2)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This post is an updated version of a reader favorite. 

There Will Always Be Grey Areas

There will always be ethical grey areas.  We see plenty of information about lying, cheating, stealing and other obvious ethical violations. It is more difficult to know what to do when we encounter behaviors that fall into ethical grey areas, particularly in term of relationships with other people. Grey areas are difficult for anyone to handle but leaders bear the additional weight of needing to set the tone for the organization. Each decision impacts the ethics of the organization.

How We Handle Grey Areas “Teaches” Others (Whether Our Decisions Are Good or Bad)

If we are in leadership, we set the tone for what we want employees to do by what we do. That includes what we do about easy ethical problems (with clear right and wrong choices) and tough ethical problems (with no obvious right choices).

When we make good decisions, people watch what we do and also learn how to do that. If we make bad decisions, we teach others how to make bad decisions and those bad decisions can spread quickly throughout the organization.

How We Handle Grey Areas Paints a Border That Outlines Our Ethics

Sometimes “doing nothing” is an unethical choice. If we allow people to sabotage each other to win rewards, and withhold information from one another to appear more powerful, we are creating a culture that endorses negative interpersonal behaviors. We are “teaching” people that the organization values competition above collaboration and that “anything goes” to get the win.

If we “permit” sabotage and withholding information by not noticing and/or not addressing them, are we also endorsing more negative behaviors that people may see as similar, like bullying and employee harassment? We may be unintentionally sending the message that we allow even more negative behaviors in a broader context – Are we also endorsing withholding information from customers and other important stakeholders? What about regulators? If we allow people to withhold information at one level, are we unintentionally saying that withholding information is okay anytime, at any level?

How we handle the grey areas in how people treat each other paints a border that becomes the outline of our company’s ethics.

Ignoring Negative Behaviors Allows Them to Flourish

When it comes to organizational culture, not knowing is not a defense. When we ignore negative interpersonal behaviors, we send a powerful message across the company to ‘do more of that’!  If we use negative interpersonal behaviors or simply look the other way when we see negative behaviors, employees will too.

Negative behaviors that we choose to ignore don’t typically go away – they multiply when we fail to act because the behaviors are then assumed to be “accepted by leadership.” As leaders we need to walk around, to notice what’s going on, to create high-trust workplaces, to provide opportunities for meaningful communication, to ask people what’s getting in the way of their success, to talk about ethical behavior and to remove barriers to effective ethical performance.

People will follow our lead. When we ignore negative behaviors, we are saying that we accept those negative behaviors.

Work Through Grey Areas Openly – Retain the Ability to Paint the Ethical Border

As leaders, we need to regularly discuss the grey areas in what it means to behave ethically. This lets us help employees define ethical behavior clearly and provide input into the choices they make to be sure that they meet the expectations of the company.  As we learn more as a society about the impact of our choices and our behavior on others, there will continue to be more grey areas where employees will need guidance.

People can usually see ethical grey areas but they may be hesitant to ask for help. By keeping the conversation open and actively addressing grey areas, we retain the ability to define the ethical border. If we don’t talk about it, people will define that border on their own and may draw it outside of the company’s stated ethics codes and values.

Don’t take that chance. Ask employees which ethical issues they want to talk about.

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What is Meaningful Leadership? (Part 5)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

What is Meaningful Leadership? Making a Difference By Building a Better Society For the Future

In Part 1 of this series we looked at how leaders generate meaningful environments where others can thrive. In Part 2 we explored a leader’s own quest for authenticity. In Part 3 we looked at the role of powerful conversations and a focus on relational ROI. In Part 4, we examined how meaningful leadership requires truth-seeking based on ethical values. In Part 5 we’ll take a look at how meaningful leadership makes a difference by building a better society for the future. 

Meaningful leadership sees the world in terms of building a better future together. The important focus on together requires not drawing lines around “better” or “worse” people or creating “in” and “out” groups.

“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”

— Desmond Tutu

Meaningful leadership invests in building a better future together. That means making hard decisions today that will get us closer to a peaceful, safe society that works for everyone. In order to make this commitment, meaningful leadership requires being able to imagine such a future.

“I know of no single formula for success. But over the years I have observed that some attributes of leadership are universal and are often about finding ways of encouraging people to combine their efforts, their talents, their insights, their enthusiasm and their inspiration to work together.”

— Queen Elizabeth II

Beyond imagining a better future, meaningful leadership requires actualizing it. That means making choices every day that show commitment to collective well-being on a global scale.

“The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.”

— Leo Tolstoy

Is My Leadership Meaningful? 

Meaningful leadership cannot be accomplished by talking about meaning. It must go much deeper than that. Evaluate how your leadership measures up by exploring these three questions:

If others carry on the work I have started into the future, what will be the net effect of my leadership in each of the areas of meaningful leadership below?

Meaningful Leadership Means:

  • Making a difference by creating positive work settings that invite meaningful work
  • Taking the difficult journey to becoming an authentic leader
  • Inviting difficult conversations about how to live out ethical values in difficult situations
  • Placing a high priority of positive interpersonal behavior that brings out people’s best
  • Excavating the layers of meaning and truth in complex issues using ethical values
  • Imagining a better future, in a peaceful, safe society that works for everyone
  • Helping to build that better future together, on a local, national and global scale

How closely is my leadership aligned with building a better future together?

What could I do to improve, starting today, in at least one area on that list?

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What is Meaningful Leadership? (Part 3)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

In Part 1 of this series we looked at how leaders generate meaningful environments where others can thrive. In Part 2 we explored a leader’s own quest for authenticity. In Part 3 we’ll look at the role of powerful conversations and a focus on collective success.

What is Meaningful Leadership? Real Conversations and Relational ROI

Powerful conversations get to the deeper recesses of issues that concern people and interfere with individual and collective success.

“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.”

— Maya Angelou

Meaningful leadership is relational, and leaders who are good at it think in terms of a sort of relational ROI.

“I believe that the most meaningful way to succeed is to help other people succeed.”

— Adam Grant

Leaders who are clearly committed to relational ROI balance out tasks and people and show that they understand that leadership is not all about them.

“We do not exist for ourselves alone, and it is only when we are fully convinced of this fact that we begin to love ourselves properly and thus also love others.”

—  Thomas Merton

When leaders are willing to, in the words of Maya Angelou, infuse conversations with deeper meaning, people feel more connected to their work and their teams.

When leaders place a priority on interpersonal awareness and positive interactions with others, people find a safe space to make a meaningful contribution.

Meaningful leadership doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations that meet an important human need to find meaning. Ask yourself:

  1. How open am I to talking about whatever difficult work-related topic people want to discuss?  
  2. How willingly do I dig into the details of what it means to live out our values, even when those values seem to conflict?
  3. What steps can I take to be more accessible, more open and more responsive to the human need for meaningful communication?

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Ethical Leadership: Complexity, Context and Adaptation

By Linda Fisher Thornton

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

To Learn About Ethics and Complexity:

To Learn About Ethics and Context:

To Learn About Ethics and Adaptation:

 

 

Special Series Celebrating the 2nd Printing of 7 Lenses

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 5)

 

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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!

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

Seeing The Nuances Of Ethical Leadership (A Developmental Model)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ethical leadership is not a position or a task. It is a complex array of roles, relationships and processes, and yet we use one term, “ethical leadership,” to talk about it. And in using that term, we often mean different things. 

What Then is Ethical Leadership?

Why has it been so difficult for researchers to agree on a single definition of ‘ethical leadership?’ Here are some important reasons: 

  • Our understanding of responsible leadership depends on where we are in our own moral development
  • People are writing about it from many different perspectives and using many different words to describe it
  • In leadership competence there are many possible combinations 

By “many possible combinations,” I am referring to the reality that leaders are not all competent in all aspects of ethical leadership and they vary in which areas they have mastered. A leader might excel at following laws, for example, but not know how to work well with diverse groups of people. Or a leader could be great at making a short-term profit, but not good at thinking long term and protecting the planet.

A Developmental Definition

Leadership is a changing process. It is difficult to define it because as the world changes, our understanding of what it means to lead responsibly in that world changes. Because it is a changing process, it is best viewed from a developmental perspective.

Leaders need to tackle complexity directly. Oversimplified approaches to complex problems lead to high profile ethical failures. 

Leaders need a way to understand their own learning and development that helps them keep up with  increasing ethical expectations.  The developmental model outlined in by book 7 Lenses (now in its 2nd printing) frames “ethical leadership” as a developmental continuum based on these assumptions:

  1. People grow
  2. People’s understanding of leadership responsibility grows as they learn and develop as human beings
  3. The way that people view life and reality will impact their leadership philosophy
  4. Times change
  5. The standards for acceptable behavior and leadership evolve as times change
  6. The world is complex and connected
  7. The complexity and connections raise the stakes on us as leaders and require us to think using a higher level of complexity
  8. Thinking at a higher level of complexity means we can consider more constituents and more variables when making decisions

Some ways of interpreting “ethical leadership” are more responsible than others. If we are going to use the term “ethical leadership” to refer to an entire spectrum of developmental levels, we will need a way to talk about the nuances of ethical competence. Applying the 7 Lenses model gives us a way to talk about those nuances. Here are two examples:

Regardless of level or title, the most competent ethical leaders make it a priority to learn and they struggle to stay competent in all 7 dimensions of ethical responsibility as the world changes. 

How will this developmental model help you talk about the nuances of ethical leadership? 

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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Fear is a Poor Advisor (Moving Us Away From Ethical Thinking To Protect Us)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

When we make decisions based on FEAR, our brains switch on the lower-level processor – which makes decisions based on a FIGHT-OR-FLIGHT response. The decision-making power of that part of our brain is extremely limited, turning our thoughts to lower level responses like “RUN!” or “HIT THEM FIRST.” Obviously, ethical decisions must be based on better thinking than “RUN” and “HIT THEM FIRST.”

Fear is a Poor Advisor

Our fear response takes us into PROTECT and DEFEND mode, and that mode causes us to shelter in place, retrench and protect our own interests. It drastically restricts the breadth of our thinking and doesn’t give much energy to thinking about our impact – what our choices will do to others.

Fear may generate feelings of anger as we turn our energy to “protect and defend.” Anger, like fear, is a poor advisor that pulls us away from ethical choices. 

“Anger results in systematic processing of anger-related information and selective use of
heuristics to evaluate information… This kind of processing is less than optimal for making ethical decisions because it induces biased, risky, and retaliatory thinking (Moons & Mackie, 2007).This type of encoding and use of social information results in alimited, self-focused interpretation of the situation, which has the potential to result in retaliatory or self-serving behaviors.” (Lenhart & Rabiner, 1995).

The Influence of Anger, Fear, and Emotion Regulation on Ethical Decision Making, Human Performance,Vol. 26, Iss. 4, 2013
According to the University of Lausanne video, Unethical Decision Making in Organizations“Fear is an emotion that works at high speed without involving reason. “  “Fear… may ultimately lead to ethical blindness.” In a way, it’s like snow blindness, when you can only see snow in all directions and lose your bearings. When the dominant emotion is fear, people lose their ethical grounding and may quickly wander away from the organization’s values. It’s not a conscious choice, since their brains have automatically switched to lower-level decision making to protect them from real or perceived harm. Fear creates a blindness that blocks our ability to see past the immediate threat. 
Ethical Leadership is a Fear-Free ZoneGreat leaders build trust and work hard to remove fear from the workplace. We know that fear works against efforts to maintain an ethical culture. Creating a fear-free zone should be a top leadership priority in organizations wanting to protect reputation and ethical brand value. 
Ethical Thinking is Intentional.Before you make key decisions this week, be sure fear isn’t blinding you to ethical consequences. To make sure it doesn’t happen to others, take the time to talk with your team. Ask them “Are we working in a fear-free zone?” “What could we do to improve?” “How well are we staying grounded in the ethical values our organization says are important?”

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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)

 

© 2018 Leading in Context LLC

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

To celebrate 7 Lenses going into its second printing, this is the fourth post in a special series focused on Why Ethical Thinking Matters. In case you missed them, here are the previous posts in the series: Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1),Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2),and Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3). Use the fresh perspectives shared in this series to guide your talent development plans for 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.

Ethics is an important part of brand value, so leaders need to be ready to model, implement, interpret and teach it. Teaching something to others and guiding them as they apply it requires a much higher level of skill than applying it only in one’s own work. To carry the company’s ethical brand value (EBV) forward, leaders will need to have mastered ethical thinking so they can guide others in how to use it. They will need to understand how ethics drives the economic engine of the company and the risks of a single ethical mistake that can reduce the company’s brand value in minutes. 

Leaders are ethical brand ambassadors. They need to be able to handle ethical challenges themselves, AND teach others throughout the organization

To be ready for the higher level requirements of  being an Ethical Brand Ambassador, leaders need clear ethical thinking. Here are some of the business reasons why that is so important:

Brand Value and Reputation Directly Impact Financial Results

“A business’s most valuable asset is its good name, its brand and reputation. In a recent survey released jointly by the World Economic Forum and the Fleishman-Hillard public relations firm, three-fifths of chief executives said they believed corporate brand and reputation represented more than 40% of their company’s market capitalization… Strong brand reputational value equals greater profits.”

Alexander F. Brigham Stefan Linssen, Your Brand Reputational Value Is Irreplaceable. Protect It! at Forbes.com

Ethical Business is A Powerful Consumer Trends

“…more sustainable, ethical, healthier modes of consumption that we’ve been tracking for years.”  

Trendwatching.com

Leaders Guide Employees to Ethical Action

“Leaders ought to be a crucial source of ethical guidance for employees and should at the same time be responsible for moral development in an organization.”

Mihelič, Lipičnik, and Tekavčič, in the International Journal of Management and Information Systems

Ethics is the Heart of Brand Value

“In order to retain credibility, branding needs ethics at its heart”

Joshua Jost, Is Ethics the Saviour of Branding? Ethical Corporation

Keeping ethics at the heart of brand value relies on leaders who do more than just understand ethical thinking and action – they also need to live it and teach it to others throughout the organization. 

Read the Next Post in the Series: Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 5)

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Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

To celebrate 7 Lenses going into its second printing, this is the third 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) and Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2).  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.

Ethics codes and manuals are detailed but don’t provide high level direction on how to apply ethical values to decisions and actions. To make matters worse, the way we teach ethics is often low level, only based on laws and regulations, or oversimplified, describing whether something is “ethical or not” without exploring its ethical dimensions. 

Col Fernando Giancotti says in Strategic Leadership and the Narrow Mind: What We Don’t Do Well and Why – “Stepping up to a more comprehensive, less fragile ethic than the “good or bad” one is necessary to induce ethical, and not cynical, answers to the ambiguity and contradictions of our era.”

Leaders need a coherent ethical framework to help them navigate global and ethical complexity 

Giving leaders a robust framework for understanding ethical issues and choices is a must. The framework leaders use should be easy to remember so that they can recall it when they don’t have their materials at hand. They can’t lead well in a highly complex evolving global society without it. Here are some of the powerful benefits we gain when we meet the leadership need at a high enough level: 

Helps Leaders Remember and Apply Learning

“Coherence: Every part fits together. Every recall re-embeds the whole map.”

— David Rock, Why Leadership Development is Broken & How To Fix It Webinar, 2017

Avoids Guesswork

“What’s important is that having an ethical framework provides you with a basis for making difficult ethical decisions, rather than leaving you to struggle with each separate decision in a vacuum. It’s like the difference between building a house from a set of plans, and building it from guesswork, one piece of wood at a time.”

The Community Tool Box Chapter 8: Ethical Leadership,  Center for Community Health and Development, University of Kansas.

Provides a Clear Basis For Decision Making

“Ethical reasoning is hard because there are so many ways to fail…. Individuals must go through a series of steps, and unless all of the steps are completed, they are not likely to behave in an ethical way, regardless of the amount of training they have received in ethics, and regardless of their levels of other types of skills.”

Robert J. Sternberg, Cornell University, Developing ethical reasoning and/or ethical decision making

Fills The Gap Between “Wanting to Do the Right Thing” and “Knowing How”

“That persons with management responsibility must find the principles to resolve conflicting ethical claims in their own minds and hearts is an unwelcome discovery. Most of us keep quiet about it.”

Ethics in Practice, Kenneth R. Andrews, Harvard Business Review

Piecemeal leadership development, with no connection to a coherent framework, doesn’t “stick.” Worse, if we teach leadership and ethics separately, we can’t expect leaders to figure out how to integrate the principles on their own. Leadership development is only coherent if the ethical values are built in. 

Read the Next Post in the Series: Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

 

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Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

To celebrate 7 Lenses going into its second printing, this is the second post in a special series focused on Why Ethical Thinking Matters. In case you missed it, last week’s post was Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1). I’m hoping the strategies shared in this series will give you a fresh perspective on your talent development plans for 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.

The way we have developed leaders has traditionally been to teach one topic at a time. Each topic reflects a different skill they will need to apply in their leadership. The problem with that is that it’s like teaching them how to put together a puzzle by showing them only a few pieces at a time. What leaders need is much higher level than what we have been giving them, and the gap seems to be widening. You simply can’t solve a complex, multidimensional puzzle a few pieces at a time. The broader context matters.

Leaders need a context for thinking about good leadership that is broad enough to provide insight into multiple perspectives and stakeholders.

Mark Lukens points out in his Fast Company article 3 Ways For Senior Managers To Keep A Broad Perspective, that “your assumptions and prejudices could stand in the way of better strategy. And in a world where it takes constant improvement to stay ahead, a broad perspective is just as crucial as special expertise.”  Leaders will not easily learn how to solve complex high level problems when we are only showing them a few pieces of the context at a time.  Helping leaders understand the evolving global context in which they lead is important for practical reasons including:

The Context and Rules Are Shifting

Organizations face a radically shifting context for the workforce, the workplace, and the world of work. These shifts have changed the rules for nearly every organizational people practice, from learning to management to the definition of work itself.”

Deloitte, Rewriting the Rules For the Digital Age: 2017 Deloitte Human Capital Trends

Complexity is Increasing

“Global competition, networks, and stakeholder empowerment are transforming former manageable, bounded challenges into endless Gordian knots… Small wonder “complex problem solving” is listed by the World Economic Forum as the top workforce skill for 2020—as it was for 2015.

Brook Manville, Six Leadership Practices For Wicked Problem Solving, Forbes.com

Leadership Responsibility is Global

“Many of our informants expressed their belief that true global leaders feel accountable for shaping our shared global future. This emerging emphasis on global responsibility as a key quality of global leadership will be explored further in our continued research.”

Boix-Mansilla, Chua, Kehayes and Patankar, Leading With the World in Mind, Asia Society and Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Stakeholders Are Part of Complex Global Networks

“Today’s leaders are faced with highly unpredictable and volatile environments that defy long-range planning. Their organizations are enmeshed in a new interconnected world of complex global networks that engage in novel ways of co-evolution and co-creation, with stakeholders dispersed across the globe.”

Roland Deiser and Sylvain Newton, Social Technology and the Changing Context of Leadership, Wharton Center For Leadership and Change Management

We need to help leaders learn and apply ethical thinking in the broad context of a global society and the evolving global definition of “good leadership.” Only then will they be ready to meet the increasing expectations and varying needs of multiple stakeholders.

Read the next post in the series: Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

 

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Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

To celebrate 7 Lenses going into its second printing (big news!), this is the first post in a special series focused on Why Ethical Thinking Matters. I’m hoping the strategies shared in this series will give you a fresh perspective on your talent development plans for 2018.

Ethical thinking drives ethical choices and behavior. Marcus Aurelius said “Our life is what our thoughts make it.” According to Buddha, “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” I believe that leadership development efforts must address the values-based thinking behind good leadership, or it will not lead to good leadership. If we just teach people skills, without upgrading their thinking, we are not preparing them for success in the real world.

Evidence Of The Gap: While most companies have stated values, one recent survey found that less than half of them actively lead with those values. According to Salesforce.com, The Impact of Equality and Values Driven Business, “Although 10 out of 18 senior executives surveyed at the 2017 New York Times New Work Summit said that their companies clearly define their values, only 40% of business professionals say their company leads with its values.”

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.

Leaders need to learn how to think WITH values so they can APPLY them to their daily challenges. 

We need to help leaders ramp up their thinking skills to be able to successfully APPLY positive ethical values to increasingly complex situations. If we don’t, they’ll still have to make leadership decisions every day, but those decisions may not align with our organization’s ethical values. They may not meet the ethical expectations of customers, employees and other key stakeholders. And even though they’re in leadership positions, they won’t be ready to teach the organization’s values to their teams. 

Helping leaders learn ethical thinking means they will be able to APPLY ethical values in their daily decisions and actions. That ability brings many positive benefits to the organization, including: 

Improved Positive Outcomes, Reduced Risk

“Ethical leadership has been shown to cause a host of positive outcomes, and to reduce the risk of many negative outcomes. Leadership may therefore be the most important lever in an ethical system designed to support ethical conduct.”

EthicalSystems.org, Leadership

 Competitive Advantage

“Virtuous organizations, like virtuous people, outperform their peers over time. The ethical values guiding the world’s most successful organizations are cheap but powerful sources of competitive advantage.”

SHRM, Shaping an Ethical Workplace Culture

Improved Connection With Customers and Employees

“Business leaders who take the next step to not only define but actually lead with values are better positioned to connect with their customers and employees.”

Salesforce.com, The Impact of Equality and Values Driven Business

Improved Trust, Which Drives High Performance

“Simply put: High ethics creates high trust. High trust creates high performance.”

SHRM, Shaping an Ethical Workplace Culture

Only when leaders learn to think using ethical values will they be able to successfully apply those ethical values to their decisions and action, every day.

Read the next post in the series: Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)Top 100 Leadership Blog

 

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©2018 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

 

Top 10 Posts 2017: Leading in Context Blog

 

 

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Of the 52 posts published on the Leading in Context Blog in 2017, these 10 were the most popular. See if you notice a theme that connects these topics that readers accessed most frequently:

Do Good Things Come to Those Who Wait?

Everyone is a Stakeholder at Some Level

Ethical Leadership is About Service, Not Privilege

Ethical Leadership: The “On” Switch For Adaptability

Talking About What Matters (Part 1)

4 Connected Trends Shaping the Future of Leadership

The Evolving Purpose of Leadership: Why More is Expected Now

Yes, Leaders: Behavior Matters

5 Sites For Globally Responsible Business Leadership

Is Our Leadership “Good?”

If I had to pick a theme for these posts that were most popular in 2017, it would be “Leaders Adapt to Rising Stakeholder Expectations.” Which 2017 post was your favorite? If you have ethical leadership topics you want to learn more about in 2018, comment on this post, or tweet your idea to @leadingincontxt!

Top 100 Leadership Blog

 

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Click the cover to read a free preview!

LeadinginContext.com  

©2018 Leading in Context LLC

 

Rethinking “Smart” Leadership in an Ethical Context

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This week I’m looking at what it means to be a “smart” leader through the 7 Lenses (introduced in the book 7 Lenses) to get the full ethical context. Take note: You can do this with any idea, concept or project to better understand the ethical nuances.

Lens 1 Profit

“Smart” means making as much money as you can (which has no ethical grounding).

Lens 2 Law

“Smart” means avoiding punishments and penalties and taking advantage of loopholes for maximum gain (which isn’t leading with values).

Lens 3 Character

“Smart” means always thinking from a grounding in personal ethical values and ethical awareness.

Lens 4 People

“Smart” means being aware of our impact on a diverse group of others, working hard to benefit them and avoid harm.

Lens 5 Communities

“Smart” means pulling the community together and improving the lives of the people who live there.

Lens 6 Planet

“Smart” means protecting the planet, nature and ecosystems for our future well-being.

Lens 7 Greater Good

“Smart” means making life better for future generations.

Seeing the Whole Picture

Looking through these 7 Lenses of Ethical Responsibility, we see a picture that matches the highest levels of corporate social responsibility. We begin to realize that “smart leadership” includes acting on all of these lenses at the same time. This practical multi-lens perspective shows us the nuances of how we need to respond to our stakeholders and handle our ethical challenges. 

Click on the book cover below to see a preview and consider how this way of thinking could move your organization’s metrics (see Chapter 2 for details).

Top 100 Leadership Blog

 

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Click the cover to read a free preview!

LeadinginContext.com  

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

 

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