Top 10 2020: Leading in Context Blog

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Of the 52 individual posts published on the Leading in Context Blog in 2020, these 10 were the most popular. See if you notice a theme that connects these new topics that readers accessed most frequently.

#1 10 Leadership Strategies For Thriving in 2021

#2 Leadership Lessons We Can Learn From Isolation

#3 Pluralism: 9 Elements Required For Ethical Leadership

#4 Human Leadership is the Leadership We Need

#5 10 Tricky Questions About Ethical Leadership Answered

#6 10 Quotes to Inspire Leaders in Divisive Times

#7 Leading With Values During the Pandemic

#8 Ignoring Toxic Leadership is Not Worth the Tradeoffs

#9 Beliefs are Complicated

#10 Are We Focusing on Employee Engagement Metrics (And Missing the Point)?

If I had to pick a theme for these posts that were most popular in 2020, it would be Ethical Leadership in Divisive Times. This theme reflects our collective struggles as we dealt with acts of racism, conspiracy theories, and blatent disregard for safety measures that were supposed to protect us all during a raging pandemic.

Which post was your favorite? If you have ethical leadership topics you want to learn more about, comment to share your idea!

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

© 2009-2021 Leading in Context® LLC

Leaders: Is An Insider Mindset Ethical?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Leaders focus on the good of their teams, organizations and communities. They work to achieve challenging goals and outcomes and they handle day-to-day crises. HOW they do that is shaped by their mindsets.

What Is An Insider Mindset?

One leader mindset that does not guide leaders to ethical choices is the “insider mindset.” When we think of the word “insider,” we may think of “insider trading” (having an unfair advantage) or “insider information” (possessing knowledge that provides a special advantage). According to Merriam Webster, the word “insider” means “special privilege or status” and has these synonyms: connection, contact, big shot, bigwig, somebody, VIP.

At the core of ethics is thinking beyond ourselves. When we use an insider mindset, though, we place ourselves in the “special seat” and from that point of view it is easier to discount the needs and concerns of others. Applying an insider mindset, it is tempting to ignore the laws and protections that keep us from taking advantage of others.

What Does It Lead To?

Using an “insider mindset” a leader might think it perfectly fine to share “insider” information with a select few in the inner circle for their own benefit. The leader might refuse to share the information publicly even when confronted, since sharing it would take the leader out of the “special seat” and spread the VIP advantage around to everyone else.

Is It Ethical?

Good leaders know that the power of leadership is in its ability to bring out the best in others, which in turn brings out the best in the leader. The leader’s power, then, is not reliant on any special inside information or advantage since it resides in the potential of every member of the team.

An insider mindset has a critical flaw when it comes to ethics. It conveniently “overlooks” the leadership responsibility to protect and serve others before ourselves. It “looks away” from responsibilities that are at the core of good leadership. For these reasons, there is no place for an “insider mindset” in ethical leadership.

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


By Linda Fisher Thornton

This series has explored 5 important spheres of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making. 

This week I’m summing it up in a checklist that will help you apply all 5 to your daily choices. When you are making a key decision, run it through the checklist to be sure you have considered all 5 important dimensions. 

Ethical Thinking and Decision Making Series

Leader Self-Check


Part 1: Deep Thinking

“When we dig into issues and explore their depths, we gain insights that we would otherwise miss. Complex issues just can’t be deconstructed and understood using shallow thinking. The meaningful insights are only found below the surface.”

Have I Used Deep Thinking?

___  I have looked beyond the surface level of the issue to learn about the connected variables that impact it.

___  I have asked for input from all constituent groups and listened carefully to what they see and believe.

___ I have carefully weighed conflicting information and evaluated the goals and needs of all stakeholders.

___ I have applied ethical values to make a responsible choice.

Part 2: Context

“Ignoring the context and making a quick decision often leads to costly and time-consuming fixes later… Taking the time to understand the context, we more easily make decisions that fall within the ethical zone.” 

Have I Carefully Considered the Context?

___ This choice is being made after looking beyond my usual sources of information and my trusted contacts to be sure that I see the whole picture from multiple perspectives.

___ This choice reflects careful consideration of information from a diverse collection of credible sources.

___ This choice “works” ethically in the particular setting.

___ This choice shows a willingness to adapt to a changing world and increasing ethical expectations.

Part 3: Complexity

“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.”

Have I Sought to Understand the Complexity of the Issue?

___  I have looked for, noticed, and talked about the complexity of this issue.

___ I understand the multiple dimensions, connections, and contradictions involved and I am avoiding rushing to a quick decision.

___ I have worked to find clear, appropriate and compelling ways to communicate about this issue so that others can understand its complexity. 

___ I am taking informed action after understanding the complexity of the issue and I am approaching this issue in responsible ways. 

Part 4: Inclusion

“Full inclusion requires that we extend our respect, our care and our concern to all people… Applying full inclusion, we see that everyone is within our purvue, everyone demands our consideration, and everyone deserves to be treated well.”

Have I Treated Everyone With a High Degree of Respect and Care?

___ This choice shows that I understand that diversity is an asset and inclusion is a leadership responsibility.

___  I have honored the needs and perspectives of all constituents. 

___ I have used language that builds trust and not language that divides or inflames.

___ I have gone beyond token gestures of respect and care to demonstrate sincere concern for others outside of my trusted group.

Part 5: Change

“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.”

Have I Watched Closely For Patterns of Change and Adapted to Them?

___ I am acknowledging change and treating it as dynamic and constant.

___ I have watched for and noticed subtle and overt patterns and trends that impact this issue.

___ This choice shows that I want to build a positive, inclusive society for the future.

___ By making this choice, I am demonstrating that I lead in ways that are in step with the ethical expectations of leaders in a global society.


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©2019 Leading in Context LLC



5 Insights Into Leadership Development Future (Part 4)


By Linda Fisher Thornton

This post is Part 4 in the series “5 Insights Into Leadership Development Future.” 

The 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

In Part 4, we take a look at positive ethical values and the search for meaning.

Leaders need to help diverse groups of meaning-seekers thrive.

One way they do that is by leading with positive values. 

The best leaders are modeling leadership that is infused with ethical values like care, respect, sustainability and community service. They demonstrate that they understand the role that values play in good leadership.

Ethical values will increasingly be considered an important element of what it means to lead. 

“Recommendations for future research to promote the development and measurement of leaders who have morality, ethics, and authenticity as foundational behaviors to their leadership.”

Mary Kay Copeland, THE EMERGING SIGNIFICANCE OF VALUES BASED LEADERSHIP: A LITERATURE REVIEW, International Journal of Leadership Studies, Vol. 8 Iss. 2, 2014 

The best leaders are clear about their own values, they model the values of the organization, they follow laws, regulations and policies and they reach higher than laws to lead with positive ethical values. They do it because it’s the right thing to do, and they find that it also benefits them and their businesses in powerful ways.

Ethical values inspire meaning-seekers who want to do more than “just show up.” 

Learning to lead with positive ethical values meets a number of human and organizational needs (that go way beyond compliance with laws and regulations). 

  • People can do their best work in a positive, supportive environment where leaders strive for excellence, innovation and ethical leadership
  • Positive ethical values help leaders find their way through the maze, handling complex issues that are naturally part of the leadership role
  • Making decisions using ethical values helps leaders handle complexity without falling into ethical problems
  • Leading with positive ethical values fulfills a powerful human need for meaning and difference making

What can happen when leaders work to create meaningful work spaces where people can thrive? They are likely to find meaning themselves by helping others grow.

5 Actions to Take Now

What actions can we take now?

  1. Teach positive ethical values and make them an integral part of all leadership learning experiences in every setting. Make sure leaders know how powerfully those values attract meaning-seeking employees. 
  2. Drive your message home by hiring, promoting and rewarding leaders who treat everyone with respect and lead with positive ethical values.
  3. Make it clear that in good leadership, ethical values are more important than monetary gain or personal power.
  4. Provide a safe space to discuss how to apply ethical values in your organization, and explore how ethical values help people find meaning in their work.
  5. Help leaders learn how to think through ethical challenges using positive values (it takes practice).

More to Come: Stay tuned for #5 in the series!

Top 100 Leadership Blog


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!

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

What is “Good Food” (In an Ethical Sense)?

20140927_160727By Linda Fisher Thornton

What is “Good” Food?

I was reading an article that ranked food products, and I began to think about how many different variables define “good” or “best” when we’re talking about food products. One variable is how good the food tastes. But there are many more. Shoppers may consider variables that include:

  • flavor
  • appearance
  • convenience
  • number of servings
  • packaging
  • cost

That list is missing something, though. What about all of the decisions that happen before the food gets to the store that also impact the consumer? Many of those decisions determine whether or not the end product contributes to our overall health. 

“Good Food” Supports Health and Well Being

There are many ethical dimensions of food products. We don’t see them – they may not be advertised, and are decided well before the product reaches us. They are determined by big and small decisions made by others, including business leaders. And they impact our health and well-being.

Consumers are frequently using widely available information and reviews when choosing foods, and they often consider ethical variables in addition to the obvious ones listed above. There is a movement toward supporting well-being, and consumers increasingly want to know that foods they buy contribute to their overall well-being.  

If we started with a blank chalkboard and listed aspects of food and food production that support well-being and represent ethical practices, what would we list? What are the variables that define “good food” from an ethical standpoint? Below is a starting list of 12 ethical dimensions of “good food.” Feel free to suggest others!

Ethical Dimensions of “Good Food”

  1. Nutritional Value (vitamins, minerals, nutrients, calories, fat, sugar, fiber, salt)                             
  2. Simplicity (how little it has been altered from its natural state – avoiding alterations that negatively affect human health)
  3. Purity (avoiding toxins, additives and filler ingredients)
  4. Growing Conditions (plants – avoiding use of suspected carcinogens and toxic pesticides; animals – avoiding using drugs or additives or feed that risk human health, humane conditions)
  5. Sourcing (ethical labor and production)
  6. Distribution (eco-transport)
  7. Brand (transparent, avoiding greenwashing and false claims)
  8. Sales and Marketing (honest and accurate, appropriate)
  9. Glycemic Index (impact on blood sugar levels)
  10. Inflammation Effect (immune system response)
  11. Avoidance of Harm (food is safe and does no harm)
  12. Wellness Impact (enhances overall wellness)

There are multiple dimensions of what “good food” means and expectations are continuing to increase.  Ideally good food would have a high nutritional value and would contribute to overall wellness, be ethically grown, produced, sourced, transported and sold. What does all of this mean for leaders? There’s a lot to consider beyond the taste test.

What other ethical variables would you add to this list?

Top 100 Leadership Blog






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

Includes case examples and questions.   Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™

©2015 Leading in Context LLC

Global Sentiment About Taking Responsibility

Ethics is GlobalBy Linda Fisher Thornton

We are beginning to “get the picture” globally that ethical responsibility includes much more than meeting minimum standards and avoiding fines and penalties.  These quotes from recent global surveys reflect the current sentiment about what it means to take responsibility in a global society:

1. Do More Than Meet the Minimum Standards

“91% of global consumers believe that companies must go beyond the minimum standards required by law to operate responsibly.”

Cone Communications/Echo Global CSR Study, May 2013

2. Use the Highest Integrity and Engage Employees

“Underperforming on high priorities: Engagement and Integrity, Business Importance versus Business Performance in 16 Trust Drivers – Global.”   

Edelman Trust Barmometer 2014 Annual  Global Study

3. Increase Profits and Improve Economic and Social Conditions

“84% believe a company can take specific actions that both increase profits and improve the economic and social conditions in the communities where it operates.”

Edelman Trust Barometer 2014 Annual Global Study

4. Take Care of the Planet and Society

“In a global survey of 30,000 consumers, 72% of people said that business is failing to take care of the planet and society as a whole.”

Accenture and Havas Media quoted in report Brand Sacrifice, October 2014

These surveys reflect increasing expectations for business leaders  – the expectations that we take responsibility well beyond managing our own Profits, to also improve life for People, support the success of Communities and protect the Planet. Profits and Corporate Social Responsibility are no longer seen as mutually exclusive ideals. 

Related Stories:

What is Integrity? Beyond “I’ll Know it When I See It”

Full Accountability For Ethics – The New Normal

522For more, see new book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 


5 Ways CEOs Can Build an Ethical Culture

Leading in Context BlogBy Linda Fisher Thornton

CEOs are in a unique position to make ethics a priority through their everyday actions, but simply modeling ethics isn’t nearly enough. Here is a starting list of 5 actions CEOs can take that move organizations toward an ethical culture, besides telling people how important ethics is and demonstrating it in everyday behavior and choices.

5 Ways CEOs Can Build an Ethical Culture

1. Expect respectful, ethical behavior, and quickly correct behavior that doesn’t measure up

2. Make it safe for people to talk about the ethical grey areas they encounter in their work 

3. Talk about the organization’s values, ethics expectations and industry ethics codes 

4.  Give people the opportunity to practice making good ethical decisions

5. Talk openly about the ethical decisions you are making, and why they are so important

Why is proactively making ethics a priority so critical? CEOs protect the character of their organizations. They set the example that others follow.  They have the responsibility for creating a ripple of ethical behavior, choices, and conversations throughout their organizations.

Forward-thinking CEOs embrace this responsibility to protect the character of the organizations. When they talk openly about their own efforts to make ethical decisions, they also magnify that learning on an organizational scale.



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

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 




Proactivity, Performance and Potential

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The Manifesto

This week, I want to continue to explore the mindset behind The Leading in Context® Manifesto. Here is an important quote from it about the positive impact of ethical leadership:

“Imagine the potential. What could we accomplish if we proactively developed ethical leaders and an ethical culture? Unleash the performance potential of our people? Transform our organizations? Improve lives and communities? Change the world?”

“Take on the mindset: We believe that ethical leadership drives business metrics including employee engagement, customer retention and innovation. Ethical leadership creates great places to work, and gives us staying power in a global marketplace.”

The Leading in Context® Manifesto

Proactivity, Performance Potential and Improving Business Metrics

Improving Organizations Through Proactive Ethical Leadership

Three important concepts in the quote above are:


Performance Potential 

Improving Business Metrics

Proactivity means not waiting for someone to direct us to do something. It means doing things before we have to, in order to make them better. How does being proactive about ethical leadership impact our business metrics?

When we lead proactively and seek to improve, we intentionally make changes in our leadership that improve our character, and build trust with others. We choose to continue to be better every day. Applied to ethical leadership, proactivity includes intentionally demonstrating respect and care for others, building trust, and making learning a leadership priority. That continual commitment to organizational excellence releases the performance potential of our organizations. Over time, these small daily choices that bring out the best performance in our organizations begin to improve business metrics.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. Are we more likely to lead ethically when we take a proactive (rather than reactive) approach?
  2. How do the small things that we do proactively to improve our leadership help bring out the best in those we lead?
  3. What is the positive ripple effect of many small leadership improvements on our organization’s overall performance?


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

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 


Cultural Competence Required

Intercultural CompetenceBy Linda Fisher Thornton

Openness to learning about other cultures has become a necessary component of leadership.  One way to help people respect cultural differences is to build what UNESCO calls “intercultural competence.” To accomplish this, we need an open mind, and a willingness to learn from others who do not think or live as we do.

“Intercultural competences are abilities to adeptly navigate complex environments marked by a growing diversity of peoples, cultures and lifestyles.”

Intercultural Competences: Conceptual and Operational Framework, UNESCO, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization,

If we’re lucky, we’ll have the opportunity to work with people who have very different backgrounds and mindsets from our own. If they’re lucky, we’ll be open-minded and want to learn more about their culture and beliefs to understand them. Ghassan Salame′, Dean of the Paris School of International Affairs, said in his Speech to the United Nations General Assembly that “mistrust, which anthropologists have found in most cultural traditions of the past, is not necessarily higher today; it only has many more opportunities to express itself in these times of multiform interaction.”

When we are not open to learning about other cultures, of course those cultures will seem “wrong” to us.  Stephanie Quapp and Giovanna Cantatore describe such a situation well when they say “Misunderstandings arise when I use my meanings to make sense of your reality.”

“We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.”                                                  Carl Jung

Globally-aware leaders intentionally develop cultural competence. Being open to learning from others builds a bridge that helps us overcome any differences. Judging them simply closes the door.

Resources for Learning:

Intercultural Competences: Conceptual and Operational Framework, UNESCO, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization,

What is Cultural Awareness? Stephanie Quapp and Giovanna Cantatore


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

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 


8 Posts (And a Trend Report) On Global Thinking


By Linda Fisher Thornton

As leaders, we do not operate in isolation. We are part of a busy global marketplace with a global economy and global communication. Because we are part of a larger global community, we need to think carefully about how our choices impact that broader community. Just as a butterfly flapping its wing in one side of the world impacts the weather on the other side, small decisions we make as leaders have ripple effects on the global economy and on the well-being of individuals, environments and societies.

This week, I decided to corral a collection of posts that help us understand ethical leadership in a global context. Ethical leaders think about their responsibilities on a global scale. Using global thinking helps us succeed in a connected economy and a global society. As you read these posts about global thinking in leadership, consider how using global thinking could transform your organization’s leadership.

8 Posts on Global Thinking

Here are 8 Leading in Context® Blog posts (and a trend report) that will help you get into the global leadership mindset:

  1. Redefining Ethical Leadership in a Global Society illustrates how our level of connected information illuminates global ethical issues.
  2. Developing Globally Responsible Leaders describes the thinking process of a globally responsible leader.
  3. Twitter Helps Leaders Think Global discusses how embracing social media helps us build a global mindset.
  4. Collaborative Leadership in a Global Society describes what collaborative leaders do.
  5. Ethical Leadership and…a Global Society explores ethical leadership trends in a global context.
  6. Global Ethics and Integrity Benchmarks describe the ethical qualities that customers, suppliers, partners and job-seekers will be looking for in your organization.
  7. C-Suite Leaders: Are You Using the Global Principles of Responsible Business? provides information about the Caux Roundtable Principles for Responsible Business.
  8. Shared Ethical Values: Global Consensus? explores whether or not there are universally shared global values.

And a Global Trend Report

You may also find Global Trends for 2013: A Top Ten for Business Leaders ( to be an interesting read.

“Thinking global” is:

  • a critical ability for the leader of the future
  • a way to understand our leadership responsibilities on a global scale
  • a way to make ethical choices that work in a global society.

Global thinking is emerging as a critical ability that the leader of the future must have. Are we ready?


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

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 


What is Unethical Leadership?

The Boundaries of “Unethical Leadership”

How do we define unethical leadership?

While there are hundreds of stories that illustrate examples of unethical leadership in the news, those stories taken together still do not clearly define the boundaries of what unethical leadership includes.

To be relevant, our definition of “unethical leadership” has to be broad enough to include the many ways that leaders behave unethically. To guide ethical leadership behavior, it must also be specific enough to provide boundaries for leadership behavior and decision making.

Defining Unethical Leadership 

Our definition must be broad enough and specific enough to define what society considers to be moral behavior. Brown and Mitchell, in their 2010 Business Ethics Quarterly article Ethical and Unethical Leadership: Exploring New Avenues for Future Research , define unethical leadership as “behaviors conducted and decisions made by organizational leaders that are illegal and/or violate moral standards, and those that impose processes and structures that promote unethical conduct by followers.”

Using that definition, we quickly find ourselves trying to determine exactly what the “moral standards” are that ethical leaders are expected to follow. According to, “A moral leader is an individual who governs or makes decisions based on fairness and ethical guidelines, rather than personal, political, or financial considerations.” (, What is a moral leader?)  

Being unwilling or unable to think beyond our own personal interests and our own personal gain can lead to unethical leadership, but not all unethical leadership decisions are made intentionally.

Types of Unethical Leadership

Unethical leadership appears in a wide variety of forms and happens for a variety of reasons. Sometimes unethical leadership is motivated by greed and involves harming others to make more profit.

“Dark side research has uncovered a variety of unethical leader acts. Various terms have evolved in the literature, such as abusive supervision (Tepper, 2000), supervisor undermining (Duffy et al., 2002), toxic leadership (Frost, 2004), and tyrannical leadership (Ashforth, 1994). Research shows these leaders are oppressive, abusive, manipulative, and calculatingly undermining (Tepper, 2007). Their actions are perceived as intentional and harmful, and may be the source of legal action against employers (Tepper, 2007). Therefore, destructive leader behavior is unethical.

Unethical leadership, however, transcends beyond the leaders’ own behavior. In seeking to accomplish organizational goals, leaders can encourage corrupt and unethical acts within their organizations.”

Michael E. Brown and Marie S. Mitchell, Ethical and Unethical Leadership: Exploring Avenues for Future Research, Business Ethics Quarterly

Unethical leadership may also happen when leaders fail to take the time to consider the impact of their choices on the many stakeholders involved. Decisions with unintended consequences can be just as harmful as intentionally unethical decisions.

“We need to understand the ethical challenges faced by imperfect humans who take on the responsibilities of leadership, so that we can develop morally better leaders, followers, institutions, and organizations. At issue is not simply what ethical and effective leaders do, but what leaders have to confront, and, in some cases overcome, to be ethical and effective. “

Joann B. Ciulla, “Ethics and Leadership Effectiveness,” Book Chapter in The Nature of Leadership. Eds. J. Antonakis, A. T. Cianciolo, and R. J. Sternberg.

Leaders are dealing with a high degree of complexity, yet lack a detailed road map to guide their process. As we develop leaders for success in the future, we must focus on the ethical elements of their work, and help them work through the many difficult choices they will have to make.

The Complexities of Unethical Leadership:

Unethical People Thrive on Ignorance of Others by Gordon Clogston,

Examples of Unethical Behavior in the Workplace by Victoria Duff, Demand Media at

Spotting the Unethical Leader in 2010 by Dr. Daryl Green,

Systems Thinking: Twisted Leadership Safety Ethics by Dr. James Leemann,

Ethical Leadership Culture: The Case of the Dissenting Senior Leader by Linda Fisher Thornton,

Moral Leadership Standards:

The Moral Foundations of Ethical Leadership by Hester and Killian, in the Journal of Value Based Leadership,

Moral Leadership as Shaped by Human Evolution by Paul Lawrence,

The Difficulties of Being a Moral Leader in an Unjust World Speech by Jim Sterba, University of Notre Dame, online at

Leading for Ethical Performance by Linda Fisher Thornton,


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

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

Reflections on Respecting Differences

Quotations About the Importance of Respecting Differences

I hope that you enjoy this collection of quotes about respecting differences. Notice how many different compelling reasons for respecting differences are included – some from unexpected sources!

Toward no crime have men shown themselves so cold-bloodedly cruel as in punishing differences of belief.                                                                                                                                                                     James Russell Lowell  

Honest differences are often a healthy sign of progress.
Mahatma Gandhi  
People are pretty much alike. It’s only that our differences are more susceptible to definition than our similarities.
Linda Ellerbee
If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.
John F. Kennedy  
For too long, we have focused on our differences – in our politics and backgrounds, in our race and beliefs – rather than cherishing the unity and pride that binds us together.
Bob Riley
Equality, rightly understood as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences; wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism.
Barry Goldwater
More than an end to war, we want an end to the beginning of all wars – yes, an end to this brutal, inhuman and thoroughly impractical method of settling the differences between governments.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
So, let us not be blind to our differences – but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved.
John F. Kennedy  
I believe that we are here for each other, not against each other. Everything comes from an understanding that you are a gift in my life – whoever you are, whatever our differences.
John Denver
Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.
J. K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire


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

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

Leading For Ethical Performance

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Discouraging Unethical Leadership 

One of the most important responsibilities of the senior leadership team is to discourage unethical behavior and build an ethical culture. Senior leaders need to work together as a team to create an organization where ethical leadership is rewarded and unethical leadership is quickly corrected.

Modeling Ethical Behavior 

To build an ethical company, every senior leader needs to model the ethical leadership behavior that is expected, and promote ongoing conversations about how to lead ethically.

Leading Organizational Ethics

Beyond modeling expected ethical behavior, each senior leader also leads the ethical aspects of their role for the organization as a whole. For example, the Chief Human Resource Officer also oversees the ethical performance management system, and the The Chief Learning Officer works to build the organization’s ethical understanding and ethical competence.

To build an ethical organization over time, Chief Learning Officers can work with leaders throughout the organization to build ethical competence in areas that support effective communication and leadership. Building ethical competence and having an ongoing dialogue about ethical leadership will make it easier to identify and correct unethical behavior (think about the headlines and lessons learned as you review this list that can get you started):

• Employees who ask tough questions of leaders are praised, not punished or ignored.

• Leaders are evaluated on how they communicate and lead, not just on their bottom line results.

• Employees are screened for ethical behavior before they are hired.

• Performance problems are corrected quickly, so that they are not given time to be considered acceptable  by others.

• Recognition is given to leaders who achieve financial goals ethically, while engaging employees and using responsible leadership (not to leaders who achieve results at the expense of employees, customers, or organizational values).

Linda Fisher Thornton, Ethical Leadership Training: Why is it So Hard to get it Right?, Training and Development Journal, Best of Leadership Development 2009

Individual Effort, Collaborative Effort

Leading for ethical performance requires a concerted effort from each member of the senior leadership team and a collaborative, integrated approach at the team level.

Leading for ethical performance requires:

  • aligning performance management around clear ethical expectations for behavior
  • hiring for ethical performance
  • modeling ethical leadership expectations at all leadership levels
  • requiring that those expectations are met every time, and
  • developing ethical leaders using ongoing dialogue and training

Building an Ethical Culture

By leading for ethical performance, senior leaders are also creating a work culture where people work well together as a team.

“Our work indicates that not only do leaders have to be moral individuals, but also have to go one step further and actively model ethical behaviors and use reward and punishment systems to influence followers’ behaviors. Thus, companies that can hire and/or train ethical leaders are more likely to create ethical and interpersonally harmonious work environments.”

Mayer, Acuino, Greenbaum & Kuenzi, Who Displays Ethical Leadership and Why Does it Matter? , Academy of Management Journal 2012, online at

Related Article:

Ethical Leadership Culture: The Case of The Dissenting Senior Leader, Linda Fisher Thornton, Leading in Context Blog, January 26, 2011


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

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

Ethical Leadership and…Vitamin D Deficiency

Author’s Note: This article is not meant to take the place of medical advice. Consult your provider about your individual situation.

Why is Vitamin D3 Important?

In my research I found that vitamin D3 deficiency is being studied as a possible missing link in the research about a number of diverse health problems including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Autism, Cardiovascular Disease, Asthma, Dementia, Depression and Cancer. It is as a factor in our DNA being able to naturally repair itself (see the details in the articles and links below).

How Much Does it Help Us?

A Mayo Clinic Health Newsletter in September 2009 declared that vitamin D “appears to boost health from head to toe.” Vitamin D: Many Benefits, Optimal Dose Uncertain 

The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University mentions a form of vitamin D as an “immune system modulator.” Vitamin D, Micronutrient Information Center,

The University of California UC San Diego News Center reports that researchers from UC San Diego School of Medicine and Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha have found out more about how much vitamin D we need to reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases:

“We found that daily intakes of vitamin D by adults in the range of 4000-8000 IU are needed to maintain blood levels of vitamin D metabolites in the range needed to reduce by about half the risk of several diseases – breast cancer, colon cancer, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes,” said Cedric Garland, DrPH, professor of family and preventive medicine at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. “I was surprised to find that the intakes required to maintain vitamin D status for disease prevention were so high – much higher than the minimal intake of vitamin D of 400 IU/day that was needed to defeat rickets in the 20th century.”

Higher Vitamin D Intake Needed to Reduce Cancer Risk UC San Diego

A 2011 BBC Health News article by Doctor Joseph M. Reed of Southhampton General Hospital in the UK explains how the problem affects his patients: “Alarmingly, our figures suggest that up to 40% of children presenting to the orthopaedic outpatient service in Southampton have vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency. But with a little knowledge, these conditions are avoidable.” Children Are at Risk of Getting Rickets, Says Doctor BBC News Health

What is Our Ethical Responsibility?

This important health information needs to be shared. I was personally diagnosed with a severe case of vitamin D3 deficiency, and learned the importance of taking a supplement the hard way. If we want to feel better, prevent disease and reduce health care costs as a society, then we must be proactive in sharing the kind of information that can help us achieve our goals. If a deficiency of vitamin D is implicated in many varied health problems, and is crucial for healing, and helps repair the body and helps prevent illness and is so affordable, then:

  • It should be part of standard patient education in every type of medical practice when patients come in for treatment or well checkups.
  • It should be discussed and recommended to patients before starting a course of treatment for any illness.
  • It should be a subject that all health and wellness practitioners follow closely.


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

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

The Learning Paradox: How Too Much Homework Harms

How Much Homework is Too Much?

As we build increasing awareness about learning, motivation and the general well-being of children, more people are beginning to wonder if the way we use homework is part of the solution or part of the problem.

The National PTA recommendations fall in line with general guidelines suggested by researcher Harris Cooper: 10-20 minutes per night in the first grade, and an additional 10 minutes per grade level thereafter (e.g., 20 minutes for second grade, 120 minutes for twelfth). High school students may sometimes do more, depending on what classes they take (see Review of Educational Research, 2006).

The National PTA says that “when you add classroom time to homework time, school-age children should not be working longer than an eight-hour day.”  (Hints to Help Reduce Homework Stress

According to my research and my own experience as a parent, children in elementary school are sometimes being given homework that takes their required school time well beyond an eight-hour day.  Spending too much time on homework means losing important family time and missing out on exercise, time outside and other stress-reducing activities. For these reasons and others, it can create more stress for children than they know how to handle if too much homework is given too early in their development.

Paradoxically, by trying to help children learn more by adding graded homework for every child,we may be hurting the learning process more than we’re helping it.

Here are some of the reasons why giving homework for additional practice is not necessarily better for learning:

…Because love of learning is driven by curiosity and exploration, not repetition.

children “lack the time to pursue interests they care about” Homework Harms Kids, Says Debunker, by Kris Rushowy,

“damaging our kids’ interest in learning.” The Myth About Homework, Time Magazine

“single greatest extinguisher of a child’s curiosity” Homework Harms Kids, Says Debunker, by Kris Rushowy,

“I’ve heard from schools in the U.S. that have banned homework that kids are more likely to read for pleasure, to follow the news in the newspaper, to pursue a question online, to show their parents a science experiment they did at school, and so on.” Homework Harms Kids, Says Debunker, by Kris Rushowy,

I agree with Bill Glassner (1992, p. 231) that children would be better emerging from schooling ignorant, than hating to learn. It’s the children’s willingness to learn that is most harmed by compulsory homework. Children don’t like it, many parents don’t like it, teachers don’t like it. For good reason.” Homework Hysteria by Louise Porter, Child Psychologist

…Because completing independent work requires a level of development that only comes with age and is not well developed in the elementary and early middle school years.

“One of the complicating factors is age. Most small children and early adolescents have not yet developed the kind of self-reflective or self-monitoring skills to get the benefit out of either homework or self-study” LeTedre explains.  Probing Question: Is Homework Bad for Kids? by Alexa Stevenson

…Because more homework is not better for the child.

“It is generally agreed that the younger the child, the less time the child should be expected to devote to homework. A general rule of thumb is that children do 10 minutes of homework for each grade level. Therefore, first graders should be expected to do about 10 minutes of homework, second graders 20 minutes, third graders 30 minutes, and so on. If your child is spending more than 10 minutes per grade level on work at night, then you may want to talk with your child’s teacher about adjusting the workload.” Homework: A Guide for Parents by Peg Dawson, EdD, National Association of School Psychologists Online

“The trouble seems to crop up in the elementary grades when kids do too much homework — defined by some as an hour or more. Studies have shown a negative correlation between math scores and the amount of homework completed. In other words, the more homework the students did, the worse they performed on math tests.”  Does More Homework Mean Better Grades? ABC World News With Diane Sawyer

…Because too much homework creates a burden on students and harms their academic skills.

“Prior to the late high school years, children who are given more than 30 minutes of homework a night show declines in their academic skills, compared with children who are given none. “  Homework Hysteria by Louise Porter, Child Psychologist

“The problem, he (LeTendre) adds, is that most teachers use ‘the shotgun approach,’ photocopying worksheets and giving each student the same assignment.” Probing Question: Is Homework Bad for Kids? by Alexa Stevenson

“Teachers have to set homework, police its completion, and mark it. For the majority of students who are progressing well, this extra work is an unnecessary burden on both students and teachers. If instead teachers could design specific remedial activities for the handful of struggling students, both they and their students would be less burdened.” Homework Hysteria by Louise Porter, Child Psychologist

…Because too much homework takes the place of things children need, like relaxed family time, play and rest.

“Homework eats into relaxation time, which would offset stress.” Bill Glassner, quoted in  Homework Hysteria by Louise Porter, Child Psychologist

“takes the place of “evenings for family and serendipity” The Myth About Homework, Time Magazine

“Play is so important to optimal child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child.1” The Importance of Play in Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds by Kenneth Ginsberg, MD, and the Committee on Communications and the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, American Academy of Pediatrics

“Homework does not meet children’s needs and indeed violates their requirements for recreational and extra-curricular activity time, and for sleep…” Homework Hysteria by Louise Porter, Child Psychologist

“homework demands can limit the time available to spend on other beneficial activities, such as sport and community activities” Homework: Is it Worth It?

Bright students who are conscientious about doing homework have no time left to pursue other recreational activities; less able students do not do the homework but because this defines them as failures, they do little else either.” Bill Glassner quoted in Homework Hysteria by Louise Porter, Child Psychologist

…Because when children who have not developed the skills to handle independent work are given challenging assignments and asked to do them by themselves without parent help, it creates a stressful dilemma for them and their parents.

 “nightly grind that is stressing out children”  New Recruit in Homework Revolt: The Principal, The New York Times

“brought home homework only a parent could complete”  Do Kids Have Too Much Homework?

“straining parent-kid relationships” The Myth About Homework, Time Magazine

“Most homework is more easily and better done at school.” Bill Glassner quoted in Homework Hysteria by Louise Porter, Child Psychologist

“turned their living room in to an anguished battleground” Do Kids Have Too Much Homework?

“Then there’s the nightly nagging to get started on the homework. This policing role leads to tension in the family and disputes between parents and the many children who cannot or do not want to do the work.” Homework Hysteria by Louise Porter, Child Psychologist

…Because to get the homework done and protect free time, parents, children and teachers have to lower their standards for completing the homework, which sends the wrong message to children.

“schools are deciding what happens during family time” Homework Harms Kids, Says Debunker, by Kris Rushowy,

“To avoid arguments, teachers (and parents) accept low quality homework, sending the message that it is acceptable to do poor work.” Bill Glassner quoted in Homework Hysteria by Louise Porter, Child Psychologist

While there are differences of opinion on the impact of too much homework, I believe that we need to fiercely protect the rights of all children to keep their:

  1. curiosity
  2. love of learning
  3. time to play, and
  4. time with family and friends

…and that whatever approach we take to the homework issue should be in that context.

“When we lack choice, activities become work, and when they are joyless, they teach us very little – other than to dislike them.” Homework Hysteria by Louise Porter, Child Psychologist

Additional Resources: 

Research Spotlight on Homework National Education Association,

Homework: What the Research Says Brief National Council of Teachers of Mathematics,

Rethinking Homework by Alfie Kohn, Principal

Research Spotlight on Homework, National Education Association,

American Students are Underwhelmed by Homework Assignments Carnegie Mellon

Do Students Have Too Much Homework?  The Brookings Institute

The Balanced View: Homework


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

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

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