Credit Where Credit is Due

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Author’s Note: This post is in honor of the many people who have had to fight to get credit for their own work.

Giving Credit and Taking Responsibility

As our understanding of good leadership continues to advance, we are rapidly moving away from leaders “giving responsibility and taking credit” in leadership and moving toward “giving credit and taking responsibility.” This change is overdue, and is part of a bigger change in our understanding of the purpose of leadership.

What’s Wrong With Taking Credit?

We’ve seen many cases of leaders in the news who claimed to have credentials that they did not earn (and many were fired as a result). That is the visible side of the “taking credit” problem. 

There is also a more hidden side to the problem. I have heard from people who have had superiors tell them that they were “too inexperienced” or “too low level” to publish groundbreaking work they had done (and that it would have to be published under the superior’s name instead).

It Violates Many Ethical Principles

Taking credit for work that someone else has done violates many ethical principles:

  • It’s dishonest. It tries to grab credit for something without having to do the hard work. That’s typically referred to in society as “stealing.” 
  • It derails or delays the success of the person who DID do the hard work. That’s usually referred to as “harm.”
  • Intentionally saying that something is true when it isn’t true is often called “lying.
  • When a person claims false credentials, that’s also called “fraud.” 

Remember that good leadership is all about what we do for others to enable their success. That means we hold the responsibility for supporting the success of others all the time, even when their work is measurably better than ours. 

Look for opportunities this week to take responsibility and give credit.

Share your insights in the comments!

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Talking About What Matters (Part 2)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

In a previous post Talking About What Matters (Part 1), I explored how talking about ethical values engages people, helps them find meaning and improves the organization’s metrics. This week I want to begin to explore what the conversation should include. 

You may be surprised to learn that it’s not all about what WE COMMUNICATE about values – it’s their questions that will help us bring values to life.

Our carefully crafted messages about values don’t help people resolve the tricky issues. Those are just scratching the SURFACEWhen people are trying to apply them to resolve tricky issues, that’s when values count the most. 

We need to address their deepest questions. We need to explore the grey areas where they want to understand how to apply values.  Addressing their deepest questions helps them resolve REAL issues, and that brings values to life. 

Many leaders miss the questions or don’t help people resolve them. It’s our job as leaders to fill in the spaces around the words – to help people dig into the places where they see conflicting messages about values and sort them out. Here are two examples that drive home the need for conversations about conflicting messages about values:

Is Respect Really Valued Here?

What if we have always said that respect is critical, but our new manager was disrespectful to members of the team in the last meeting? What might people need to talk about?

How Am I Supposed To Choose Sustainable Options?

What if a project team member knows sustainability is a company value but the purchasing department isn’t offering sustainable paper options in the right size for the task? She knows she’s not supposed to go around purchasing to order items, but she is supposed to uphold the value of sustainability in her choices. Now what?

These kinds of situations are incredibly common. By helping people resolve them, we are moving organizational values from living “on paper” to their rightful place – central to our work. We are releasing the power and potential of those values to transform the organization. 

Some leaders shy away from tough questions like these because they don’t know the answers. Here’s the piece of information they lack: Leaders don’t have to know the answers themselves to help resolve questions like these. In fact, they need to be ready to “not have the answers.” 

The leader’s job is to tolerate the discomfort of not knowing, and to generate authentic conversations about values. By “not knowing” the answers themselves, leaders help others take the journey to meaning.

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Talking About What Matters (Part 1)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This post begins a series on talking about what matters. Great attention is often paid to values in defining and marketing an organization. But what happens after that? It’s the ongoing dialogue about how to apply those values that brings them to life. 

Some leaders assume that if the values are written down, they will be followed. The problem with that assumption is that while people may WANT to follow the organization’s stated values, they may not know how. Until we engage people in conversations about HOW to apply ethical values, they only exist as an “ideal wish list,” not a set of guiding values for day-to-day work. 

Humans Are Meaning-Seeking Creatures

People seek meaning. We’ve known this since ancient times, but we’re still learning how to help them find it. 

Man is “a being in search of meaning.”            –Plato

“Consciously or not, we are all on a quest for answers, trying to learn the lessons of life… We search for meaning.”           –Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

“The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.”            –Carl Jung

Great leaders make it a priority to help people find the meaning they seek. They take the time to imagine what each person could accomplish, and who they could become. They help them grow into the best of themselves. 

Why Should We Talk About What Matters?

In addition to helping individuals find meaning in their work, conversations about what matters also help guide organizations to the success they seek. 

Ethical values are a framework for generating a positive impact on constituents and the broader global community.

Talking about ethical values, done right, engages the workforce and improves the organization’s metrics in these important ways. 

  • Engaging people’s hearts and minds in figuring out the right things to do in challenging situations

Helping people figure out the right thing to do increases ethical awareness and ethical competence.

  • Building confidence and helping people find meaning in their work

A sense of meaning and purpose improves engagement, retention and job satisfaction.

  • Centering groups and focusing work on positive outcomes for constituents

Focusing on positive outcomes for constituents makes work more satisfying and reduces ethical risk.

  • Driving good decisions and choices based on values

Having ongoing and meaningful conversations about values improves ethical thinking and decision making.

Talking about what matters gives people the grounding they need to find meaning in their work. Helping them understand and apply ethical values improves organizational outcomes.

Ethical values are the secret ingredient in some of the world’s greatest companies. But they don’t reveal their magic when they live on the website and marketing materials. The magic happens when values become active guiding principles. To get there, we’ll need to have some conversations about what matters…

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The Missing Domain: Ethical Thinking

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Using the commonly taught types of thinking is very useful in life, and helps us be better professionals and business people. But there’s a catch.

Critical thinking can help you understand why a problem happened. It won’t help you find the most ethical solution to the problem once you identify it.

Creative thinking can help you figure your way out of a business challenge. It won’t keep you within the lines of appropriate and responsible behavior.

Design thinking can help you create amazing interactive technologies. It won’t help you resolve the new ethical issues those innovative technologies generate.

Even if we’re using all three types of thinking in our leadership, there is something important missing. 

“Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.”

C. S. Lewis

This quote from C. S. Lewis reminds us that values are necessary for higher level decisions and actions. They help us overcome selfish tendencies and guide us to consider how our choices will impact others. 

It Guides Responsible Behavior

Learning ethical thinking is an important part of human development, but many schools continue to teach subjects without it. 

It Helps Prevent Ethical Mistakes

Ethical thinking is central to many organization’s leader hiring process, but often left out as a grounding theme in leadership development. If your leadership development is not ethics-rich, here’s the big question. 

It’s Our Job 

Why are we teaching a high level understanding of subjects without teaching the ethical thinking to responsibly apply what people learn?

Why are people learning ethical thinking the hard way by making ethical mistakes we could be helping them prevent?

It’s our job as leaders to fill in the critically needed missing domain.

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How You Can Stop The “Fake News” Madness

By Linda Fisher Thornton

We all need to know how to tell what’s real news and what’s not. While a headline may be compelling, we can easily damage our personal reputation and brand if we share it and it turns out to be “fake news.” 

It’s our job to “check stories out” to be sure that what we share is real.

Our “Human Software” is Buggy

While it’s important for us to tell the difference between the real and the fake, our “human software” comes with bugs. One type of bug we all have is cognitive biases, and one of our biases causes us to readily believe headlines we already agree with (confirmation bias). Here is a great article by Better Humans about the many flaws in our thinking. The article includes a codex graphic of our cognitive biases that will definitely get your attention. 

We all have “human processing flaws” so we need to actively learn how to consume information responsibly.

Content curators including Google and Facebook are working on finding ways to flag fake news, but an algorithm won’t ever completely solve this problem. I’ve gathered sources that will help you learn how to separate the real from the fake. They include links to organizations that check out stories, an informative video, and games for testing your ability to detect fake news and altered photos. 

Learn to Separate the Real From the Fake

Organizations Checking What’s Real and What’s Not

Snopes.com

Hoaxy (How unverified stories spread on social media)

FactCheck.org

Politifact.com

Fake News Website List

Wikipedia – Fake News Websites List

How to Spot Fake News Video

 

Check It Out Before You Share

Stories are frequently made up to attract readers to sites with advertising. Photos and videos can be altered. It’s our job to “check stories out” to be sure that what we share is real. Otherwise, we’re stepping into a carefully laid trap. This trap helps unethical “fake news” sites earn more money from advertisers. It damages people’s reputations by sharing untruths about them. It hurts our credibility. It spreads falsehoods and misleads people who don’t know how to spot fake news. It becomes part of a ripple effect that can lead to serious unintended consequences. 

How Do You Stop The Madness? Check it before you share. 

Try Maggie Farley’s game Fictitious for testing and improving your ability to spot fake news, and practice detecting altered photos with Adobe’s game Real or Photoshop.   

What Else Can You Do?  Teach young people how to identify credible information online.

 

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Yes, Leaders. Behavior Matters

By Linda Fisher Thornton

As leaders, we are expected to uphold the highest standards of ethical behavior, and that includes interpersonal behavior (HOW we get the results we get, and how our behavior impacts others).

This week I’m sharing a review of behaviors that are a “NO GO” for ethical leaders. Click on each link to learn about why the behavior is outside the bounds of ethical leadership.

Yes, Leaders. Behavior Matters

It is not okay to blame, name call, bully, threaten, or shame.

It is not acceptable to yell and use foul language.

It is not fine to get angry and attack people who disagree with us.

It is not okay to avoid information that conflicts with our beliefs.

It is not acceptable to exclude those who aren’t like us.

It is not okay to treat only certain people with respect.

It is not acceptable to damage relationships with our negative behavior.

It is never okay to skip learning because “we are already a leader.”

Isn’t It Obvious?

These reminders may seem obvious (yes, we learned them in Kindergarten), but don’t leave it to chance. Be sure your leaders are all on the same page about appropriate interpersonal behavior. Your employees, customers and communities will thank you.

Use this post as the basis for conversations about ethical interpersonal behavior in the workplace and beyond.

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9 Ethical Roles: Is Your Leadership Team “All In”


By Linda Fisher Thornton

I blogged a while back about the Critical Roles of the (Ethical) CEO. I realized later that these important ethical roles apply not just to CEOs, but also to all senior leaders in an organization. And if front line leaders don’t carry these roles throughout the organization, there will be gaps in the culture. 

An ethical culture will only happen if the leadership team is “All In.” 

We should prepare leaders to take on these 9 important roles, to help them be “All In” in the quest for ethical culture building: 

Critical Roles of the Ethical Leader

Ethical Leadership Role Model

High Level Trust-Builder

Champion For Ethical Values

Ethical Prevention Advocate

Highest Leader Accountable For Ethics

Accountability Consistency Monitor

Ethics Dialogue Leader

Ethical Decision-Making Coach

Ethical Culture Builder

Through these important roles, leaders communicate, model and coach ethical thinking and action. That process increases the ethical capability of the organization over time, protects it from problems, and keeps the work environment positive.

Is your leadership team “All In” in taking on these roles and championing ethics throughout the organization? Help each leader develop the skills and confidence to handle these important roles. 

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Inclusion: The Power of “Regardless”

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Some inclusion statements begin with “we respect all people and treat them fairly, regardless of…”  and then include a long list of differences that we should overcome. These lists are hard to communicate, difficult to remember and ever-changing as we expand our understanding of human rights. 

Why not aim for where the statement is going, rather than where it’s been? We can keep adding to that “regardless” list until it becomes too unwieldy to use, or we can simply say now:

“We respect all people and treat them fairly, regardless.”

That’s the message behind the UN Global Declaration of Human Rights, championed by Eleanor Roosevelt. 

I know what you might be thinking. Not everyone is ready to make this big leap all at once. What we can do is make sure that we are moving our organizations in this direction with all due haste, knowing that this is the leadership mindset that is required of us in a global society, regardless.

 

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Learn To See Through All 7 Lenses of Ethical Responsibility

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Ethical Leadership is a “Fear-Free” Zone

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Fear is insidious. It changes how we see the world and how we treat others. Here are 5 important reasons why fear has no place in our workplaces, our families or our communities:

5 Reasons Fear Has No Place in Leadership

  1. Fear creates a dampening field that blocks positive interpersonal behavior including respect and care
  2. Fear-inducing relationships are damaging to human health
  3. When they are fearful, people spend time trying to protect themselves rather than reaching for their potential, and that reduces job satisfaction and productivity
  4. The damaged job satisfaction and productivity that are common in fear-based relationships translate into damaged organizational results
  5. Fear leads to unethical choices about people who are not like us

Fear is the toxic ingredient in many failed leadership strategies. When we’re fearful, we’re not at our best. We’re not thinking clearly. When we’re just trying to protect ourselves, we may quickly “rule out” positive strategies that would help us solve collective problems – including dialogue, cooperation, long-term thinking and listening to understand.

If we think someone or some group is “dangerous” or “harmful,” why would we want to get close enough to understand them?

When we become fearful, we almost automatically shift from considering ourselves and others, to just considering ourselves. We narrow the scope of the respect and care we offer to only those around us who do not elicit our fear response. This kind of reaction is understandable as a natural survival instinct. But is it ethical leadership? No, it’s not.

Great leaders respect others AND differences. If they begin to become fearful of a person or group, they recognize the signs, step back to examine their motives, and shift their thinking. They never compromise respect.

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

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A Message of Gratitude

By Linda Fisher Thornton

There have been several great leaders who helped me grow, and who inspired me to want to lead others. This message is for them:

“Thank you for being a great leader. You may never know just how deeply your kindness and support have impacted my life. When I felt like giving up, you encouraged me. When I was overwhelmed, you directed me. When I hit the wall, you showed me how to climb it. When I was at my best, you stood back and let me fly. When I did great things, you celebrated and never tried to take any of the credit. I learned how to be a light for others by your example.”

Take a moment, in this season of giving thanks, to share a message of gratitude with a leader who has changed your life and inspired your leadership.

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Prepare For Ethical Leadership Future – Learn To See Through The 7 Lenses®. 

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Is Spam An Ethical Red Flag?

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Consumers expect companies to respect boundaries. That allows them to live happy and meaningful lives without intrusion from companies that want them to “buy right now.”

Spam Violates Ethical Boundaries

When people get spam mail, email or blog comments, do they rush to click on the websites or buy the items advertised? Probably not. The reasons are a complex mix of changing expectations and higher ethical standards for business:

  • A barrage of unwanted information violates the boundary of respect for people’s time and space.
  • Sustainability is important, and fat envelopes with unwanted offers use up natural resources. 
  • Spam signifies that the organization is willing to do whatever it takes to get your business, making savvy consumers wonder “What else are they doing that isn’t good?”

Spam senders conveniently ignore information and privacy boundaries  – they do not honor people’s right to seek out the information they want, instead pushing the information they want people to haveThe privacy boundary is also a major issue in the discussion about technology-enabled smart marketing based on what people have viewed in the past.

Spam Creates a False Sense of Urgency

The spam that I see is generally for optional luxury goods. With these goods, the sender is trying to create a need and not fulfill one. Lauren Bloom describes how that can make us feel in The Ethics of Spam“There’s something sadly dehumanizing about all that in-your-face advertising.  If I’m really a valued customer, why are you pushing me to buy things I don’t want or need?”

Responsible Selling is Respectful

I realized when thinking about this problem, that I’ve never seen spam from a human rights organization. Why not? Perhaps companies that work based on positive ethical values care about their reputations, and realize that spam is not responsible.  Maybe they realize that people are less likely to buy from spammers. Responsible selling requires a respectful approach. As ethical expectations have increased, so have consumer reactions and legal penalties. 

How does spam inform us? Perhaps it is a red flag – not telling us to “purchase this product right now” but telling us that a company has questionable ethics.

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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.  

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

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Leaders: Can Rights and Responsibilities Be Separated?

There-is-a-growing

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This week I want to take a moment to reflect on the question “Can rights and responsibilities be separated?” Clearly they are both part of good citizenship and ethical leadership. But what happens if we try to separate them?

Rights Without Responsibility?

If we demand our rights but fail to live up to our responsibilities, we will have a negative impact on others. 

If we assert individual rights without also taking responsibility, we are asking for more than we are willing to give. We are conveying that what we want is more important than what others want. We are demanding that our needs be met without caring about what happens to others.

Under those circumstances the answer to “Can rights and responsibilities be separated?” is “Yes, but not ethically.”

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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.  

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

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

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The first post in this series addressed ACCOUNTABILITY. In this second post we’ll take a look at IMPACT.

Here are 3 ways to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good) that improve the impact of your organization and your leadership. 

Ready to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)?

Improve Your Impact

  1. BE DEEPLY COMMITTED TO DOING GOOD: Take a hard look at the positive impact your organization is having in the communities you serve. Does the total impact say “deeply committed to doing good” or “trying to appear good?” Move toward “deeply committed to doing good” with intention.
  2. MAKE COMMUNITY SERVICE PART OF YOUR DAY TO DAY MISSION: Identify at least one important way that you are improving the communities you serve. If we stopped associates on the way in to work, would they all know what it is? If not, start the conversation and make the commitment today.
  3. COMMIT TO OFFERING SINCERE MUTUAL BENEFIT – FOR ASSOCIATES, COMMUNITIES & THE ORGANIZATION: Does the way you are improving communities also benefit your associates? Do they find meaning in volunteering their service and do you support them doing that during paid work hours? If not, make the financial commitment that backs the message and shows you care about associate AND communities.

Having a net positive impact on the communities we serve is an important part of good leadership, and our stakeholders will notice our efforts. 

Watch for more ways to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good) in the next post in the series!

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

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What Is Organizational Integrity?

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Individual integrity is the full alignment in what a person thinks, says and does. Taking that concept to another level, this post will explore the question “what is organizational integrity?”

Clearly, organizational integrity is broader than individual integrity, but what does it include? It seems to me that taking the concept of individual integrity to the organizational level, organizational integrity would mean full alignment in what an organization thinks, says and does.

When an organization demonstrates full alignment, all company messages, actions, decisions, leadership and rewards align. It’s not enough to just ensure alignment, though, because alignment without values can lead an organization away from ethical decisions and actions.

Messages, actions, decisions, leadership and rewards  must be aligned around positive ethical values that the entire organization supports.

This positive values-based alignment in what an organization values, says and does creates the scaffolding for an ethical culture. What does your organization say it values? How consistently does it live out those values in daily practice?

If your leaders are all perfectly clear about which high level ethical values to uphold and how to demonstrate them, you are probably incorporating complexity into your leadership development. You are also probably providing leaders with the level of detail about ethical values that they need to navigate through information overload, constant change and demands from multiple stakeholders. If not, you may be rolling the dice by taking an “I’ll know it when I see it” approach to ethics.

Linda Fisher Thornton, “What Is Integrity?: Beyond I’ll Know it When I See It”, Leading in Context Blog

Leaders are the key to values alignment – they model and reinforce values and hold people accountable for following them. Organizational integrity (at its most effective) is what happens when leaders consistently immerse an organization in positive ethical values and align all leadership, actions, decisions, messages, and reward systems accordingly.

 

 

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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.

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

5 Insights Into Leadership Development Future (Part 5)

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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. 
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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.

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

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