What is Meaningful Leadership? (Part 1)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

In this 5-part “What is Meaningful Leadership?” series, we’ll look at 5 different aspects of meaningful leadership, each one revealing opportunities for leader awareness and growth. In Part 1, we’ll look at the importance of creating meaningful work settings.

What is Meaningful Leadership? Creating Meaningful Work Settings

Meaningful leadership is supporting others in their quest for meaning. Humans Need It. Great leaders help people find it.

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

— Carl Jung

Meaningful leadership sees beyond self-concern to the long-term success and well-being of others.

When the leader’s concern shows, people respond. Trust is built, and the group benefits in many ways.

Meaningful leadership fuels innovation, curiosity and collaboration.

People thrive. They can move beyond survival and self-preservation concerns to create great companies, great products and services, and great teams.

Meaningful leadership drives important business metrics.

“One of the things that drives humans is their need for meaning, and if you can make every job meaningful, then you will guarantee that every job will be done to its highest level of excellence.”

— Erwin McManus

When people thrive, they can do their best work. That drives engagement, retention and productivity, which contribute to profitability and other positive outcomes.

Meaningful leadership requires a commitment to self-growth and other-growth. Ask yourself:

  1. How well am I finding meaning in my own work as a leader?  
  2. How ready am I to provide a meaningful work setting for others?
  3. If I am ready, how am I making it a priority? If not, what do I need to do to get there?

 

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The Future of Education: Ethical Literacy For Handling Global Complexity

By Linda Fisher Thornton

We are not preparing students for success in the world where they will have to live and work. Some of the ways we currently think about “teaching” need to be scrapped and replaced.

It will be increasingly important that teachers and other learning guides dig into complexity in order to help prepare students who need to handle increasing complexity in their lives and work. A focus on ‘knowing’ must be replaced with a focus on ‘how to think, problem solve and successfully navigate global complexity using ethical values’.

The risk in not quickly making the change to a much more current and engaging way of preparing learners is that every outdated textbook used by schools to save money will contain at best inaccurate information and at worst morally offensive content. Every smart phone will have access to more current and relevant information than is being taught in the classroom. 

Understanding The Challenge, Visualizing the Future

Students need to be able to think successfully at high levels of complexity in order to be effective workers, leaders and problem-solvers. Memorization of facts will definitely not help them be ready. In the old way of thinking, the more people are “taught,” the more they “know.” This thinking does not work because it ignores the important variables of motivation, relevance, learner engagement and the need to improve thinking capability. It ignores the importance of basing choices on ethical values, and focuses only on historical context. 

Learning has become highly self-directed and traditional approaches to teaching (“telling,” “sharing knowledge” and “testing knowledge”) do not support learner success in a complex global context. 

For example, does knowing the complete history of politics prepare learners to handle the current divisive political arena? No, but learning how to think about and act on ethical values will. Does knowing how to write catchy headlines that sell prepare learners for rapidly increasing expectations about appropriate social media posts? No, but learning how to think about and act on ethical values will. 

“Learning Future” Includes

  • A higher level of complexity in thinking (exploring shades of grey, not “right” and “wrong” answers with an answer key)
  • Technology-enabled, just-in-time, user-friendly learning
  • More individualized feedback based on skills needed for future job success 
  • More practicing and evaluating individual and group problem-solving
  • Less memorizing and testing facts (which are easily accessed)
  • More practice time spent learning how to think and act responsibly in the world
  • More awareness of how we fit into the global community
  • More engaging, self-directed work and less homework

A New Role for Leaders in Education

Today’s students are tomorrow’s professionals and leaders. Employers are not easily impressed by book knowledge – they want to know what you can do, for them, in their context, accurately, at high speed, while avoiding ethical mistakes. Adapting to this high employer expectation will turn our current public education practices upside down. 

Ethical literacy is more important than memorization and good test scores. It will define the success of tomorrow’s leaders. We need to make it our top education priority. To respond rapidly to changes in the skills and abilities they will need for tomorrow’s jobs, school administrators will need to adapt quickly to new leadership and learning research and engage everyone in making the change. Only then will we prepare students for success in an exciting, forward-thinking and competitive global arena.  

Masters of Complexity: Leading Effectively in Public Education will help leaders visualize challenges and opportunities for change and decide where to start. 

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Leaders: What’s Missing in Convenient Actions? – Values

By Linda Fisher Thornton

With all the inappropriate behavior in the news, I thought it would be a good time to explore the difference between actions that are CONVENIENT and those that are APPROPRIATE. Instead of saying “I’ll know appropriate when I see it” it seems necessary to break it down and articulate the difference clearly. So here goes…

Convenient is choosing the quick and easy solution. Appropriate adds considering the ethical impact.

 

Convenient is thinking about what we want. Appropriate adds thinking about what others want and expect.

 

Convenient is getting as much as we can from a deal. Appropriate makes sure the other parties get their needs met too. 

 

Convenient is getting all the attention. Appropriate is showing humility and sharing the spotlight.  

 

Convenient is doing something whenever we want to. Appropriate adds consideration for proper timing. 

Convenient is saying whatever we feel like saying. Appropriate is being respectful and considerate even when it’s difficult. 

The difference between convenient and appropriate is adding VALUES to the equation. Ethical values. Business values. Leadership values. Convenient actions are self-serving. Appropriate actions meet the needs of self while honoring the needs of others and respecting the boundaries of appropriate interpersonal behavior.

Acting without values may be convenient (and we’ve seen plenty of examples), but it’s not leadership. You could call it grandstanding, power-grabbing, self-serving, opportunistic, immature or incompetent. The list could go on and on. When an action is convenient and not appropriate, don’t call it leadership. Leadership is about moving beyond concern for self to also consider the well-being and success of others. Without that ability, a person is simply self-serving, and not fulfilling the other-serving job of “leader.”

 


To learn a process for thinking through the ethical implications of any situation, read 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership.

Top 100 Leadership Blog

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)

 

50 Trends to Follow in 2018

By Linda Fisher Thornton

What trends will impact your business this year? Get settled in with your favorite morning brew and review these 50+ trends impacting business and leadership decisions in 2018. Adapting to these broad changes will require constant shifts in leadership direction and focus, while staying grounded in positive ethical values.

50 Trends To Follow in 2018:

Digital Trends and Observations From Davos 2018, McKinsey and Company  (5)

Tech Trends 2018, Deloitte

5 Key Sustainability Trends For 2018, Britta Wyss Bisang, Ethical Corporation

Thinking inside the subscription box: New research on e-commerce consumers
Tony Chen, Ken Fenyo, Sylvia Yang, and Jessica Zhang, McKinsey

10 Workplace Trends You’ll See in 2018, Dan Schawbel, Forbes

14 Leadership Trends That Will Shape Organizations In 2018, Forbes

5 Trends for 2019,Trendwatching.com

Top 10 Global Trends For 2018, Euromonitor International

Upcoming Megatrends 2018 Report: When Trends Converge, Doug Warner, HP

9 Technology Mega Trends That Will Change The World In 2018, Bernard Marr, Forbes

6 Retail Trends For 2018, Gabrielle Mitchell, ANZ bluenotes

Top 5 IoT trends transforming business in 2018, Chris O’Connor, IBM

Help your leadership team be ready for what’s ahead. Keep an eye on these trends and discuss what they mean for your business.


To learn how to adapt your leadership to increasing global expectations, read 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership.

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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)

Trends In Ethical PR

By Linda Fisher Thornton

It is a difficult time to be in PR and Communications. The stakes are high and it’s easy to miss the mark. I spoke at the Virginia Professional Communicators Conference on Saturday, as the group celebrated its 60th Anniversary. We had lively discussions about how to see ethical nuances clearly when the issues are complex.

Today I am sharing quotes from articles about PR trends in navigating the complexity of today’s social issues while protecting reputation and brand value.  

PR  Plays a Critical Role in Brand Reputation

“PR pros are often referred to as The Brand Police for their work in reputation management, their efforts to preserve the health of the brand and to keep the public “cup of goodwill” full.”

Deidre Breakenridge, Five Reasons Why Business Leaders Are Relying on Public Relations in 2018, Nasdaq Market Insite

The Current Environment Requires PR Pros To Develop New Skills 

“Successful PR practitioners of the future must also be adept at business, content creation, environmental scanning, managing people, ethics, purpose-driven corporate social responsibility, stakeholder engagement and interpreting data and analytics.” 

Donald K. Wright, What Lies Ahead For Public Relations in 2018?

Brands Need to Be Clear on Values Before Speaking Up

“The famous Alexander Hamilton quote applies nicely here: “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” Consider this an invitation to figure out what your brand stands for.”

SproutSocial, Championing Change in the Age of Social Media

Practitioners Need Robust Support 

“Millennial practitioners indicated they did not feel prepared to offer ethics counsel…Four factors were found to significantly impact Millennials’ perceptions of preparedness: mentors, ethics courses in college, employer-provided ethics training, and PRSA/PRSSA ethics training.”

Marlene Neill and Nancy Weaver, Institute For Public Relations, Ethics Study Identifies Need For Training & Mentors in the Workplace

Global Ethical PR Principles Available

“The International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) has called on the worldwide PR industry to stand by 10 principles of ethical behaviour…The Helsinki Declaration (has) been launched today, aimed at uniting the global PR industry under a single banner of ethical behaviour. It takes into account the increasing influence of PR around the world, and the considerable dangers associated with unethical behaviour.”

ICCO, ICCO announces Helsinki Declaration for ethical behaviour at ICCO Global Summit 2017

Consumers Expect Brands to Take A Stand on Social Issues

“Two-thirds of consumers (66%) say it’s important for brands to take public stands on social and political issues…Not only do they want to hear from brands, but they expect brands to converse in intelligent and impactful ways.”

“The data demonstrates that people find brands’ voices most credible when an issue directly impacts their customers, employees or business operations.”

SproutSocial, Championing Change in the Age of Social Media

Putting all of the pieces together in ways that result in ethical communication takes practice. Ongoing ethical development for PR professionals helps them learn to navigate the complexity of the current environment and avoid public blunders. If you want to dig into the 7 Lenses Model to learn how to see the nuances of ethical issues, this post will get you started – Seeing the Nuances of Ethical Leadership (a Developmental Model)

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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

 

TAP Into Trust With These 12 Principles

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Every organization needs to pay attention to trust. Trust improves metrics including productivity, employee satisfaction and ethical brand value. It makes organizations better places to work, places where people want to invest time and plan careers. 

After months of discussions, writing, sorting and voting, a small group of Trust Across America Trust Alliance members (I am honored to be among them) created a tool to stimulate conversations about organizational trust – The 12 Principles for TAPping Into Trust. If you are ready to invest in building trust, this tool will help you generate discussions within your organization.

TAP INTO TRUST

Click the button to TAP INTO Trust and access the 12 Principles (in English, Spanish, French and Arabic). 

How will you use the 12 Principles?

Here are questions you might ask your teams:

  • Which of the 12 Principles For TAPping Into Trust are our strengths?
  • Which represent areas where we need to do better?
  • What would it look like if we improved how we follow each principle on our “do better” list? What is our plan for closing those gaps?

In other Trust Across America news, Barbara Kimmel has announced that “the 10th anniversary issue of TRUST! Magazine explores the role good governance plays in building trustworthy organizations through interviews with lead directors, board chairs and CEOs.” Check out the full issue Here

When we choose to take the trust journey, we are always learning and improving. Let’s keep the conversation open. Share in the comments how these 12 Principles are helping you TAP Into Trust!

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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

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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© 2018 Leading in Context LLC

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

Guest Interview: Stay On Top Of Your Work Podcast

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This week you can listen to a brand new interview I did with Kate Kurzawska, host of the Stay on Top of Your Work Timecamp Podcast! In the interview, I answer Kate’s top questions about ethical leadership, including these:

  • How do you lead teams ethically?
  • What should you consider when making a decision?
  • Why do people fail as leaders? 
  • What practices could help us avoid failing as leaders?
  • How do you manage the risk connected with people, with profits, with money, with every aspect of the company?
  • What’s the number one rule you couldn’t manage your work without? 

These questions are timely for leaders. Check out the answers in the podcast interview and transcript by clicking on the image above. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

 

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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©2018 Leading in Context LLC

Leaders, Why You Need Disequilibrium (Part 2)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This post is Part 2 in a series. In case you missed the first one, here is 450th Post: Leaders, Why You Need Disequilibrium (Part 1). In the first post, I explored why leaders need to embrace disequilibrium. In Part 2, I explore how disequilibrium helps leaders deal with catastrophic change.

Disequilibrium Drives Adaptation

Accepting disequilibrium instead of trying to fight it, we can turn our attention to figuring things out as the landscape changes around us.

“Pulling us out of our insulated silos.  Requiring leaders to seek out the signals reverberating out of these shifts, continually deciphering and determining what these signals are saying and asking ‘What you are going to do about it?'”

dculberh.wordpress.com, Transforming Tension and Disequilibrium Into Breakthrough Experiences

Deciphering the signals of a changing system, environment, organization and world keeps us on our toes. It helps us keep up with catastrophic change and still make good leadership choices. It helps us adapt instead of retrench when we face rapid change.

It Helps Us Navigate Perpetual Uncertainty

Change is not something we can prevent, or even”manage” in the traditional sense. Embracing disequilibrium helps us move forward, adapting our approaches and strategies to better “navigate the uphill terrain of perpetual uncertainty.”

5 Questions 

Use these 5 questions to check how well you are responding to disequilibrium:

  1. How deeply am I embracing disequilibrium?
  2. Where could I be fighting it, causing more difficulty than is necessary for myself and others?
  3. If I admitted that my earlier definition of “normal” was no longer possible, how would I think and lead differently?
  4. How will I carry out the improvements described in my answer to #3?
  5. How will those changes improve my leadership and the performance of my teams?

Subscribe to the Leading in Context Blog For a New Article Each Week!

 

Top 100 Leadership Blog

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

 

 

450th Post: Leaders, Why You Need Disequilibrium (Part 1)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This is the 450th Post on the Leading in Context Blog! In case you missed it, here is the 400th Post: The Journey to Meaning (Growth Required).

Disequilibrium is the sense of imbalance we feel as we deal with increasing complexity and change. This post, the first in a series, starts by exploring why leaders need to embrace it.

Avoiding Disequilibrium Is Harmful

Disequilibrium is not harmful to our leadership, unless we try to avoid it. That can cause us to retrench when change demands that we adapt.

“In today’s business world, change is inevitable. And if you’re only striving for equilibrium — which is all but impossible — you will merely continue doing the same thing, year after year, as the world moves on.”

Today’s Leaders Must Learn To Thrive In Disequilibrium, Forbes.com

If we try to avoid disequilibrium, we focus our attention backward, on returning to some “steady state” in the past instead of adapting forward.

Equilibrium Should Never Be Our Goal

We cannot return complex situations or systems to “normal” due to the rate of catastrophic change. “Normal” has become a perpetually moving target, never pausing long enough for us to get a good look. Understanding that equilibrium should never be our goal helps us make better leadership choices.

“Leadership is about knowing what the range is and managing others through the range of acceptable disequilibrium.”

Talenpac.com, The Range of Acceptable Disequilibrium

It helps for us to think about disequilibrium as a necessary part of leadership. It helps us grow and support others as they deal with change. Accepting disequilibrium as “the way things are” (and not something to be avoided) is important for successful leadership.

Ask yourself these questions about how well you’re dealing with disequilibrium:

  1. When do I avoid complexity and try to return situations to “normal?”
  2. How well am I handling the discomfort caused by disequilibrium?
  3. Do I routinely look backward or adapt forward?

Watch for the second post in this series, coming soon!

 

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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©2018 Leading in Context LLC

 

Dealing With Complexity? Use Ethical Thinking (Guest Post)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

We all need better ways to deal with difficult situations. Thinking on autopilot or going with our “gut instinct” won’t guide us through the ethical grey areas. Michael McKinney published an article I wrote that digs into how to lead through complexity. It is a timely topic, and as I shared in the article, “many leaders I talk with have a feeling that there is a more meaningful way of thinking and leading than what they’ve been seeing. “

EthicsThis article explains that “there is no ‘good leadership’ without ethical thinking” and shares the framework from the book                  7 Lenses as a tool for making ethical choices in complex situations.

When we ground our choices in ethical values, we consider our impact on constituents in the short run and over the long run. That’s what good leadership is all about.

Read the article on the Leading Now Blog. Comment here to let me know what you think!

 

 

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)

 

Top 100 Leadership Blog

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©2018 Leading in Context LLC

 

Are You Leaving a Positive Legacy? (10 Questions Across 5 Dimensions)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

When we think about leadership in the “here and now” we tend to think about what will be most effective in the short run. When we think about our leadership over decades, though. we can turn our attention to the longer-term impact we have on others – our positive legacy. 

Long-term thinking (or the failure to apply it) can make or break our efforts to leave a positive legacy. In effective leadership, we look beyond our own interests and reflect on how we will generate a positive impact on others over time through our daily decisions and actions. 

5 Dimensions Of Our Leadership Legacy

Our positive legacy is typically discussed as a “thing” but there is more nuance than that descirption implies. This post explores five dimensions that help us understand and improve our leadership legacy. 

Reflect on the legacy you are leaving by asking yourself these 10 questions across 5 important dimensions of leadership. 

1. Personal Legacy

How am I having a positive impact on individuals through my leadership now?

How do I improve the lives of those I lead?

2. Interpersonal Legacy

How do I model the positive interpersonal behavior that leads to better workplaces and communities?

How do I teach others to promote respect, inclusion and a peaceful global society?

3. Organizational Legacy

How do I set high standard for leadership in the organizations I serve?

How do I solve problems, remove roadblocks and otherwise improve the organizations I serve?

4. Community Legacy

How do I magnify and support the positive impact of other people’s contributions to communities?

How do I leave communities better than I found them?

5. Greater Good Legacy

How do I influence the course of human events in a positive way?

How do I make life better on our planet for future generations, leaving a positive legacy long after I am gone?

Our Legacy Compounds

As we lead, we should not overestimate our own importance. The greatest leadership legacy is achieved by preparing others to do great things. This generates a positive ripple effect that multiplies and compounds the positive impact of our leadership. 

Don’t leave your legacy to chance as you manage the many tasks of the new year. Take a moment to reflect on your leadership strengths and choose a dimension (of the 5 above) where you can improve your leadership this year. 

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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).

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The Trouble With Certainty

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Leaders may think that being decisive and “sure of things” helps them succeed, but if they do, they may be harboring an outdated view of leadership.

What has changed about how we see leadership and certainty? 

Being certain carries with it the connotation of not engaging others in the conversation and using one-way communication. It evokes images of an iron fist pounding on a desk, not a leader who enjoys “working beside” a talented and diverse team.

Imagining a leader who’s “certain,” we may think about someone who operates as a lone wolf or someone who is holding fast to an outdated world view and refusing to adapt as the world changes. 

The Quest For Uncertainty

Whereas certainty is “out,” uncertainty is the new hallmark of great leadership. Uncertain leaders ask more questions and engage more stakeholders. They see value in dialogue and in the somewhat messy but always interesting process of learning. Uncertain leaders know that the minute they become “certain” and unwilling to adapt to change, they are at risk of making an ethical mistake. 

When is certainty a good thing in a global environment?

While uncertainty is hallmark of great leadership, there is one thing leaders should always be sure about in a rapidly changing global context. It helps them navigate the uphill terrain of perpetual uncertainty. What is it that they should always be sure about? Their values. 

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