Ethical Thinking is Intentional, Thoughtful and Applied

By Linda Fisher Thornton

One of the things we know about ethical decision-making is that we need to take the time to do it. But if we fill up every minute of the day with meetings, deadlines, emails and projects, when will we have time to think about the impact of our choices? 

How will we consider our decisions in terms of ethical values if we don’t take time to consider our decisions at all?

Rushing to a decision in response to perceived external pressures is a good way to make an ethical mistake. The thinking that leads to ethical choices is intentional, thoughtful and applied.

Intentional and Thoughtful

Some people tend to trust their “gut” and make very quick decisions that turn into highly visible ethical failures. Listening to our “gut” has a place in ethical decision-making but it has to be balanced with a more intentional way of thinking about our choices. If we instantly assess the situation based on our very human implicit biases (we all have them), we are not likely to make a fair and ethical choice.

We have to intentionally overcome those flaws in our thinking to make moral choices. Once we decide to use ethical thinking, we need to take the time to dig into grey areas and explore the potential long-term ethical impact of the different paths we could take. 

Applied

How do we tap into our “ethical brain?” According to Professor Joshua Greene, there is no specific place in our brains that is “moral.” He points out in The Moral Brain: A Multidisciplinary Perspective that “It’s now clear that the ‘moral brain’ is, more or less, the whole brain, applying its computational powers to problems that we, on nonneuroscientific grounds, identify as ‘moral.'”

As we practice resolving dilemmas we find ethics to be less a goal than a pathway, less a destination than a trip, less an inoculation than a process.   — Rushworth Kidder

There is no automatic setting or magic technique for ethical thinking. It is a thoughtful process. We have to apply ourselves – to  understand issues, explore their ethical implications, and choose a moral path. Watch for leaders and organizations who are embracing this process and reaping the benefits through improved ethical brand value. 

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What is Meaningful Leadership? (Part 4)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

What is Meaningful Leadership? Seeking the Truth & Excavating Grey Areas Using Ethical Values

In Part 1 of this series we looked at how leaders generate meaningful environments where others can thrive. In Part 2 we explored a leader’s own quest for authenticity. In Part 3 we looked at the role of powerful conversations and a focus on collective success. In Part 4, we’ll examine how meaningful leadership requires truth-seeking based on ethical values. 

Meaningful leadership searches for the truth in a complex world. This requires seeing the nuances and moving beyond oversimplified either/or choices. It means investing time and effort in peeling away the irrelevant and the inaccurate to get to the heart of issues.

“Truth, like gold, is to be obtained not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold.”

— Leo Tolstoy

Meaningful leadership requires being willing to live in disequilibrium, without having all the answers.

“To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge.”

— Socrates

On the mountains of truth you can never climb in vain: either you will reach a point higher up today, or you will be training your powers so that you will be able to climb higher tomorrow.”

— Friedrich Nietzsche

Meaningful leadership makes a lifetime commitment to learning and competence.

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”

— Albert Einstein

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

— Viktor E. Frankl

Meaningful leadership sees complex issues from multiple perspectives, including the important perspective of what is best in terms of ethical values. Failing to see issues in terms of ethical values means abandoning the guidance system of human civilization.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

— Marcel Proust

Meaningful leadership uses ethical values to understand difficult issues, digging into intent and impact and revealing the best choices for multiple stakeholders.

Meaningful leadership requires working through discomfort but it is worth the effort. Ask yourself:

  1. How carefully do I excavate complex issues before I make a decision or take a side?  
  2. How consistently do I use ethical values as the basis for excavating the grey areas?
  3. What could I do with my teams to help us all get better at basing our thinking process on ethical values?


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LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2018 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

 

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