400th Post: The Journey to Meaning (Growth Required)

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

I set out to answer a question. In the process of answering the question, I started a journey that changed my life. It happened the way that life happens to all of us. It wasn’t always by conscious choice or in a logical progression. I lost someone I loved (my grandmother). I suffered a sudden reduction in consulting projects during the 2009 economic downturn. While recovering from these blows, I took a hard look at what I wanted to accomplish with the rest of my life. 

I began to realize that if I wanted to make a positive difference in the world, I needed to make some drastic changes. I started a blog and found out what it was like to learn out loud. I jumped into the social conversation. I began to intentionally live outside of my comfort zone.

I starting thinking about a nagging question that I couldn’t get out of my head. I heard from people who wanted to lead ethically but needed help. I started to write down thoughts on my blog and later started a book. I struggled to build a clearer, whole model of ethical leadership (that wasn’t oversimplified) to help people learn how to easily apply it.  

Looking back on this journey so far, I  believe that life’s hardest challenges are waiting to be turned into opportunities. Taking the journey isn’t always easy – it requires persistence, commitment, imagination, patience and endurance. When we put in the effort and take on the challenge,  though, we can become capable of so much more. We can find purpose and meaning (which require personal growth).

What would have been different if I hadn’t started this journey? I may have had a deep sense that something was missing. After reflecting on my definition of “The Meaning of Life” for an Excellence Reporter series, I realized that this process of growth is more than just something that happens while we’re doing other things – it’s what helps us find meaning and have a positive impact. 

It’s not reaching the desired destination according to an expected timetable that gives us a sense that we have a meaningful life. It’s the journey itself. It’s using our abilities in service to others.  It’s chasing the elusive “best we can be” as the world expects more and we race to keep up. 

I want to extend a “Thank You!” to Leading in Context Blog followers, 7 Lenses readers, clients, partners,  and all of you engaging in important conversations about “the right thing to do” in a global society. 

 

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Ethical Leaders Understand 7 Different Lenses of Ethical Responsibility (That Are All Important)

Includes case examples and questions.

Click the book cover for a preview.

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

Ethics is Contagious

© 2014 Leading in Context LLCBy Linda Fisher Thornton

I must admit that I can’t take the credit for coming up with the catchy title of this post. A group of attendees at a recent keynote I delivered came up with it as a way to describe what they had learned. And it makes perfect sense.

Ethics is catching, and leaders set the tone for the ethics of the organization. What would happen if everyone in the organization followed our lead? Would the organization be more or less ethical?  What kind of ethics are people catching as they work in our organization?

10 Reasons Why Ethics is Contagious:

  1.  We are social creatures.
  2.  People tend to “follow the leader.”
  3.  If their leader is unethical, people may be less likely to report ethical problems.
  4.  In unethical cultures, people who speak up may be punished, which further entrenches the unethical culture.
  5.  When people fail to report ethical problems, the problems may increase and become standard practice.
  6.  In unethical cultures, people who do unethical things may be promoted or rewarded in other ways.
  7.  If their leader is ethical, people may be more likely to report ethical problems.
  8.  In a positive ethical culture, people who speak up may be rewarded, which further entrenches the ethical culture.
  9.  The choices we repeat and reward become the patterns of acceptable behavior in our culture. 
  10.  Whichever case of ethics is spreading in our organizations gains momentum over time. In unethical cultures, the momentum is toward compromising ethics. In ethical cultures, the momentum is toward acting based on ethical values.

Which direction are we leading the organization? Organizational ethics can easily can go either way. Since ethics is so contagious, we need to be sure that we help people catch a positive case of it.

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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
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

The Leading in Context® Manifesto

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This week, I am sharing The Leading in Context® Manifesto – a clear statement of what I believe, and the movement I lead. It is a stake in the ground, a powerful statement of how we can build the kind of ethical leadership that builds successful companies, successful communities and a better world.

Please forward the movement by spreading the word!

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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
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @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, UNESCO.org

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, UNESCO.org

What is Cultural Awareness? Stephanie Quapp and Giovanna Cantatore

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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
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 

 

Dealing With Complexity in Leadership

SAMSUNGBy Linda Fisher Thornton

Dealing with work complexity has become a major leadership development issue. And it is a challenge that has ethical implications. As our work becomes more complex, so do our ethical dilemmas.

What is Thinking Complexity?

We may want to lead responsibly but still struggle to make ethical decisions in highly complex situations. It would help if we could develop the thinking skills to navigate those situations more easily. If we were prepared to think at a high degree of complexity, we would be better able to understand the organization and its challenges from multiple perspectives when making difficult decisions.

“If managers and leaders are to scratch beneath the surface and delve into the substance of their organizations, what is needed is “cognitive complexity” which can be defined as “the intellectual ability of a manager or leader to envision the organization from multiple and competing perspectives so as to develop a depth of organizational understanding that is at least equal to the factors impacting its functioning.”

Richard Jacobs, Analyzing Organizations Through Cognitive Complexity, Villanova University

Considering multiple perspectives in decision-making provides an advantage to leaders and organizations as they juggle competing demands. How can we prepare leaders to do that?

Preparing Leaders

We are going to need to improve our thinking skills to be ready to deal with the increasing complexity of work in our networked global society. According to Nick Petrie, Center for Creative Leadership, we will need a completely new approach to developing leaders in order to deal with the level of change that is coming.

“There is one thing that I have become certain of and that is that the methods that have been used in the past to develop leaders really, truly, categorically will not be enough for the complexity of challenges which are on their way for organizations (and broader society).”

Nick Petrie, Future Trends in Leadership Development, Center for Creative Leadership

The ability to think through complex problems clearly is an asset to individual leaders and to the organizations they serve. We need to find ways to help leaders develop this ability, and to do that, it helps to understand what it is that leaders with a high degree of thinking complexity do.

What Do Leaders With High Thinking Complexity Do?

As you review this list, consider how you can seek meaningful leadership development experiences that support these practices.

Think in Multiple Dimensions and in Relationships

“Persons who are high in cognitive complexity are able to analyze (i.e., differentiate) a situation into many constituent elements, and then explore connections and potential relationships among the elements; they are multidimensional in their thinking.”

Streufert, S., & Swezey, R. W. (1986). Complexity, managers, and organizations. New York: Academic Press, online at The College of St. Scholastica

Deal Well With Ambiguity and Contradictory Findings 

“There are numerous studies which suggest that individuals who have high cognitive complexity tend to be more tolerant of ambiguity, more comfortable not only with new findings but even with contradictory findings. Moreover, such individuals have a greater ability to observe the world in terms of grey rather than simply in terms of black and white.”

J. Rogers Hollingsworth, Knowledge, Communication and Creativity, University of Wisconsin-Madison, online at wisc.edu

Use Systems Thinking

“To meet the needs of requisite complexity, Knowledge Era leadership requires a change in thinking away from individual, controlling views, and toward views of organizations as complex adaptive systems that enable continuous creation and capture of knowledge.”

Uhl-Bien, Marion & McKelvey, Complexity Leadership Theory: Shifting leadership from the industrial age to the knowledge era, University of Lincoln-Nebraska

Intentionally Seek and Integrate New Information

“Complex people tend to be more open to new information, rely on their own integrative efforts than new information, seek more novel information, search across more categories of information, and are less externally information bound. They tend to take in more information and form more well rounded impressions than less complex persons.”

Streufert, S., & Swezey, R. W. Complexity, managers, and organizations. New York: Academic Press, online at The College of St. Scholastica

Connect Employees, Processes and Tools to Meet Goals

Ultimately, these women and men – armed with cognitive complexity and the skills and techniques associated with best practice – will manage and lead their organizations to achieve their goals by uniting people, technology and process in a more efficient and effective human way.

Richard Jacobs, Analyzing Organizations Through Cognitive Complexity, Villanova University

Simplify Complexity For Those They Lead

Those leaders of the units judged to be ‘most successful’ were not those who demonstrated the higher levels of systemic thinking but, rather, seemed able to simplify complexity for their teams.

Keith Normal Johnston, Complexity of thinking and levels of self-complexity required to sustainably manage the environment, thesis submitted to Australian National University

Leaders who develop a high level of thinking complexity will be better able to help our organizations understand and work through a wide variety of challenges, problems and opportunities. They will make sense out of issues and problems that are multidimensional and connected. And they will be prepared to do what all great leaders do – help those they lead deal with increasing complexity.
To Learn More:
Capitalizing on Complexity (and Other CEO Reports), The IBM C-Suite Studies, ibm.com

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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
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 

 

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Developing the Ethical Leader of the Future

by Linda Fisher Thornton

On Thursday, I spoke with Human Resource leaders attending the Richmond SHRM Strategic Leadership Conference about The Future of Ethics and Business Leadership.

The lens I used to frame the discussion was leadership development – how we can prepare leaders to lead ethically in a highly complex, connected future.

Here are some highlights from my presentation – a few of the important success principles for developing “Ethical Leader Future.”

Use a Values-Based Approach

  • When we aim our leadership ethics training toward meeting laws and regulations, we are aiming at the minimum standard.
  • A compliance-based approach to leadership ethics focuses on avoiding violations and penalties.
  • A values-based approach to leadership ethics teaches our leaders the values we want them to use as they make decisions every day.

Acknowledge Complexity

  • When we ignore complexity, we tend to teach the part of “ethical leadership” that is crystal clear and easy to explain (and that they probably already know).
  • Oversimplified messages lead to boredom and do not help leaders deal with the complexity that they face in their work.
  • When we acknowledge complexity, we help leaders resolve the natural tension between our leadership and performance expectations and our ethical expectations.
  • When leaders are able to practice dealing with complex ethical issues while they are learning, they are better prepared to make ethical decisions when faced with difficult decisions on the job.

Expect Respectful Behavior

  • We have a responsibility to expect respectful behavior, including teaching people what it looks like and how to use it successfully in conflict situations.
  • We are increasingly aware of the importance of honoring human rights and building workplaces that demonstrate full inclusion.
  • As the “Human” supporters and developers of the organization, Human Resources, Learning and Training departments have a responsibility to teach leaders how to create respectful workplaces, where people can do their best work.

Make Leaders Aware of Their Mindsets and Assumptions

  • Our behavior tends to follow our mindset. If we think that there is only one “right” way to do things, that is usually reflected in how we treat people who are doing things the way that makes sense for them.
  • Since we lead other people, and that involves relationships, we need to examine our assumptions and biases so that we don’t blindly let them influence our behavior.

Integrate Ethics and Leadership

  • Ethics and leadership should never be separated. To separate them when we are training leaders sends the message that there can be good leadership without ethics. What behavior might we get if all of our leaders believe that there can be good leadership without ethics?
  • Making ethics an integral part of all leadership development sends the message that “we lead ethically.”

Hold Leaders Accountable

  • Every leader at every level of the organization should be held accountable for ethical behavior.
  • With accountability for ethical behavior should also come opportunities to practice, and support while applying new skills.

Using these principles for success will help us prepare leaders to behave and lead ethically in an increasingly complex and connected world. Leaders already struggle with complex problems. We need to acknowledge that complexity and help them build the mindset to deal with it responsibly.

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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
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

What is the Greater Good?

by Linda Fisher Thornton

What is the Greater Good?

As leaders, we must think beyond our own interests to the interests of those we lead and serve, and the interests of communities and the world. We must take a long-term view, keeping in mind the broad impact of our day-to-day decisions.

Many people refer to the “greater good” as an important part of leading ethically, and use different words to describe it. The descriptions they use collectively paint a picture of a responsibility to think beyond ourselves and to work for a better, inclusive society.

These are some of my favorite observations on the question “What is the Greater Good?”

“In terms of power and influence you can forget about the church, forget politics. There is no more powerful institution in society than business… The business of business should not be about money, it should be about responsibility. It should be about public good, not private greed.”

Anita Roddick, Business as (Un)Usual: My Entrepreneurial Journey, Profit With Principles, Anita Roddick Books

“People are autonomous individuals who may rightfully strive to achieve outcomes and goals that will personally benefit them, but as members of a human community are they not obligated to consider other’s outcomes, variously termed the public interest, the greater good, or the common good?”

Jepson School of Leadership Studies, The University of Richmond [Symposium Announcement], For the Greater Good of All: Perspectives on Individualism, Society, and Leadership, online at  jepson.richmond.edu

“…an underlying moral presence shared by all humanity – a set of precepts so fundamental that they dissolve borders, transcend races, and outlast cultural traditions. English scholar and author A. H. Halsey, from his office at Oxford University, calls it ‘a moral dimension’ that permeates all of human activity. Father Bernard Przewozny, from his monastery outside of Rome, speaks of ‘certain absolute norms.’ Stanford University’s John Gardner simply calls it ‘common ground.”

Rushworth M. Kidder in Shared Values for a Troubled World: Conversations with Men and Women of Conscience, Jossey-Bass

“If the world were to agree on a vision of the common good, what might it be? Frances Hesselbein argues that to some extent such a vision already exists, one that embraces healthy children, strong families, good schools, decent housing, and work that dignifies, all in the cohesive, inclusive society that cares about all of its people.”

John C. Knapp in For the Common Good: The Ethics of Leadership in the 21st Century, Praeger

“The common good, then, consists primarily of having the social systems, institutions, and environments on which we all depend work in a manner that benefits all people. Examples of particular common goods or parts of the common good include an accessible and affordable public health care system, and effective system of public safety and security, peace among the nations of the world, a just legal and political system, and unpolluted natural environment, and a flourishing economic system. Because such systems, institutions, and environments have such a powerful impact on the well-being of members of a society, it is no surprise that virtually every social problem in one way or another is linked to how well these systems and institutions are functioning.”

Manuel Velasquez, Claire Andre, Thomas Shanks, S.J., and Michael J. Meyer, The Common Good, Santa Clara University Website, online at scu.edu 

Clearly, when leaders consider the “Greater Good” they are taking a level of responsibility that extends far beyond their corporate walls.

  • Responsibility
  • for things that are greater than ourselves
  • that benefit others, and
  • that represent standards of well-being for all of us.
  • Responsibility
  • for being respectful to others,
  • for being inclusive, and
  • for acting as a citizen of the global community.
  • Responsibility
  • for supporting justice and peace,
  • for supporting healthy social systems,
  • for protecting the environment, and
  • for contributing to the well-being of society

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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
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

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