Top 10 Posts 2016: Leading in Context Blog

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Of the 52 posts published on the Leading in Context Blog in 2016, these 10 were the most popular. See if you notice a theme that connects these topics that readers accessed most frequently:

10 Ways the Leadership Relationship is Changing (Part 1)

Great Leaders are Other-Focused

The Future of Learning Isn’t About “Knowing”

15 Quotes for Leadership Insight

Leaders, Don’t You Care? (9 Red Flags That Tell Employees You Don’t)

5 Insights Into the Future of Leadership Development Part 1

Every Leader is a Work in Progress (Yes, Even You)

What Does “Good Leadership” Mean?

What Does it Mean to “Be a Leader?”

Ethical Failures: What Causes Them?

If I had to pick a theme for these posts that were most popular in 2016, it would be “Understanding Leader Roles, Responsibilities and Relationships.” Which 2016 post was your favorite? If you have ethical leadership topics you want to learn more about in 2017, comment here, or tweet your idea to @leadingincontxt!

Top 100 Leadership Blog

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Prepare For Ethical Leadership Future – Learn To See Through All 7 Lenses

Includes case examples and questions.

Click the book cover for a preview.

 

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

 

 

Reflections on Truth (Are You a Seeker?)

 

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Reflections on Truth

We’ve heard the expressions “truth is in the eye of the beholder” and “the truth shall set you free.” What is this truth that so many have spoken of? How do we find it? How does it relate to ethics? Ponder those important questions as you explore this collection of quotes about truth.

A Collection of Important Quotes About Truth 

There is no greatness where there is no simplicity, goodness and truth.                                                                                                                                         Leo Tolstoy

Truth is certainly a branch of morality and a very important one to society.                                                                                                                                 Thomas Jefferson

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.                                                                                                   Marcus Aurelius

There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.                                                                                                                         Maya Angelou

If there were only one truth, you couldn’t paint a hundred canvases on the same theme.                                                                                                                Pablo Picasso

Justice and truth are such subtle points that our tools are too blunt to touch them accurately.                                                                                                         Blaise Pascal

The truth is a snare: you cannot have it, without being caught. You cannot have the truth in such a way that you catch it, but only in such a way that it catches you.

Soren Kierkegaard

The truth is rarely pure and never simple.

Oscar Wilde

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.             John F. Kennedy

People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe.                                                                                                         Andy Rooney

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.                                               Rene Descartes

There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.
Buddha

Knowledge rests not upon truth alone, but upon error also.

Carl Jung

The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth’.
Dan Rather

The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.
Albert Einstein

According to the wisdom in these quotations, truth is not simple or easily found and there is an element of growth and open-mindedness required on the seeker’s journey. 

Top 100 Leadership Blog

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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.

Click the cover to read a free preview!

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

Being Thankful is a Virtue

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Cicero’s quote reminds us that if we want to act on the important virtues that create a just society, we must first see the world with a thankful heart. 

Why is seeing the world with a thankful heart so important?

It helps us think beyond ourselves.

It keeps us aware of the good that others do for us.

It helps us consider our wants and needs with an attitude of plenty.

Today, may you go about your appointed rounds with a thankful heart. 

If you want to learn more about how thankfulness can be transformational, Jeff Haden shares 40 Inspiring Motivational Quotes About Gratitude with us at Inc.com.

 

Top 100 Leadership Blog

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

 

 

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2015 Leading in Context LLC

Which Values Are Ethical Values?

Tell-me-what-you-payBy Linda Fisher Thornton

My Applied Ethics students asked a great question that I want to answer in today’s post:  “Which Values Are Ethical Values?”

Quick Overview

Not all values are ethical values. Some values, such as efficiency, do not have an ethical component. Some ethical values involve qualities of an ethical self (such as honesty and integrity). Others describe positive and ethical behavior toward others, the environment and society.

Ethical values by definition are positive and they often require that we stretch outside of our own interests to respect, protect, serve and help others.

A (Starter) List of Ethical Values

  • Accountability
  • Altruism
  • Avoiding Harm
  • Benevolence
  • Care
  • Citizenship
  • Collaboration (See also Mutual Benefit)
  • Competence (Ethical)
  • Confidentiality
  • Doing Good
  • Fairness
  • Global World View
  • Greater Good
  • Honesty
  • Inclusion
  • Integrity
  • Justice
  • Kindness
  • Long-Term Thinking
  • Moral Awareness
  • Mutual Benefit
  • Open-Mindedness
  • Personal Congruence (Thoughts, words and actions aligned)
  • Positive Intent
  • Precaution (Choosing safe, healthful ingredients in food products, for example)
  • Preventing Harm
  • Respect For Boundaries
  • Respect For Others
  • Respect For Human Rights and Dignity
  • Service
  • Support For Well-Being of Others
  • Sustainability
  • Taking Responsibility
  • Transparency
  • Trustworthiness
  • Valuing Differences

Our values define who we are and drive the choices we make. Don’t let your daily decisions be made on autopilot. Choose the ethical values that will guide your life and your leadership.

 

For more on ethical values, see ChangeThis.com publication “What Ethical Leaders Believe” and Linda’s leadership book 7 Lenses, which gives a clear picture of ethical values through 7 Lenses and 14 Guiding Principles. 

Top 100 Leadership Blog

 

 

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

Includes case examples and questions.

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2015 Leading in Context LLC

Leaders, Keep Your Sense of Wonder

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This holiday season I wish you wonder –  the joyful, expectant mindset that comes with not knowing how things will turn out, but thinking they’re going to be good.

I don’t mean the ordinary type of wonder, such as wondering what you’ll have for dinner. I’m talking about the magical kind of wonder. This type of wonder refreshes our hopefulness, and keeps us open-minded and expectant. It is positive and exciting.

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What happens when we lead with a sense of wonder? We are open to new experiences, and we tend to look for the best in others and in the world. A sense of wonder keeps us curious and helps us understand things in new ways.

Here are some interesting perspectives on wonder, from some folks you may have heard of:

“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.”      

                ——Neil Armstrong

“He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.”  

               ——Albert Einstein

“Wisdom begins in wonder.”            

              ——Socrates

“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”

              ——-e. e. cummings

“Men love to wonder, and that is the seed of science.”

 

             ——-Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Be aware of wonder. Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.”

           ——-Robert Fulghum

“Without wonder and insight, acting is just a trade. With it, it becomes creation.”

           ——-Bette Davis

“Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder.”

          ——–Thomas Aquinas

“From wonder into wonder existence opens.”

         ——–Lao Tzu

 

Leaders, this holiday season, enjoy the delight of not having all the answers. Remember to look for the magic and keep your sense of wonder.

Happy Holidays to All!

*Vote for your 10 favorite CSR thought leaders at Global CEO’s Top 100 CSR Leaders (Linda Fisher Thornton is #32).

 

522For 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 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
  About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™                                                                                               LeadinginContext.com

©2014 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Definitions of “Good” (Why We Disagree About Ethics)

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Why is it so difficult to agree on the right thing to do? One of the reasons we may not agree is that each of us may be using a different definition of what is “good.” Here are 7 different interpretations of what is ethically good, based on the framework in 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership (2013). Which ones are you using in your leadership?

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC

1 – Profit

Using the Profit Lens, we see what is “Good” in a money sense. Good means what is good for economic growth, good for income growth, and good for organizational growth.

2 – Law

Using the Law Lens, we see what is “Good” in a legal sense. Good means following all laws and regulations.

3 – Character

Using the Character Lens, we see what is “Good” in a morally grounded sense. Good means demonstrating character and integrity, and showing a high degree of moral awareness.

4 – People

Using the People Lens, we see what is “Good” for people’s well-being. Good means supporting people’s success and bringing out their best.

5 – Communities

Using the Communities Lens, we see what is “Good” for the health and well-being of communities. Good is what supports thriving families and provides needed community services.

6 – Planet

Using the Planet Lens, we see what is “Good” for the planet and nature. Good means protecting plants, wildlife and natural lands, and treating the planet and ecosystems that we depend on for our lives with care.

7 – Greater Good

Using the Greater Good Lens, we see what is “Good” in the broadest sense, at the highest level, for the longest-term. Good is what creates a peaceful, global society where people can thrive.

Which of these 7 Lenses do you use in your daily leadership? Hint: They’re all important for intentional ethical leadership.

 

Follow the Leading in Context Blog for weekly posts that help Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™ 

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For more, see 7 Lenses (foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey). This practical guide to the future of ethical leadership takes us well beyond the triple bottom line to 7 different perspectives on ethical leadership, and provides 14 Guiding Principles that help us honor them all in daily leadership.

21 Question Assessment Based on the 7 Lenses™ Framework: 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 

Understanding (and Preventing) Ethical Leadership Failures

Ethical Failures

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Understanding What Causes Ethical Leadership Failures

Ethical leadership failures can be caused by different types of problems that may compound. Some of these problems are individual and others may be embedded in the organizational culture.

In 7 Lenses, I describe the kind of proactive ethical leadership that builds ethical cultures. The book is a road map for how to lead ethically in a complex world. While 7 Lenses is written from a positive perspective to help leaders avoid ethical problems and create ethical cultures, I often get asked “What causes ethical failures? What goes wrong?”

So this week I am exploring that question from two perspectives – that of what individual leaders do (or don’t do) and common organizational problems.

Individual and Organizational Causes

Here is a starter list of some of the factors that can lead to ethical failure. The list includes things that individual leaders do (or don’t do), and things that organizations do (or don’t do) to set a positive example and support ethical thinking and behavior.

These factors are connected, and it is often difficult to isolate just one of them when something goes wrong. See if you recognize any of these happening in your organization.

Individual

Ignoring  Boundaries (Ignoring Ethics Codes And Organizational Values That Forbid An Action)

Failing to Use Self-Control (“I Will Do This Even Though It’s Not Allowed”)

Entitlement View (“I Definitely Deserve This Even Though It’s Not Allowed”)

Prominent Personal Values (“I Think This Is Really Fine To Do Even Though It’s Not Allowed”)

Crowd Following (“Everybody Else is Doing It, So It Must Be Fine”)

Lack of Moral Compass (“Nobody Specifically Said That I Can’t Do It, So It Must Be Fine If I Do It”)

Organizational

Lack of Clarity (“What Does Ethical Mean Around Here?”)

No Ethical Leadership and Behavior Standards (“There Are No Rules About This”)

Oversimplified Rules (“Just Do the Right Thing”)

Lack of Positive Role Models (“Who Is Doing It the Right Way?”)

No Training or Coaching (“How Will I Learn It?”)

No Accountability, No Enforcement (“Nothing Bad Happens If I Do It, Even Though It’s Not Allowed”)

No Performance Integration (“We Say We Want Ethics, But We Reward and Promote Based on Sales and Output”)

When Problems Happen, Scapegoats Are Quickly Fired (Instead of Learning From Mistakes and Fixing the Culture)

Compounding Factors

Keep in mind that ethical failures may or may not be due to just one of these factors, but several that compound to create a ripple effect. Here are a few examples where the problem is worsened due to a combination of factors.

  • There are no ethical leadership standards and no positive role models (no way to be sure what to do)
  • A leader has an entitlement view and there is a lack of clarity about what ethical leadership means in the organization (it is easier to justify entitlement, when ethical expectations are unclear).
  • A leader lacks a moral compass and the organization lacks ethical leadership standards (the leader may act based on personal ethics, which may be slanted toward self-gain).
  • A leader has trouble with ethical boundaries and there is no accountability for ethical behavior in the organization (It increases the chances of ethical problems when both the leader and the organization lack clear ethical boundaries).

Problems within the ethical culture clearly make it harder for individual leaders to stay on an ethical path.

Preventing  (or Identifying and Correcting) These Problems in Your Organization

Now imagine what can happen when you have 3 or more of these factors (and perhaps others not named here) happening at the same time. Each additional factor can make it easier for problems to develop. Our goal as leaders is to prevent the problems that lead to a failure of ethical leadership. To do that we need to start talking about the dynamics that cause ethical problems and how to keep them from happening in our organizations.  How do we start the conversation? Talk candidly with leaders at all levels about issues named above that may have become a problem in your organization. For a detailed conversation guide, see Leading the Conversation About Ethical Leadership. For an understanding of how to manage ethical performance in the organization see Managing Ethical Leadership as a Performance System.

Feel free to name additional factors that you have observed that can lead to ethical failure in your comments. 

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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 

 

What Ethical Leaders Believe

By Linda Fisher Thornton

ChangeThis.com is an 800ceoread project for “spreading good ideas and changing business thinking for the better.” I am honored that today they published my Manifesto about what ethical leaders believe. This Manifesto begins with an Aristotle quote “We are what we repeatedly do” and then asks us to think hard about what we repeatedly do. “Is our thinking on autopilot?” “Is that autopilot programmed to make ethical decisions?”
This detailed 7 Lenses™ e-Book (design by ChangeThis.com) will help you and your team understand the mindset of the ethical leader of the future.

“What Ethical Leaders Believe: The Leading in Context Manifesto”

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Our daily choices define us. Please help spread this important message by sharing “What Ethical Leaders Believe.”

 

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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 

10 Questions On “Leading With Ethics”

Leading in Context Blog 101613By Linda Fisher Thornton

I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to co-host the live #leadfromwithin Tweetchat with @LollyDaskal on October 8th. The topic was Leading With Ethics, and the participation was robust, with thousands of Tweets per hour! In spite of the fast pace, it was an open and heartfelt discussion about what ethical leadership means, and what it looks like in day-to-day practice.

Many thanks to the #leadfromwithin community members who participated in the discussion on which this brief overview is based. Please note that I considered quoting individual Tweets, but there were so many good ones that I couldn’t narrow down which ones to feature! Feel free to comment with more of your favorite answers to these 10 Questions.

10 good questions we should ask ourselves about leading with ethics, with highlights from the #leadfromwithin conversation:

1. What Does Leading With Ethics Mean To You?

Some of the responses to the question were very personal. They were about valuing principles, using our moral compass, leading with integrity and core values, and putting ethics before rules. Others were interpersonal and societal, focusing on thinking beyond our own interests, being fair and leading with respect, service and care for others. Valuing principles before profit and leading with the heart were clear themes.

2. What Do Ethical Leaders Believe?

Ethical leaders believe that what they do and how they do it matters a great deal. They believe that doing what’s right cannot be compromised. They believe that other people matter a great deal, and that the good of the group matters more than self-interest. They believe that transparency and an open heart and mind are especially important. They believe in themselves and their ability to help those around them. They believe in compassion, honesty, trust, growth, humility, demonstrating concern for the greater good and leaving a positive legacy for future leaders.

3. What Does Your Favorite Ethical Leader Do Best?

My favorite ethical leader provides consistency; puts the needs of others first; helps others to grow;  is trustworthy and leads by example with the highest integrity; gives the credit to others; makes ethical choices even when it’s extremely difficult to do; is inclusive; sets clear boundaries and guidelines; leads from within; listens compassionately without judging; believes in colleagues; and takes risks for things that matter.

4. How Does an Ethical Grounding Bring Out Your Personal Best?

Our values bring out the best of who we are, giving us both moral guidance and boundaries within which we can be our best. With an ethical grounding, we act in alignment with our own truth, and are compassionate with others. An ethical grounding provides a consistent framework for making difficult decisions and brings out our positive intentions and positive impact. An ethical grounding builds trust, which encourages us be our best.

5. How Can You Model the Highest Ethics Every Day?

Model the highest ethics every day by committing to integrity and learning. Listen to others and really get to know them. Stay focused and model the ethics you expect of others. Lead from within without letting the world corrupt you. Don’t be afraid to care. Teach others to use the highest ethics. Focus on making a difference and not on being right or making your point. Speak up when something is unethical. Stay humble and avoid judging others. Live your values and don’t let failure define you.

6. What Stakeholders Should We Consider as We Lead?

Everyone is a stakeholder at some level, and all stakeholders are important. We should consider all stakeholders as we lead – those we serve, those we lead, the powerless, the silenced, the planet, and all of humanity.

7. How are Trust and Ethical Leadership Connected?

Trust is required – without it, we cannot have ethical leadership. Trust creates the environment that brings out ethics – Ethical leaders trust themselves and others, leading others to trust them.  Ethical leaders use trustworthy behaviors that demonstrate that they are worth trusting.

8. How Does Leading With Ethics Transform People?

Leading with ethics first transforms the leader, then the transformed leader strengthens others and brings out their best. Doing this helps people pursue their chosen calling, and makes work meaningful and fun. It removes barriers and opens up possibilities. It discourages unethical behavior. It shows people that we can be successful leading with integrity and pursuing a higher purpose. It helps them become ethical leaders themselves.

9. How Does Having an Ethical Culture “Power Up” Organizations?

An ethical culture “powers up” organizations through vision and action aligned with values. Doing the right thing generates a positive energy in organizations, inspiring people to reach higher. It involves people in service and increases productivity, profitability, engagement and innovation. It creates a clear focus and reduces time spent on dysfunctional relationships and tangents. These things provide a stable foundation that removes fear and unlocks potential.

10. When We Lead From Within With the Highest Ethics, How Do We Make a Difference?

When we look within, and choose to be self-aware and ethical, we bring our values to everything we do and everyone we meet. We create a positive ripple effect. We make a difference. We are the difference.

This post was based on the #leadfromwithin community conversation about “Leading With Ethics” on October 8, 2013. Special thanks to Lolly Daskal for inviting me to co-host – it was an amazing experience. You can participate in the #leadfromwithin Tweetchat every Tuesday from 8-9 pm ET. 

About Linda Fisher Thornton Linda Fisher Thornton is CEO of Leading in Context LLC. Her forthcoming book  7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership provides a clear road map for bringing out the best in people, organizations and communities through ethical leadership. Linda was named to the 2013 Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America. 

Available for PreOrder

 

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For more, see the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner     About 7 Lenses
  
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 

8 Posts (And a Trend Report) On Global Thinking

thinkglobal

By Linda Fisher Thornton

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

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

8 Posts on Global Thinking

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

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

And a Global Trend Report

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

“Thinking global” is:

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

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

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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 

 

5 Things It’s Safe to Say To An Ethical Leader

By Linda Fisher Thornton

5 Leaf Clover

St. Patrick’s Day is coming up, and today I offer some food for thought (with a 5-leaf clover thrown in).

You would need the 5-leaf clover pictured above to keep you out of trouble if you were to say these things to someone without strong ethical leadership. But these 5 things are pretty safe to say to an ethical leader.

5 Things It’s Safe to Say to An Ethical Leader

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1. Just be yourself.

2. Do whatever it takes to get the job done.

3. Take whatever you need.

4. Let me know what I can do to help.

5. Do what you think is right.

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Ethical leaders have their own internal moral compass and an awareness of the ethical impact of their choices. You can trust them to make decisions that honor people, laws, the environment and workplace boundaries. When you tell them to “just be themselves” or “do what you think is right” you can be confident that they will consider the ethical impact of their behavior and make responsible choices.

What would you add to this list?

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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 

 

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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“Dial it Back” (Over-Solving Problems Can Be Unethical)

Dial it Back

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Sometimes out of fear, convenience or profit, leaders use a solution that goes way beyond what is necessary to solve the problem or meet the need. There are broad ethical implications of over solving problems, and this post explores some of them.

When we choose a solution that is more extreme than necessary, we may cause negative unintended consequences. And the more extreme that solution is, the more extreme the consequences may be. See Overuse of Antibiotics: Antibiotic Hand Soap is Part of the Problem for a current example. In this example, the consumer may feel “safe” using antibacterial soap to kill germs. The problem is that over time, using antibiotic hand soap actually worsens the problem it is trying to resolve.

Possible Unintended Consequences of Over-Solving Problems

When we over-solve problems, we may be thinking only short-term. In the antibiotic hand soap example, when a customer washes her hands at the kitchen sink, the soap kills germs (short-term). Long-term, though, that choice can make the problem worse through  a “rebound effect,” and risk human health by putting a steady stream of antibiotics into our water supply.

Using Systems Thinking to Anticipate Unintended Consequences

It may sound like common sense to use the solution that causes the least harm and still solves the problem. But consider how different that choice seems when an extreme solution that would cause unintended consequences is 50 times more profitable.

Using systems thinking helps us think beyond profitability and helps us prevent the kind of narrow, short-term thinking that leads to unethical choices. When we think in systems, the variables of time, interdependence and connectedness are “built in.”

“Systems thinking can be thought of as a language for communicating about complexities and interdependencies.”

“An inherent assumption of the systems thinking worldview is that problems are internally generated—we often create our own “worst nightmares.”

Michael Goodman, Systems Thinking as a Language, Pegasus Systems Thinker online at appliedsystemsthinking.com

As leaders, we need to be mindful of the need to “dial it back” to the least harmful solution that solves the problem, and to choose sensible solutions based on much more than profitability.

These related posts illustrate why we need to use ethical thinking: 

5 Unintended Consequences of Linear Problem Solving      Precautionary Principle: Profiting With Care

10 Reasons to Embrace Complexity      Ethical Leadership Context

These websites provide free tools and articles for thinking through complex problems:

powerful-problem-solving.com        mindtools.com       pegasuscom.com        appliedsystemsthinking.com

Questions for Reflection:

1. Where in our work are we using a solution that is much more extreme than necessary?

2. What are the potential unintended consequences of that choice?

3. How can we dial it back to a solution that better fits the problem and minimizes unintended consequences?

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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 

 

Twitter Helps Leaders “Think Global”

by Linda Fisher Thornton

At one point in the process of learning new social media channels, I actually said that I would never go on Twitter (In case you missed the post with that story, it was “Leaders and Social Media: 5 Reasons to Engage”).  I’ve learned quite a few things since the day I started on Twitter – April Fool’s Day 2010 – and I want to share what I have discovered about the learning impact of Twitter.

Twitter helps us learn to “think global” in a connected global society. It can transform us, the way we think, and the way we do business. It keeps us current, connects us with a global network of information and provides real-time data. In this post, I’ve sprinkled in some statistics along with my own observations about the learning benefits of Twitter.

Twitter Keeps us Current

  • Twitter helps us realize that social media is a vibrant and essential element of business communication, and it helps us get into the conversation.
  • Twitter connects us to people who are passionate about the same things we are passionate about, and to people who think differently from the way we think, and we can learn from each other.
  • Twitter is a powerful tool for learning about new and emerging issues and research. Many people post drafts of their work to get feedback from followers, and reach out to each other to share information.
  • Twitter helps us “think global” and learn about other countries. In the course of a week, we might connect with people on Twitter from dozens of countries, and we may need to use Google Translate to find out what they’re saying to us. What a way to build a global mindset!

 Twitter Enables Today’s Social Business

  • Twitter helps us connect with our readers, customers, colleagues, and partners. Today’s customer wants to engage with businesses on social media, and being there helps our business connect, survive and thrive.
  • Twitter helps us find out what people need that we may be able to provide.
  • Twitter helps us build credibility. When we connect, we have the opportunity to articulate our mission, and to inform others about how we can solve their problems with our services.
  • Twitter keeps us from becoming insulated. Engaging in dialogue on Twitter keeps us connected and aware.

Twitter Gives Us Real-Time Data 

With around 2,200 new tweets per second (whitefireseo.com), aggregating words mentioned in tweets provide unusually interesting information that can be updated continually. For example, take a look at the article Track Disease Trends on Twitter With Mappy Health by Mary C. Long.

Statistics to Tweet About

81% of respondents believe that CEOs who engage in social media are better equipped than their peers to lead companies in a web 2.0 world.

82% of respondents were more likely or much more likely to trust a company whose CEO and leadership team engage with social media.

78% of respondents would prefer to work for a company whose leadership is active on social media.

Brandfog.com, 2012 CEO, Social Media and Leadership Survey

Internally, CEOs who are engaged on social media are able to break down counterproductive silos and facilitate greater communication and collaboration with the company.

Douglas Burdett, How Social Media Engagement Can Help B2B CEOs, business2community.com

Stages of Learning Twitter

These articles explain the stages of learning Twitter:

As we connect socially on Twitter, we naturally begin to expand our network globally. We begin to realize that the world is one community, and we begin to “think global.”

A Guide to Finding What You Need: How to Use the Leading in Context® Website

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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 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

10 Ways to Avoid the “Rightness” Trap

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Author’s Note:  This post was written based on the collective responses to last week’s post.

10 Ways to Avoid the “Rightness” Trap

There were quite a few responses to last week’s post. The question Is Needing to Be “Right” Unethical? seemed to strike a chord with readers. These are just 10 of the themes raised by readers in their comment.  Collectively, these themes represent 10 ways to avoid falling into the “rightness” trap.

  1. An abundance philosophy – it helps us listen to others without needing to argue our points forcefully. It makes us more likely to seek a win-win solution. A scarcity mentality tends to cause us to see a disagreement as a win-lose situation, where we have to win.
  2. A  learner approach  – it helps us see that other people have good points too. A judger approach is more likely to cause us to see what is wrong with what the other person is saying.
  3. Awareness of our ego – it helps us realize that even though we get some satisfaction from being “right,” that does not mean that we should indulge our need to be right.
  4. Awareness of our mindset – thinking about how we developed our mindset, and the limitations and flaws in that mindset can help us step back when we think we need to be right.
  5. Our curiosity – using it helps us be open to listening to what people are saying from all perspectives.
  6. Our humility – it helps us be willing to admit when we are wrong (or when someone else’s idea is better).
  7. Our respect for others – this helps us remember that our need to be right shouldn’t cause us to treat others in a disrespectful way.
  8. Awareness that “reality” and “truth” are perceived differently – since people define these concepts in many different ways, our curiosity helps us explore how other people define them.
  9. Our good communication skills – they help us express ourselves calmly and respectfully.
  10. Our respect for differences – it helps us remember that other people have opinions, that their opinions will not  always match ours, and that we do not need to perceive these differences as a threat.

Thank you to the many people who commented. Your comments helped shape the discussion in ways that help us all learn. Feel free to suggest additions to this list!

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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 

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