Differences or Inclusion – Which Are We Focusing On?

by Linda Fisher Thornton

A Diversity Focus Can Be Divisive

When we talk about diversity, we are noticing differences. That may not seem like a profound statement at first, but think about it for a moment. In a work environment, diversity is about having different types of employees, right? And that’s a good thing for productivity and innovation, isn’t it? It is a good thing. But it’s not enough.  

Managing diversity without inclusion as the ultimate goal can make a big difference in the way employees experience our organization. We choose a way of thinking that represents what we’re trying to do and then build a process/program/structure or measurement based on that foundation. If diversity is our way of thinking, we may get an approach based on “differences,” rather than one based on creating an inclusive culture where a diverse group of people can do their best work.

How we Perceive “Different” Has Ethical and Organizational Implications

“There are a number of ways to perceive people who are different from us and ideas that are different from ours. Some are more positive and productive than others” (Linda Fisher Thornton, “Ethical Implications of How Leaders Perceive ‘Different'”).”

As leaders, how we choose to handle people who are “different” from us in some way shapes our organizational culture in important ways. Tamara Erickson, McKinsey award-winning author, calls for a higher level of diversity understanding in organizations:

“There is a third stage of diversity, perhaps aspirational for most today, represented by a fundamental shift in attitudes toward people who are in any way different… My wish for 2011 is that more organizations will include programs aimed to reach this stage as an important component of their diversity goals.”

Tamara J. Erickson in Level Three Diversity: Moving Beyond Political Correctness,” Diversity Executive, January/February 2011

As leaders, we need to understand our choices and the potential ethical impact of those choices on our employees and our organizations. Honoring human rights fundamentally means honoring everyone, regardless of background or perspective. Are we living that every day in our organizational leadership?

In Inclusive Organizations, Differences are Seen as Enhancing Organizational Innovation

The excerpt below is from Leading in Context® Training Module “Ethical Implications of How Leaders Perceive Different” which provides a framework for thinking and talking about how we handle “different” in our organizations.

Perceptions of “Different” Impact Our Behavior

“How we think as leaders directly impacts our leadership behavior.  It compels us to act and to make decisions in the context of the value judgments we make.”

“Unfortunately, we don’t always use the word “different” to describe things and people and ideas that are new to us. We often use less friendly words that indicate that the person or idea is wrong, misguided or harmful. When we are perceiving “different” as wrong, misguided or harmful, we are more likely to treat people in ways that are not respectful. When we are open to hearing “different” perspectives we are more likely to lead in responsible, inclusive ways.”

“Because our thinking process shapes our decisions, as leaders we must be careful to use thinking processes that are inclusive and that respect the rights of other people to have their own perspectives and opinions.”

Excerpts from “Ethical Implications of How Leaders Perceive Different” by Linda Fisher Thornton

As Howard Winters said, “Civilization is the process in which one gradually increases the number of people included in the term ‘we’ or ‘us’ and at the same time decreases those labeled ‘you’ or ‘them’ until that category has no one left in it.”

“The ‘different’ perspectives and opinions of those we lead do not undermine our leadership position. In fact, it is those new ideas and perspectives that will help us keep our company adaptable, engaging and competitive in a global marketplace.”  (Linda Fisher Thornton, “Ethical Implications of How Leaders Perceive ‘Different'”).

At its highest level, inclusion is about honoring human rights. Consider whether you are managing diversity or working toward full inclusion in a way that respects human rights. These resources will help you explore the differences between leading with a diversity-based approach and leading for full inclusion.

Resources for Moving From Differences to Inclusion

ILR Impact Brief: Diversity and Inclusion: Is There Really a Difference? Cornell University, ilr.cornell.edu

The Netter Principles, glaxdiversitycouncil.com

A Framework for Building Organizational Inclusion, Working Paper Number 2, Bormann and Woods, The Workplace Diversity Network, Cornell University, ilr.cornell.edu

What is Inclusion? Inclusion Network, Inclusion.com


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 

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.


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 

The Leadership Development Advantage

by Linda Fisher Thornton

Developing Leaders Pays Off

Ongoing development for leaders helps companies. According to several recent reports, businesses that invest in leadership development enjoy clear advantages. These advantages include improved bench strength, improved talent retention and greater market value over time.

Here is a list of some of the financial and non-financial advantages of investing in leadership development, and the white papers that document them. As you read, consider how improving leadership improves the entire organization in ways that benefit companies, leaders, customers, employees, and communities.

Advantages of Investing in Leadership Development

  • Improved business growth
  • Improved bench strength
  • Improved employee retention
  • Improved bottom-line performance
  • Improved ability to attract talent
  • Solving problems earlier and at lower levels
  • Increased organizational agility
  • Improved business sustainability
  • Greater market value over time

Reports Documenting the Benefits of Leadership Development

Bersin & Associates found that businesses that invest in leadership development enjoy improved business growth, bench strength and employee retention. (New Bersin & Associates Research Shows that Organizations with High-Impact Leadership Development Strategies Build a Different Breed of Leader and Generate Seven Times Greater Business Impact, online at Bersin.com).

JP Dolan wrote in 40 Best Companies for Leadership Development: How Top Companies Excel in Leadership Development that companies that excel in leadership development generate dramatically greater market value over time (online at ChiefExecutive.net).

The Center for Creative Leadership report Driving Performance: Why Leadership Development Matters in Difficult Times (online at ccl.org) says that leadership development during difficult economic times helps companies emerge stronger than the competition, improves bottom-line financial performance, improves ability to attract and retain talent and increases organizational agility.

The Career Management Consultants in “Enhancing Leadership Capability” (nwacademy.nhs.uk) reported that The Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) “found that high performing organisations are five times as effective at leadership development than low performing organisations and 86 per cent of respondents cited leadership development as a critical business issue” (The Best Get Better: Critical Human Capital Issues of 2012, i4cp, April 2012). The report also noted that “leadership capability has a direct impact on bottom line results and business sustainability.”

The Growthwave White Paper “Unleash Leadership Talent – Increase Business Performance (online at growthwave.com) reports that “Companies that focus on developing leadership abilities deep into the organization are able to identify and solve problems earlier and at lower levels. This allows higher-level leaders to not get distracted by the details at the expense of strategic performance. Unleashing leadership potential deep in the organization creates capacity to significantly increase business performance.”

Questions for Reflection

1. How well does our leadership development prepare leaders for successful leadership in our organization?

2. What problems are we experiencing that improving leadership competence would help resolve?

3. What are we going to do about it?


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 

“Respectful Workplaces” Video

New Video Explains the Importance of Respect in the Workplace

Today’s post features a video for leaders that is currently available at no cost in an effort to educate leaders about the importance of building respectful workplaces.

And Highlights Recent Research About Ethical Leadership 

“The Evolving Leadership Context: Respectful Workplaces”  is a 5-minute leadership training video that ” explains how the latest research raises the stakes for leaders and changes how we think about respect in the workplace.”

Just released on November 4, 2011, the video is a simple one with a powerful message. Here are excerpts from the November 4 Press Release:

“The Evolving Leadership Context: Respectful Workplaces” Video Released

Richmond, Virginia—November 4, 2011  New Video Illustrates the Importance of “Respectful Workplace Behavior”

As a companion to the Graphic “Ethical Interpersonal Behavior” Leading in Context LLC has released a new leadership training video that explains how the latest research raises the stakes for leaders and changes how we think about respect in the workplace.

The video walks leaders through how the context for leadership is changing and what we now know from  research about  the importance of building a respectful workplace. Human Resource Managers, Chief Learning Officers and CEOs will find that this information is compelling and will want their leaders to be aware of it.

“It just might change how you think about leadership”

To download the video, visit  the Leading in Context Digital Store at Payloadz.com

How to Use This Video

This 5-minute video has discussion questions at the end and is designed to be used with leader groups of all kinds – in classes, in leadership training, in meetings, at planning retreats, etc.

How to Provide Feedback

Post your comments to let me know how you like this Leading in Context™ Publication, and to let me know what other “grey areas” of ethical leadership you would like to hear more about.

Please let me know how this video has been useful to you in educating leaders, starting discussions about respect at work, and building respectful cultures.


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 
© 2011 Leading in Context LLC 

Ways That Leading in Context™ Publications Meet Your Needs:

“I want to engage leaders and challenge them to think in news ways about responsible behavior.”

Leading Ethically is the New Leading

All of us who lead and develop leaders need to be tuned in to the “New Leading.”  To embrace the “New Leading,” we need to realize that leadership and ethics are joined in important ways.

Many leaders have traditionally thought of ethics and leadership as separate. That fragmented way of thinking is part of why we’ve reached a point where there are so many examples of ethical violations in the news.

What Really Happens When We Separate “Leading” From “Ethically?”

When you separate “leading” from “ethically,” you get a form of  “leadership” that ignores responsibility to others and would look like this:

  • greedy
  • callous
  • harmful
  • insensitive
  • controlling
  • lax about safety
  • overly demanding
  • refusing to change
  • and other unsavory things.

…and a general lack of concern for…

  • other people
  • the community
  • the environment
  • natural life
  • responsible business practices
  • and the long-term good of society

How Is “Leading Ethically” Different From “Leading” in General?

Leading Ethically isn’t different from “Leading” at all.

It’s an integrated view of leadership that incorporates ethical thinking and ethical behavior.

It’s a view that keeps the “responsibility” in leadership.

It’s a kind of leadership that acknowledges that there are other constituents that matter and that how we treat them defines us as leaders.

It’s a broad set of evolving expectations for how to lead responsibly in a global society.

It’s not different from leadership.  It is the new leadership. It’s leadership done responsibly in a global society.


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 
© 2011 Leading in Context LLC 


Shared Ethical Values Part 2

Shared Ethical Values Part 2  – A Reader Asked for More!

At the request of a reader via a comment on Linked In (thanks for the suggestion Jan!) this post features more sources and more recent sources of information about shared ethical values on a global scale.

The Names Vary, But it’s All About Ethical Values

While the titles vary, including “corporate social responsibility” or “global business” they are addressing shared values and principles of responsible business in a global economy.

“The Manifesto was drafted by a working group of business leaders and experts in economic ethics, convened by the Global Ethic Foundation. On 6 October 2009, it was presented to the public in a symposium at UN
Headquarters in New York under the joint sponsorship of the UN Global Compact Office, the Swiss Permanent Mission to the United Nations and the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development.”

Global Economic Ethic – Consequences for Global Business, Global Ethics Foundation (2009)

“The United Nations Global Compact, also known as Compact or UNGC, is a United Nations initiative to encourage businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies, and to report on their implementation. The Global Compact is a principle-based framework for businesses, stating ten principles in the areas of human rightslabour, the environment and anti-corruption. Under the Global Compact, companies are brought together with UN agencies, labour groups and civil society.”

The United Nations Global Compact (2004)   Wikipedia.com





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
© 2011 Leading in Context LLC 

Leadership and…Sleep Ethics

Sleep and Ethical Behavior

We know that mistakes and accidents increase when workers lack sleep. Now there is also evidence that failure to get enough sleep also contributes to the likehood of unethical behavior and to physical and mental harm.

Here are some of the questions that this post will explore:

1. Is it ethical to force people to become sleep deprived?

2. Is it ethical to promote “wakefulness” in ways that interfere with natural sleep cycles?

3. Is it ethical to schedule work in ways that prevent people from getting regular sleep?

The Ethics of  Forced Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation has emerged as a serious health concern that is linked to a variety of health problems. How do we need to change our practices now that we are aware of that?

  • In their paper “Sleep Better Than Medicine? Ethical Issues Related to ‘Wake Enhancement'” Revalingien and Sandberg “explore ethical issues related to emerging forms of ‘wake enhancement’.”

“sleep inadequacies have been related to significant physical and mental health hazards and it is known that persistent sleep deprivation can be fatal.”

Sleep Better Than Medicine? Ethical Issues Related to ‘Wake Enhancement’ Revalingien and Sandberg, Journal of Medical Ethics, 2008

  •  The BACP Media Center (British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy) has expressed serious concerns about “sleep deprivation presented as public entertainment” and asserts that reality shows are dangerous and unethical because “cumulative sleep deprivation is harmful to health.”  The Ethics of Sleep Deprivation, BACP Media Centre
  • This year, Fairwarning.org published an article titled “Energy Drinks Pose Dangers to Youths, Report Says” by Patrick Corcoran who cited a study published in the journal Pediatrics.

The hyper-caffeinated energy drinks that have become so popular in recent years pose potentially serious dangers for the young people most likely to consume them, a new report says. The report, written by researchers from the University of Miami medical school, was published in the journal Pediatrics. As the Associated Press reports, the authors say that the potential harms to the young include heart palpitations, seizures, strokes and even sudden death.

“Energy Drinks Pose Dangers to Youths, Report Says,”  Corcoran, Fairwarning.org, February 2011

  • The National Sleep Foundation describes the link between sleep deprivation and obesity in the article “Obesity and Sleep”:

 “Dr. Van Cauter’s research shows that people who don’t sleep adequately have physiologic abnormalities that may increase appetite and calorie intake,” notes Simon. “The level of leptin [an appetite stimulating hormone] falls in subjects who are sleep deprived, which promotes appetite. It suggests that at least one factor in obesity can be sleep deprivation.”

“Obesity and Sleep” National Sleep Foundation, sleepfoundation.org

Sleep Deprivation Increases Unethical Behavior
There is now evidence that sleep and ethical behavior are linked.  Unrealistic work schedules and tight turnaround times that require all-nighters could affect employees in ways that could harm them and the long-term reputation of their companies.
  • The Institute for Global Ethics cited highlights from a Washington Post article by leadership columnist Jenna McGregory in which she points out that sleep deprivation affects brain chemistry in ways that can lead to unethical behavior:

Researchers from the University of North Carolina and the University of Arizona studied subjects who had been deprived of sleep in a laboratory experiment and found that sleepiness not only induced expected errors in job performance but also led to “increased deviant and unethical behavior,” McGregor reports, involving “rudeness, inappropriate responses, and attempts to take more money than they had earned.”

Sleep Deprivation Can Make You Unethical, Say Researchers  Ethics Newsline, May 16, 2011, Institute for Global Ethics

  • Harvard Business Review’s The Daily Stat highlights research by Christopher M. Barnes of Virginia Tech about sleep and cheating in which he found that cheaters in the experiment had slept an average of 22.39 minutes less the night before than non-cheaters:

Managers who demand results that require employees to stay up late and miss sleep may be increasing the likelihood that workers will fudge results and engage in other forms of cheating, the
researchers suggest.

Lack of Sleep Leads to Unethical Conduct Harvard Business Review, The Daily Stat, June 24, 2011

Questions for Reflection

1. How do our regular work schedules encourage or discourage good sleep habits?

2. How well do our leaders model good sleep practices?

3. How well have we worked adequate sleep time into our multi-day meetings and conference schedules?

4. Could any of our products or services be considered unethical in light of the new research about the health impact  of forced sleep deprivation and “enhanced wakefulness?”

Image created by Linda Fisher Thornton using software provided generously by Wordle.

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
© 2011 Leading in Context LLC 
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