Grey Areas: Our Choices Define Us (Part 3)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

There will always be grey areas that aren’t covered by the ethics code. In grey areas, leaders “paint the boundary” of ethical choices others will make by how they navigate the ethical complexity when the boundaries are not clear.

Part 3 of this series Grey Areas: Our Choices Define Us includes cases to get you talking about interpersonal grey areas, and related articles for learning.

Starting the Conversation 

Talking About What Matters (Part 3)

Case Study: Is Withholding Information From Other Leaders Unethical?

Case Study: Think Before You Blame (The Culture May Be The Cause)

Ethical Interpersonal Behavior Graphic

Navigating Grey Areas

Dealing With Complexity? Use Ethical Thinking

Every Decision Changes the Ethical Culture Equation

What is Meaningful Leadership Part 4

Articles About Ethical Values As a Guidance System

Ethical Leadership: Complexity, Context and Adaptation

22 Resources For Developing Ethical Thinking

Use these resources to talk NOW about how ethical grey areas will be handled, before there’s a crisis. Once you decide how to decide, it is easier to handle grey areas when they appear.

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What is Ethics?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

We are globally connected and becoming more aware of the complexity of our connections. We need a robust understanding of ethics – what it means, what it requires of us, and what we need to know and do to be ethical.

As we learn about ethics, we need to understand it in a multidimensional way. One-dimensional definitions lead us down a single path and prevent us from seeing our broad responsibilities as citizens and leaders.

Here is a quick tour of ways to think about ethics – only by honoring all of them will we have a chance of keeping up with increasing ethical expectations.

Ethics is Required Of All of Us

“Ethics or simple honesty is the building blocks upon which our whole society is based, and business is a part of our society, and it’s integral to the practice of being able to conduct business, that you have a set of honest standards.”

Kerry Stokes

Ethics is Moral Awareness

“Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.”

Potter Stewart

Ethics is More Than Meeting Minimum Standards

“In law a man is guilty when he violates the rights of others. In ethics he is guilty if he only thinks of doing so.”
Immanuel Kant

Ethics is Thinking Beyond Ourselves

“While egoism may be a strong motivator of human behavior, ethics traditionally assumes that human beings are also capable of acting from a concern for others that is not derived from a concern for their own welfare.”

Andre and Velasquez, Santa Clara University

Ethics is Caring About Others

“The ethics of care starts from the premise that as humans we are inherently relational, responsive beings and the human condition is one of connectedness or interdependence.”

Carol Gilligan

Ethics is Doing Good and Preventing Harm

“Let me give you a definition of ethics: It is good to maintain and further life it is bad to damage and destroy life.”

Albert Schweitzer

Ethics is Caring For the Planet and Society

“Corporate Social Responsibility, or “CSR,” refers to the need for businesses to be good corporate citizens. CSR involves going beyond the law’s requirements in protecting the environment and contributing to social welfare. It is widely accepted as an obligation of modern business.”

Ethics Unwrapped, University of Texas

Ethics is a Journey of Human Growth 

“Ethics is the activity of man directed to secure the inner perfection of his own personality.”

Albert Schweitzer

See also 7 Definitions of Good: Why We Disagree About Ethics

 

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Leaders: Can Rights and Responsibilities Be Separated?

There-is-a-growing

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This week I want to take a moment to reflect on the question “Can rights and responsibilities be separated?” Clearly they are both part of good citizenship and ethical leadership. But what happens if we try to separate them?

Rights Without Responsibility?

If we demand our rights but fail to live up to our responsibilities, we will have a negative impact on others. 

If we assert individual rights without also taking responsibility, we are asking for more than we are willing to give. We are conveying that what we want is more important than what others want. We are demanding that our needs be met without caring about what happens to others.

Under those circumstances the answer to “Can rights and responsibilities be separated?” is “Yes, but not ethically.”

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

Learn how ethical expectations are increasing, and what you can do to stay ahead of the curve.  

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©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

What is Positive Leadership?

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Positive leadership is a new term that is popping up regularly in articles. What does it mean? What kind of leadership do we describe as positive?

What is Positive Leadership?

Positive leaders stay grounded in ethical values and use a human growth mindset. They are fixed and flexible at the same time, never straying from ethics but always willing to change with the times. 

The Basis?    Positive Ethical Values

The Assumption?    People Will Do Amazing Things if We Intentionally Bring Out Their Best

The Goal?  Lead in Ways That Bring Out People’s Best Capabilities

The Culture?   Respectful, Transparent and Supportive

The Leadership?   Encouraging, Available, Contributing to People’s Success and Well-Being, Helping People Be Co-Owners of the Organization’s Success, Helping Them Learn and Grow, Helping Them Reach Their Potential.

The Interactions?   Net Positive (Many more positive than negative interactions)

Positive leaders extend a welcome to all stakeholders and help them discover their possibilities, capabilities and contributions.

What is the essence of being a positive leader? Focusing on the best in others while working on becoming the best of ourselves. 

Learn More: 

The Impact of Positive Leadership, Gallup Business Journal

Positive Organizational Behavior in the Workplace: The Impact of Hope, Optimism and Resilience, Carolyn M. Youssef, Fred Luthans, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, unl.edu

The Power of Positive Communication, The University of Arizona

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

Includes case examples and questions.

 

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©2015 Leading in Context LLC

 

Leader Development 2015: Human Growth Required

By Linda Fisher Thornton

When we want to prepare leaders for success in the trenches of business leadership, we don’t get very far by providing a cushy “spa-like experience.” We can easily focus too much on creating “events” for leader education and miss the much deeper preparation that leaders need.

What prepares leaders to handle their tough everyday challenges? Their success requires much more than knowledge building. It requires rewiring mindsets and developing new capacities. The best way to do that is through experiences that lead to real human growth. Leadership development should stretch leaders and help them develop the capacity to handle bigger challenges. These recent reports describe the need for leaders to stretch into new capabilities:

Josh Bersin, in his Forbes.com article “Spending on Corporate Training Soars: Employee Capabilities Now a Priority” says that “Global leadership gaps continue to be the most pressing issues on the minds of business and HR leaders.” 

Nick Petrie of the Center For Creative Leadership notes that “This is no longer just a leadership challenge (what good leadership looks like); it is a development challenge (the process of how to grow “bigger” minds). (Future Trends in Leadership Development, CCL.org)

The Wall Street Journal article “How to Develop Future Leaders” says that “Stretch assignments are growth-oriented exercises with some inherent risk. They’re designed to push participants past their skill level.”

“Leadership today is more than what you know. It requires the ability to adapt and respond to different circumstances and to connect with different kinds of employees, including employees of different ages and different cultural backgrounds” according to HBR Publishing “What the Future Demands: The Growing Challenge of Global Leadership Development” by Mercer and Oliver Wyman.

We are preparing leaders to handle a high degree of complexity and we need for them to consistently make ethical choices. At its best, leadership development is not an “event.” It’s a capacity-building endeavor. It’s a process of human growth and development.

Leaders must become capable of imagining more, doing and being more, and enabling others to accomplish more in challenging times. Only human growth will get them there.

Recent Leading in Context Honors:

CEO Linda Fisher Thornton in Global CEO’s TOP 100 CSR LEADERS and on Jeff Haden’s Inc. list of “100 Great Leadership Speakers For Your Next Conference” 

7 Lenses won an Axiom Business Book Award and Achieved a Top 100 Best Seller Rank in the “Ethics” category in the Kindle Store (June, 2014)

7 Lenses Used by Major U.S. Universities To Teach Leadership, Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility

Over 80 Media Mentions in 2014 Including BBC-Capital and The Globe and Mail

And the greatest honor of all – Followers and Friends From 182 Countries (WordPress year-end report 12/31/14)

 

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  7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
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©2014 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

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250th Blog Post: Beyond the Comfort Zone

250th Blog PostBy Linda Fisher Thornton

In the 200th Leading in Context Blog Post, I wrote about Learning at the Speed of Life. To celebrate the 250th post, I want to reflect on what it’s been like to work every day in the stretch beyond the comfort zone.

In the past year, I finished writing my first book 7 Lenses, editing and publishing it in paperback and three different digital formats (Kindle, iTunes and Nook). Many times during that period, I felt like I had ended up in the middle of nowhere without a map.

Embracing the Stretch

Although I knew where I wanted to end up, I had no idea how to get there. Have you felt that way as you took on new challenges? Here are some of the questions I wrestled with:

  • How do you know when a book is good enough and ready to be edited?
  • How do you choose a good book title?
  • What cover design will best catch people’s attention and convey the book’s message?
  • Which is the more responsible paper choice, recycled or sustainable forestry initiative?
  • How do you spread the word in responsible ways so people who can benefit from the book will find out about it?

I have “learned through” finding answers to hundreds of questions like these in the past year. To stay motivated, I posted this saying on the bulletin board beside my desk:

“Life Begins At The End Of Your Comfort Zone”    

Neale Donald Walsch

It reminded me that growth is good… Wouldn’t it be easy if growth happened without the need to stretch outside of our comfort zones? These song lyrics describe the simpler way we yearn for:

“Wake me up when it’s all over. When I’m older and I’m wiser.”

Song Lyrics, “Wake Me Up” by Avicii

If only it were that easy. 

The Good Stuff Doesn’t Happen on Autopilot

When we live and work on autopilot, we tend to “stick to the known,” repeating what we did last year that worked and making incremental progress.  This dooms us to only achieving what we have already imagined and set into motion. There’s so much more that we’re missing. While we’re waiting to be “older and wiser”, we miss big opportunities to learn right now.

Growth doesn’t happen by itself. It takes an effort.

Because growth can be uncomfortable, it is often tempting to stick to the known path, the usual way, the “regular things” we do. But when we do that, we get into a routine and may end up going through the day on autopilot.

Instead of being easy and comfortable, real growth requires stretching outside of our comfort zones, believing we can grow and accomplish more, and continually working to get better.

Pushing the Boundaries

Once we stretch into new capabilities, we have to keep practicing them until they become comfortable. In the process, we are expanding our comfort zone to make room for these new abilities.

When We Are Learning and Growing, Our Comfort Zone is Expanding

Instead of avoiding the stretch and getting through the day on pre-programmed autopilot, we have expanded our comfort zones to include new abilities and roles, and new possibilities.

As you read about my journey, reflect on how stretching outside of your comfort zone might be transformational for you.

What has taken me outside of my comfort zone in the past year? 

  • Finishing, editing and publishing an ethical leadership book (that recently won Bronze in the Axiom Business Book Awards!).
  • Author book signings.
  • Doing virtual booktalks, guest lectures, videos and keynotes based on 7 Lenses.
  • Keeping up with a growing and highly engaged global audience on social media.

This growth process has happened in waves, sometimes extremely difficult and other times exhilarating. That’s how growth is, like riding a roller coaster in the dark and not seeing the road ahead clearly. It’s exciting and unpredictable. I am grateful that pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone was easier with the help of a strategy coach who urged me on and asked me to continually reach higher.

When we embrace the roller coaster ride of growth, as unpredictable as it may be, we tap into our human potential and we grow into our better selves. We make a positive difference in our lives and the lives of others. 

What meaningful work have you been wanting to do? Go ahead – step outside the zone and enjoy the ride. That’s where your best work is waiting to be done.

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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 

10 Ethical Leadership Questions For the New Year

10 Questions

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ethical leadership is evolving, and expectations are increasing. Will we be ready? As we go into the New Year, here are some questions to ponder:

1. What does “ethical” mean to me?

2. Would someone observing my leadership know that I intend to be an ethical leader?

3. If so, how would they know? If not, what could I do differently so that they would know?

4. How broadly am I considering what happens to my constituents?

5. Where could I be more proactive and intentional about my ethics?

6. How carefully am I managing my ethical competence?

7. How consistently do I show respect when my views don’t align with someone else’s views?

8.  How well do I seek solutions that are mutually beneficial, not just self-serving?

9.  How well do I model the highest ethical values so that others can learn from me?

10. How am I using my leadership and service to make a positive difference?

In the New Year, let’s be intentional about our learning journey, and seek ways to improve in all of these aspects of our leadership. If you’re feeling especially open to learning, ask your team to help you answer these questions about yourself. The insights you gain could be amazing.

 

 

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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 

 

Civility and Openness to Learning

 

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Author’s Note: In a previous post, Civility is an Ethical Issue, I explained why civility is an ethical issue. In this post I’ll explore the connection between civility and openness to learning.

Moving From Tolerance to Civility 

It seems that “civility” has come to mean something closer to the word “tolerance” in everyday conversation. Civil behavior now seems to imply an aloof stance that doesn’t step directly on anyone’s toes. But that is not nearly enough. According to W. Jason Wallace, we should be “moral agents” who “share moral relationships.”

The 21st century debate over civility, whether involving politics, religion, economics, or education, will have to confront the difficult problem of what it means to be a moral agent who shares moral relationships.  To this end, shallow conceptions of civility as manners or civility as tolerance must deepen to include civility as the cultivation of virtuous habit and the right ordering of human goods.

W. Jason Wallace, Ph.D., Samford University,  Civility: What Does Civility Mean in the 21st Century Debate?, Alabama Humanities Review

Listen to Learn

How do we build moral relationships? One way that we do that successfully is to be open to the ideas of others, and to other world views. When we disagree with someone, it is responsible to listen to them, and to see what we can learn from their perspective. To be ready to listen and learn, we must acknowledge that we do not have all of the answers. Acknowledging that we don’t have all the answers helps us remember that other people’s ideas may be just as important as our own.

Ideally, we listen eagerly to other people’s points of view. At minimum, we need to show respect when we disagree. George Washington penned a list of Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation sometime before he turned 16 years old.  Number one on his list was:

“Every Action Done in Company, Ought to be With Some Sign of Respect, to Those That are Present.”

Washington, George. Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation: a Book of Etiquette. Williamsburg, VA: Beaver Press, 1971.

Admitting We Don’t Have All Of The Answers

Why is it that we disagree so strongly? Have we tried to understand their position fully? Have we remembered to be respectful and open to learning? Have we considered why they have that viewpoint? Have we thought about how their life experiences differ from ours?

When we are not open to learning, we can easily misinterpret another perspective that does not match our own as a threat. That perspective that we are actively arguing against may in fact reflect a more current, more advanced, or more ethical perspective than ours.

Failing to acknowledge that there are other perspectives on an issue (and that the people who hold them have a right to their views as much as we do) shows a lack of respect, and a lack of awareness about:

  • Individuality
  • Complexity
  • Innovation
  • Learning, and
  • Collaboration

There are Multiple Perspectives on Every Issue

Responsible leaders acknowledge that there are multiple perspectives. They wrestle with complex issues. They know that any one person having all of the answers is impossible. They know that behaving in a civil and respectful way is considered part of our human responsibility.

As moral leaders who are building moral relationships, we must: step back far enough to realize the limitations of our own knowledge; commit to understanding other perspectives that go against our own views; encourage civility and respect; and stay open to lifelong learning.

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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 

Why We Need A Strong Moral Center

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The Need for A Strong Moral Center

The ethical challenges we face are increasingly complex, and we need a strong moral center to guide us through them. We can think about it as having a strong character, being principle-centered, having integrity, or following an ethical compass. No matter what we call it, we need a strong moral foundation.

“You don’t get the opportunity to think when those challenges to your moral integrity arise. You’ve got to have an anchor already out there. Sitting in these classrooms, getting this great education, is the perfect time to think about who you are and what you’ll allow yourself to do. Because you will be challenged at times when you least expect it and are least prepared to deal with it. If you don’t have a moral foundation, then the winds assaulting your integrity can blow you off course.”

Wharton Leadership Digest, FINDING YOUR MORAL COMPASS: Reflections From General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, online at leadership.wharton.upenn.edu/digest.

This moral center that we cultivate helps us make good choices in interactions with other people. It reminds us that we need to think beyond our own interests to the long-term well-being of others and society. It reminds us that how we treat others is an ethical choice.

“people with a strong moral identity were more considerate of others—and they were significantly more considerate if they were also good at regulating their emotions.”

Jason Marsh, The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence, Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, The Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley , online at greatergood.berkeley.edu

Developing a strong moral center is a long-term process. We build the foundation with support from our parents in our early years. We seek experiences that strengthen our moral center. We read throughout our lives. We learn. We study. We teach others.

I have noticed that many people who have a strong moral center also have a sense of humility.

Humility is the solid foundation of all the virtues.
— Confucius (K’ung Fu-tzu), Chinese sage (551-479 B.C.)

How are humility and a strong moral center connected?

A strong moral center helps us see beyond ourselves. Seeing beyond ourselves helps us realize our responsibility to others. Realizing our responsibility to serve and care for others keeps us humble.

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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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