Ethical Leaders Are Fixed and Flexible at the Same Time

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ethical leaders are fixed and flexible at the same time. They stay anchored to ethical values AND adapt as the world changes. Both are critically important aspects of ethical leadership success.

Ethical leaders stay fixed on values.

They keep values at the center of their daily choices and they don’t put money where morality should be. They realize that ethical values are an important part of their responsibility to others and society.

Ethical leaders never stray from ethics.

When things get tough, they hold fast to their ethical principles even when others “go along” with unethical choices. They realize that values are precious, life changing and worth protecting.

Ethical leaders are flexible in applying ethical values in a changing global society.

They adapt to increasing expectations and current issues and do the work to raise their game. They see other ways of life as interesting and non-threatening.

Ethical leaders embrace change.

They see changing to keep up with the times as a challenge and a responsibility, not an inconvenience. They are willing to do the work to change their mindset and assumptions when they have become outdated.

Ethical leaders use a growth mindset.

Ethical thinkers realize that authentic learning is more important than looking smart. They see negative feedback as an opportunity to get better, not a personal affront.

Is a leader who stays anchored to ethical values an ethical leader? Not necessarily. Just holding on to ethical values will not get you all the way there if you’re not staying competent as times change. To qualify as “ethical leadership,” values need to be APPLIED in ways that honor society’s rapidly changing expectations for honoring a myriad of ethical dimensions including human rights and sustainability.

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Uncomfortable Learning

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I’m generally a fan of uncomfortable learning. I believe that “uncomfortable” is sometimes a necessary part of the natural processes of learning and growth. Facilitators and teachers sometimes leverage it to help people get past outdated mindsets or to shake up and resolve group conflicts.

Uncomfortable learning can:

  • Take us outside of our current awareness
  • Call attention to areas where we may not be doing the best we can, or all we can
  • Expand our world in areas where we may not think we need to learn or we may not want to learn

When I teach ethics, I describe “cognitive dissonance” so my students can recognize it as they learn. It’s the uncomfortable feeling that happens while we are trying to resolve the dissonance between what we have always believed to be true, and new compelling information that contradicts our previous views. It takes some time to resolve the dissonance and rewire our thinking at a higher level of understanding.

Uncomfortable learning could include the time you first realized as a child that you were acting selfishly and your choices had a negative impact on others. It could include the time you realized that what you had been taught all your life about what was “right” was missing some important pieces.

When you notice that you are entering into the uncomfortable learning zone, don’t back up and retreat. Don’t let fear define your thinking or your life. Make the conscious choice to go through the process of uncomfortable learning to reach for a higher level of understanding.

 

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