Is Moral Development Observable?

 

 

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Most of us have some idea about human development because we have watched people grow up and pass through stages and milestones in their lives. We have seen babies roll over and sit up, and later walk on their own. We have watched children grow into teenagers and become adults.

Moral development is just as important as physical development, and should be going on at the same time as physical development, but it is not visible in terms of a person’s appearance. Because it is not visible, its important role in human development is sometimes overlooked.

Moral development is dependent on learning, so it is vital that organizations provide an environment that forwards moral learning. There are specific things that organizations can do to encourage moral development in leadership. They include teaching systems thinking and how to seek mutual benefit when making decisions.

Moral development requires learning. It doesn’t just happen.

There are also things parents can do to encourage moral development in children. “Young people need help learning how to succeed in living positive ethical values in a world filled with distractions and negative messages. Our job is to help them center themselves in positive ethical values and get to know themselves as good people.” (Thornton, Helping Young People Become Ethical Leaders, Leading in Context Blog)

To “observe” someone’s level of moral development, look beyond what they say to their behavior and their choices. Notice how well they treat others. Look for how well they seek solutions that benefit all parties, not just themselves. Notice what they value. Notice how consistently they think beyond their own interests and concerns to attend to the concerns of others.  These are the ways that moral development is made visible. 

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What Is Organizational Integrity?

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Individual integrity is the full alignment in what a person thinks, says and does. Taking that concept to another level, this post will explore the question “what is organizational integrity?”

Clearly, organizational integrity is broader than individual integrity, but what does it include? It seems to me that taking the concept of individual integrity to the organizational level, organizational integrity would mean full alignment in what an organization thinks, says and does.

When an organization demonstrates full alignment, all company messages, actions, decisions, leadership and rewards align. It’s not enough to just ensure alignment, though, because alignment without values can lead an organization away from ethical decisions and actions.

Messages, actions, decisions, leadership and rewards  must be aligned around positive ethical values that the entire organization supports.

This positive values-based alignment in what an organization values, says and does creates the scaffolding for an ethical culture. What does your organization say it values? How consistently does it live out those values in daily practice?

If your leaders are all perfectly clear about which high level ethical values to uphold and how to demonstrate them, you are probably incorporating complexity into your leadership development. You are also probably providing leaders with the level of detail about ethical values that they need to navigate through information overload, constant change and demands from multiple stakeholders. If not, you may be rolling the dice by taking an “I’ll know it when I see it” approach to ethics.

Linda Fisher Thornton, “What Is Integrity?: Beyond I’ll Know it When I See It”, Leading in Context Blog

Leaders are the key to values alignment – they model and reinforce values and hold people accountable for following them. Organizational integrity (at its most effective) is what happens when leaders consistently immerse an organization in positive ethical values and align all leadership, actions, decisions, messages, and reward systems accordingly.

 

 

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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.

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

10 Ways The Leadership Relationship is Changing (Part 1)

Our-understanding-of (5)By Linda Fisher Thornton

A convergence of positive trends is changing leadership expectations, and today I want to explore how those trends are changing the leadership relationship. 

There is no effective leadership based on position power and control in the workplace anymore. Employees have choices. They seek meaningful work that is more than “just a job.” Leaders who miss this shift will wonder why they can’t keep good people. 

“The whole notion of “positional leadership”—that people become leaders by virtue of their power or position—is being challenged. Leaders are instead being asked to inspire team loyalty through their expertise, vision, and judgment.”

Leadership Awakened, Nicky Wakefield, Anthony Abbatiello, Dimple Agarwal, Karen Pastakia, & Ardie van Berkel, Deloitte University Press

Succeeding with position power is about being the one in charge, but that approach doesn’t work well with today’s top talent. This shift in power is completely changing the skill sets that leaders need. 

Here are the first 5 of 10 Ways the Leadership Relationship is Changing:

  1. From “making sure people work harder” to “making the workplace more pleasant” (so people can work effectively)

  2. From monitoring and correcting to engaging and coaching

  3. From delegating tasks to collaborating and co-creating

  4. From using authority to control people to using care to support people

  5. From separate offices for leaders to open work spaces with equal footing

These 5 changes in the leadership relationship are not happening everywhere yet, but they are happening in the best-led organizations. Are you seeing them in your workplace?

Our understanding of “good leadership” is evolving. This shift is being fueled by increasing leadership expectations – I wrote about them in 7 Lenses and in these posts:

Leaders need to adapt to a changing landscape so that they can attract, engage and keep great people. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, when I will share 5 more of the 10 Ways the Leadership Relationship is Changing. 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

The Triple Bottom Line Is Just The Beginning

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Many organizations are still talking about the triple bottom line (Profits, People, Planet) as if it’s the gold standard for ethical business. 

While it’s a great improvement over focusing on profit alone, the triple bottom line doesn’t reflect the current expectations of customers, employees and global markets. 

Business leaders are expected to think beyond simple profits (how they benefit) to consider what happens to their many stakeholders. The Profit, People, Planet concept, a popular construct for understanding ethical business, doesn’t cover all of the bases.

For example, the Triple Bottom Line model excludes:

  • honoring laws and regulations
  • demonstrating moral awareness, character and integrity
  • contributing to communities, and 
  • working to ensure a good life for future generations

In the book 7 Lenses, I propose a model for talking about ethical leadership that goes well beyond the Triple Bottom Line to include seven different aspects of responsible business leadership. 

When we look at ethical dilemmas using all 7 Lenses, we get a kaleidoscopic view of what it means to be a responsible leader in a global society. If you want to understand how well you and your organization are leading, don’t stop at the Triple Bottom Line. Take a look through all 7 Lenses.

Yes, Profit, People and Planet are included in the 7 Lenses. But there’s much more to consider. Let’s stop talking about just three parts of ethical responsibility, and let’s talk about the whole picture.

 

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

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©2016 Leading in Context LLC

50 Ways to Lead For Trust (Part 3: The Last 20)

 

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

This post is the third in a series on 50 Ways to Lead For Trust. Part 1 included numbers 1-15. Part 2 gave you 15 more, and this post includes the final 20 Ways to Lead For Trust.

Here are 20 more ways that you can build lasting trust through your daily leadership: 

31.  Ask What Keeps People From Success, and Remove Their Roadblocks

32.  Involve the Team in Charting Its Own Course For the Future

33.  Share the Credit

34.  Take Responsibility50-Ways-to-Lead-For-Trust

35.  Be Inclusive

36.  Support People’s Overall Well-Being

37.  Encourage Cooperation

38.  Bring Out Their Potential

39.  Promote Responsible Business

40. Trust Others To Do Great Work

41.  Require Respectful Interpersonal Behavior

42. Help People Handle Complexity

43. Ask Them to Work Smarter, Not Harder

44. Avoid Harm to Constituents

45. Do Good Works in the Community

46. Involve People in Service to Society

47. Be Positive and Proactive

48. Be Fair

49. Recognize Others

50. Make Work Meaningful and Rewarding

Use the 50 Ways to Lead For Trust to give yourself a “Trust Checkup.” Looking at these 50 actions, what will you choose to do TODAY to build a high-trust workplace where everyone can do great work?

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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.

 

 

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

We’re All Padawan Learners

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

With the new Star Wars movie being released this month, my family and I recently watched all six of the original Star Wars movies in one week. It was an intense movie marathon, and watching them all in the order they were released gave us a unique perspective. 

Have you ever noticed that no matter how many times the forces of good overcome the forces of evil in the Star Wars movies, there is always another challenge? There is never a moment when the characters “arrive” and are exempt from ethical challenges. They can never let down their guard.

Why? Because power can corrupt or it can be used for good. In the six original Star Wars movies, we see what happens when a Padawan learner (Luke) is humble and stays the course, always open to learning. We also see what happens when a Padawan learner (Vader) thinks he has “arrived” and is no longer willing to learn from others. 

We are all Padawan learners on the ethical journey. We are subject to making mistakes, and we must continually learn to stay ahead of our ethical challenges.

The surprising truth is that we are all also teachers. Others are watching our choices and learning from us. 

As others observe our choices, how will they see us choosing to use our power?

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What Are You Talking About (Ethically Speaking)?

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

There are many layers of meaning in ethics conversations. How far down are you going? Do you stop at surface messages or do you dig into real problems? See if you can find your ethics conversations below:

Layers of Ethical Conversation

 

SURFACE:

Corporate Messages

Marketing Slogans

Posters About Ethics and Integrity

STANDARDS:

Ethics Codes

Ethics Training

REALITY:

Tackling Real-Life Dilemmas That Are Difficult To Handle

How to Apply Ethics Expectations in Grey Areas and Between the Lines

What We Do Around Here When We Don’t Know the Right Thing to Do

 

Don’t lock down the ethics conversation at Surface and Standards. The level of Reality is where your employees want to talk about ethics. Don’t believe it? Just ask them. 

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Is Ethics a Body of Knowledge? (No! It’s a Process of Human Growth.)

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

If you think ethical awareness is about knowledge and learning, think again. Knowledge and learning are only useful in ethics if we are open to receiving them, open to shifting our perspective, and open to changing our minds.

Famous thinkers have long tied ethics to human growth.  Immanuel Kant believed that is “Man’s duty is to improve himself; to cultivate his mind; and, when he finds himself going astray, to bring the moral law to bear upon himself.” John Dewey said that “Growth itself is the only moral end.”

Why does human growth matter to us as ethical people? Take a moment to think about how we prepare ourselves for ethical living and ethical leadership. If we’re not pushing ourselves to become better people, and intentionally raising our level of ethical awareness, we’re probably stuck in the “ethics is a body of knowledge” mentality. 

Growth may be difficult, but there isn’t any other way to fully embrace ethics. We must grow into our ethical competence…intentionally…over time. When we are tempted to take a shortcut and think about ethics as a class or a theory, we should remember this: The “body of knowledge” isn’t going to need to make tough ethical choices. We are. 

 

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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

 

 

Leaders: Check Your Motivation, Your Authenticity and Your Ethics

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

If we are leading others, we need to be asking the questions of leadership – about our motivation, our authenticity and our ethics.

Continually asking ourselves these questions keeps us sharp, focused and aware of our greater impact on others, organizations and society.

The Questions of Leadership

What are some of the deep questions that we should be asking ourselves if we are leading others? This list includes a handful of the questions we may wrestle with on our leadership learning journey. Knowing the answers can keep us aligned with our greater mission, supporting not only our own success, but also the success of other individuals, groups and organizations.

Click on each question below for a blog post exploring the question:

1. Why do I want to lead?

2. How can I get past ego and self-interest to become an effective leader?

3. What does authentic leadership require?

4. How do I balance profits with other leadership outcomes?

5. What does it mean to be an ethical leader in a global society?

 

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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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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2015 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

 

 

Where Is Ethical Leadership Found?

 

By Linda Fisher Thornton

While it may be convenient to think about ethical leadership as a task, a program, or a rule book, that’s not where it lives. It lives in our big and small choices. It lives in our decision-making. It lives in our organizational culture. It lives in our deep commitment to working for good.

We can’t get away with “externalizing” ethics because ethical leadership is much closer to home than we may readily admit. It isn’t somewhere “out there” at all – it is us, right here and right now. 

It is in our deeply-held values. It is in our day-to-day choices.  It is in our quest for good.

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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.

 

 

 

LeadinginContext.com   Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2015 Leading in Context LLC

 

5 Warning Signs Of Oversimplified Ethics

 

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Leaders and organizations can get into real trouble if they oversimplify ethics. Some examples of what that might look like include dormant ethics statements (that look good on paper but are not brought to life) and grandiose statements (that are vague and not well understood). 

Here are 5 warning signs to watch for that signal an oversimplified approach to ethics:

5 Warning Signs Of Oversimplified Ethics

1. Ethical values are communicated, but never explained or practiced.

2. Ethics is thought of as a program or a requirement, not a way of thinking and acting.

3. Ethical values and ethical learning are treated as separate from the core mission of the organization,

4. Discussions about ethical grey areas are quickly discouraged.

5. Ethics training and leadership training are separate (which won’t prepare leaders to make ethical decisions in their daily work).

To make the boundaries of ethics clear, we need to explore the borders and grey areas. Trying to make things CLEAR and keeping them SIMPLE are not at all the same.

 

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 Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future 

7 Lenses offers practical and compelling guidance for ethical leaders.

 

 

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©2015 Leading in Context LLC

Hitting the High Notes

By Linda Fisher Thornton 

When I was singing with a local chorus many years ago, I took voice lessons. My teacher had me start by singing scales while she listened. After my voice cracked, I explained that I had trouble “hitting the high notes.” I explained that I was an Alto, not a Soprano and the high notes seemed way out of my reach.

Our Thoughts Drive What We Do

Listening to me try to hit those high notes, she encouraged me to stretch to reach them. But over a period of weeks of practice, my ability to reach them didn’t get much better. Then I learned a valuable lesson about how what we think determines what we do. I had a breakthrough when I realized that the piano keyboard visually has no high or low on it. It goes left to right. I started to think about my voice that way, as singing the notes from left to right instead of up and down.

Upgrading Our Mindset

That change in my thinking greatly expanded my singing range and I was no longer struggling to reach the high notes. I have learned through the years that changing our experience can be as simple as changing the way we perceive it. When our mindset changes, our actions follow.

Upgrading Our Leadership

This lesson also applies to how well we adapt our leadership as the world changes. Are we using the mindset of an ethical leader? Are we modeling full inclusion, or do we treat some types of people better than others? Are we placing a priority on our own development, or have we settled into a comfortable zone where we no longer challenge ourselves to learn and grow? 

We should never settle for a limited range and give up on adapting to change

Identify an area in your leadership where you might not be hitting the high notes, and where changing your mindset could make all the difference. 

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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.

 

 

 

LeadinginContext.com   Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2015 Leading in Context LLC

 

Finding Meaning Requires Growth

By Linda Fisher Thornton

When Nicolae Tanase at ExcellenceReporter.com asked me to submit an entry for his Meaning of Life project, I hesitated. It was a question I had often thought about. But it was a big one, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to tackle it publicly. After thinking it over, I decided that the question was related to my work in human development and leadership, and that a clear answer could be valuable to readers. I agreed to participate and submit an entry.

What is the Meaning of Life?

After pondering the question for a couple of week, I realized that the way we interpret the meaning of life depends on our perspective, our stage of life and our level of human development. The link below takes you to my answer to Nicolae’s question that was published on June 17th. As you read, think about how you would have answered his question. 

Linda Fisher Thornton: The Meaning of Life and Human Development

Questions to Ponder:

1. What makes your life and leadership meaningful and fulfilling?

2. How might your answer change as you go through the different stages of your life?

3. How could your answer impact how you lead others?

 

Follow @leadingincontxt and @7Lenses for insights into leading through complexity without losing sight of ethical values.

 

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How Does Struggle Shape Us as Leaders?

20150502_100843By Linda Fisher Thornton

On the journey to ethical leadership, we all struggle.

We struggle to make ethical choices when there are multiple stakeholders to consider. 

We struggle to balance competing interests, high expectations, information overload and overbooked schedules.

We struggle to be at our best in difficult circumstances.

This struggle is often seen as negative – something that pulls us down and keeps us from succeeding. But what if we looked at it another way? Isn’t the struggle, this personal growth journey, this quest to achieve when the odds are against us, the same thing that enables our success?

If we see the struggle as a brick wall that we can’t get past, though, it stops us. Rejected 10 times? It’s not going to work out. Group experiencing chaos during a big change? We must be failing as a leader.

If we see the struggle as a natural part of the journey, it fuels us. Rejected 10 times? We’re that much closer to a “yes.” Our group in chaos during a big change? We’re on the verge of progress. 

In Marcia Reynold’s book The Discomfort Zone, she points out that “the discomfort zone is the moment of uncertainty when people are most open to learning.” Reynolds acknowledges that this is a vulnerable state to be in, but points out that “when you’re vulnerable, that’s when radical growth happens.”

We choose our response to the struggle. If we choose a GROWTH mindset, we see struggle as a natural part of our leadership journey. The growth mindset most closely matches the difficult long-term process of human growth that is a critical part of good leadership.

While it may feel like climbing straight up a steep cliff, growth is necessary for good leadership. 

How does this struggle shape us? It helps us develop the capacity to handle increasingly difficult challenges. It helps us stay open to new possibilities. It helps us become the best possible version of ourselves.

Choose to take on this journey, the struggle for growth that helps us become authentic leaders.

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©2015 Leading in Context LLC

With Ethics PREVENTION is the Cure

20150118_150650By Linda Fisher Thornton

Have you heard the expression “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” Eating healthy foods, exercising and getting enough sleep will help us prevent health problems. In the quest for good health, preventive habits make all the difference. It is generally easier for us to establish healthy habits than to correct persistent health problems once they start. 

There is an important parallel we can draw between human health and organizational health – prevention is also the best way to approach ethics in our organizations.

An organization with a PREVENTION mindset will take the time to clarify, discuss, engage, enable, support and measure ethical culture. Leaders will accept responsibility and be recognized and rewarded for positive ethics as well as other measures of success. If leaders achieve results using less than stellar ethics, they are mentored and coached to change, and if they can’t change, they are asked to leave. This pattern leads to “culture improvement,” and encourages others to uphold the highest ethics throughout the organization.

Organizations with a PREVENTION mindset are setting leaders up to succeed in an ethical sense and reducing the chances of having ethical problems.

An organization with a CURE mindset on the other hand will not take the time to clarify, discuss, engage, enable, support and measure ethical culture. It will assume that everything is “just fine” and deal with problems as they happen. If leaders use less than stellar ethics to achieve results, they may still get lucrative rewards. This pattern leads to “culture slide,” a disastrous shift in the ethical culture that encourages employees throughout the organization to violate ethical principles in order to earn lucrative promotions, pay increases, bonuses and other rewards.

Organizations with a CURE mindset are addressing problems after they have already eroded ethics and become difficult to eradicate.

While it is tempting to put off important prevention work because it takes time, how much time would we spend cleaning up an ethical mess that leads to penalties and fines and hits the news headlines? That brings to mind another old saying – “We reap what we sow.” If we want to be an ethical organization, only prevention (a positive commitment to ethical values) is a reliable cure.

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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.

 

LeadinginContext.com   Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™

©2015 Leading in Context LLC

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