Your Culture is Not A Secret (So Protect Your Ethics)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

One of my favorite concepts for understanding how social media is changing the visibility of organizational culture is’s report Glass Box Brands. As eloquently explains, “In an age of radical transparency, your internal culture is your brand.” The key point I take away from this important report is that we can no longer assume that our culture is private. In fact, it’s completely public and it defines our brand. Any barriers that used to protect our culture from the public eye have vanished.

With nothing standing between our culture and the public eye, if we want to protect our brand value, we need to carefully tend our culture. Since we know that our culture is no longer a secret, what does that mean in terms of ethical culture building? That means our ethical choices define our ethical brand value. If we don’t carefully tend our ethical culture, we could develop a bad ethical reputation.

Today I’m sharing some of my favorite posts about how to build and protect an ethical culture:

5 Reasons Ethical Culture Doesn’t Just Happen

Every Decision Changes the Ethical Culture Equation

Leaders Are Culture Caretakers: 10 Actions For Success

5 Signs Your Culture is Failing

40 Ethical Culture Gaps to Avoid

40 Ways to Build an Ethical Culture (An Ethical To Do List)

7 Questions For Ethical Culture Building

13 (Culture-Numbing) Side Effects of Toxic Leadership

How to Build an Ethical Culture

We’re going to need a plan. We need to respond with urgency to this new inside-out culture transparency that brings our ethical choices into clear view. 





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©2019 Leading in Context LLC


Our Evolving Frame of Reference

By Linda Fisher Thornton

As we weathered a hurricane on the East Coast, I remembered the uncharacteristic earthquake that affected Virginia a few years ago. That experience changed how I interpreted the world around me. It drew attention to why we all see the world in such different ways.

I was in a warehouse store shopping for a gift, and I noticed that the table in front of me was shaking. If this had happened at any other time, I would have looked for an explanation inside the store. But not this time. A recent earthquake had altered my frame of reference. My first thought now was that it was another aftershock from the earthquake.  It turned out to be just an efficient store clerk enthusiastically adding inventory at the other end of the table.

Our Evolving Frame of Reference

This experience of being “shaken up” reminded me about how our frame of reference changes as we have new experiences. We can interpret the same experience in completely differently ways, depending on recent events in our lives.

During the recent hurricane, for example, the light movement of trees in the wind (normally a pleasant experience) took on a new meaning as it signaled the arrival of Hurricane Florence. 

When we are aware of our evolving frame of reference, it helps us remember that other people’s experiences shape their perceptions too, and those experiences are likely to be very different from our own.

Expanding the Frame

Catastrophic events can make us pause to reflect on the bigger scheme of things, which is easy to ignore in the midst of a high-speed schedule. We shouldn’t wait for a catastrophic event to force us to take a broader perspective. When we make a commitment to learning, we can expand our frame of reference to include perspectives that differ from our own and and apply this awareness to our daily choices. 





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©2018 Leading in Context LLC

Ethical Leaders Understand the Context

By Linda Fisher Thornton

In a previous post, I addressed some of the risks of not taking time to THINK before making decisions. Today, I want to explore why it is so important for leaders to understand the CONTEXT before they make decisions. 

As shown in the graphic, the context (in all of its complexity) becomes the central feature in building awareness of any ethical issue. Without the context, we are not aware – we only see the parts of an issue that we want to see. 


Context and Responsibility 3

Learning about the complexities of an issue helps us see the potential impact of our decision on others. 

We live in a world of human, economic, organizational, environmental and societal systems. Those systems interact globally in complex ways. Solving a complex problem without understanding it well can have unintended consequences

A clear understanding of the context is an important part of staying ethically aware and competent, and both are necessary qualities for responsible leadership. 

Ethical leaders know that there can be no ethical awareness without understanding the context, and without awareness, competence and responsibility are also out of reach. 

Top 100 Leadership Blog





Learn to Think in all 7 Ethical Dimensions 




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©2017 Leading in Context LLC

Building Trust: Paradoxical Qualities to Cultivate



By Linda Fisher Thornton

As we progress on the learning journey toward positive leadership, some of the qualities we seek seem to be paradoxical. For example, as leaders we need to be CRYSTAL CLEAR in outwardly communicating what we expect and also OPEN to hearing input from others that might change our plans. We need to be FULLY PRESENT in this moment, and still able to THINK AHEAD to prepare for the future.

The secret that great leaders know is that these qualities (which may seem like polar extremes) are each effective at different levels, in different contexts and at different times. 

Cultivating these qualities in ourselves and our organizations helps us build a high trust workplace where people can do their best work:

Be Dependable and Open to Change

Be Fully Present Right Now and Think Ahead

Be Crystal Clear About What’s Expected and Open to Hearing Input From Others

Be Confident and Humble

Be Decisive and Flexible

Great leaders possess seemingly paradoxical qualities. They know when to use each end of the spectrum, depending on what is most needed to move individuals and groups forward. 

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, describes Level 5 Leaders (the highest level in his model) as having the paradoxical qualities of personal humility and professional will. This means that they are strong and confident, but choose to use their leadership in a “service-orientated” way that benefits others. They don’t save the power or attention for themselves.

Great leaders learn to identify when a group needs clarification, and when people want to be heard. They respond with just what people need at that moment. That careful dance builds trust.

We can be decisive when we need to be, but also keep our teams involved in deciding our future path.

We can be confident in our leadership and also humble enough to step aside to let others take the lead so they can grow.

Cultivating these paradoxical qualities (and learning when to apply them for the most positive impact) takes our leadership to a higher level. 

Top 100 Leadership Blog




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



Future of Learning 2011

Learner-Directed Learning

In today’s complex, connected global society, people prefer to learn in their own ways, at their own pace, using the resources they choose. They enjoy following their curiosity and creating their own meaning. Adapting to this learner-directed style of learning is creating an ongoing challenge for leaders and organizations.

The Networked Workplace of the Future

In “10 Principles for the Future of Learning” on the Ecology of Education Blog, Jason Flom describes a picture of connected, networked learning that  is decentralized and self-directed and has no “expert” authority at the helm.

According to Dr. Miriam Leis, Foresight Researcher, in “The Future of Learning 2030”  we are dealing with changes that include:

  • The decreasing half-life of knowledge
  • (Need for) growing interdisciplinarity
  • Rising life expectancy
  • Growing complexity and expectations
Engaging the Networked Learner

Self-directed, networked learning is inherently engaging. Networked learners already know how to find information fast and they have little patience with dull educational experiences.  Corporate learning has to engage learners at that level, too, in order for them to see the value in the experience.

In this evolving “Learning Future” we will need to embrace the technology, social media and collaboration needed in today’s global society, give up any thought that we “know” a subject and focus on how to engage the already networked learner.

Leaders Adapt First, Then Help Others

To lead responsibly, we need to understand and approach learning at multiple levels:

Level 1: Adapting to Changes

As leaders we are responsible for continual learning and adaptation as the world around us changes.

Level 2: Helping Those We Lead Adapt to Changes

As leaders, we must model continuous learning and adaptation, and coach others as they need help adapting to change.

Level 3: Helping Our Organizations Adapt and Learn

As we adapt and support the learning of others, we help our organizations stay current and relevant as times change.

Questions for Reflection

  1. How will I stay adaptable so that I can support the learning of others?
  2. How will I need to change my thinking?
  3. What will I need to start doing?
  4. What will I need to stop doing?
  5. How will I need to change how I lead in order to respond to the evolving future of learning?
  6. What fears will I need to put aside to succeed in this new learning environment?


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  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses 
© 2011 Leading in Context LLC 

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