Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

To celebrate 7 Lenses going into its second printing, this is the third post in a special series focused on Why Ethical Thinking Matters. In case you missed them, take a look at Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1) and Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2).  I’m hoping the strategies shared in this series will give you a fresh perspective on your plans for developing leaders in 2018.

You may already realize that ethical thinking is important, and if you do, I ask you to spread the word. To help you champion the cause in your organizations and on social media, I have included the business case below.

Ethics codes and manuals are detailed but don’t provide high level direction on how to apply ethical values to decisions and actions. To make matters worse, the way we teach ethics is often low level, only based on laws and regulations, or oversimplified, describing whether something is “ethical or not” without exploring its ethical dimensions. 

Col Fernando Giancotti says in Strategic Leadership and the Narrow Mind: What We Don’t Do Well and Why – “Stepping up to a more comprehensive, less fragile ethic than the “good or bad” one is necessary to induce ethical, and not cynical, answers to the ambiguity and contradictions of our era.”

Leaders need a coherent ethical framework to help them navigate global and ethical complexity 

Giving leaders a robust framework for understanding ethical issues and choices is a must. The framework leaders use should be easy to remember so that they can recall it when they don’t have their materials at hand. They can’t lead well in a highly complex evolving global society without it. Here are some of the powerful benefits we gain when we meet the leadership need at a high enough level: 

Helps Leaders Remember and Apply Learning

“Coherence: Every part fits together. Every recall re-embeds the whole map.”

— David Rock, Why Leadership Development is Broken & How To Fix It Webinar, 2017

Avoids Guesswork

“What’s important is that having an ethical framework provides you with a basis for making difficult ethical decisions, rather than leaving you to struggle with each separate decision in a vacuum. It’s like the difference between building a house from a set of plans, and building it from guesswork, one piece of wood at a time.”

The Community Tool Box Chapter 8: Ethical Leadership,  Center for Community Health and Development, University of Kansas.

Provides a Clear Basis For Decision Making

“Ethical reasoning is hard because there are so many ways to fail…. Individuals must go through a series of steps, and unless all of the steps are completed, they are not likely to behave in an ethical way, regardless of the amount of training they have received in ethics, and regardless of their levels of other types of skills.”

Robert J. Sternberg, Cornell University, Developing ethical reasoning and/or ethical decision making

Fills The Gap Between “Wanting to Do the Right Thing” and “Knowing How”

“That persons with management responsibility must find the principles to resolve conflicting ethical claims in their own minds and hearts is an unwelcome discovery. Most of us keep quiet about it.”

Ethics in Practice, Kenneth R. Andrews, Harvard Business Review

Piecemeal leadership development, with no connection to a coherent framework, doesn’t “stick.” Worse, if we teach leadership and ethics separately, we can’t expect leaders to figure out how to integrate the principles on their own. Leadership development is only coherent if the ethical values are built in. 

Read the Next Post in the Series: Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

 

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Lead With Questions, Not Answers

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Leaders Ask The Hard Questions

While it’s tempting to try to “have the answers,” good leaders instead ask the hard questions. They may be questions for which the world does not have workable answers. They may be questions that help reinvent a company or industry. They may be questions that must be answered now to prevent problems in the future. They may be questions that generate a much needed dialogue.

Leading With Questions Is Engaging

When We Give Questions, We Give People

  • Curiosity – a reason to explore and be interested
  • Insight – from thinking, reflection and engagement over time
  • Possibility – answers are yet to be discovered
  • Enhanced thinking skills

When We Give Answers, We Give People

  • Boredom – no effort or engagement required
  • Diminished thinking skills – lack of use, less practice
  • Resistance without growth – if they disagree and there is no room for discussion, they may resist
  • Compliance without engagement – they go along but they don’t know why they should care

Great Leaders Don’t Have “The Answer”

“Having the answer” isn’t leadership. Leadership involves engaging others in efforts that matter and bringing out their individual and collective best. “Having the answer” isn’t teaching. Teaching involves lighting the spark that will guide someone’s learning journey for a lifetime. Here are some wonderful observations on the importance of questions:

“I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.”   ―Richard Feynman

“Courage doesn’t happen when you have all the answers. It happens when you are ready to face the questions you have been avoiding your whole life.”   ― Shannon L. Alder

“An infinite question is often destroyed by finite answers. To define everything is to annihilate much that gives us laughter and joy.”   ― Madeleine L’Engle

Great leaders spend time thinking about the right questions to ask.

They engage others in discovering the questions and answering them together.

They pull from a diverse collection of resources and data.

They engage others in learning.

They find out how much they don’t know before looking for “the answers.”

 

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Leaders need to know how to answer the tough ethical questions. Seeing through all 7 Lenses gives them the perspective they need.

 

 

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Are You Leaving a Positive Legacy? (10 Questions Across 5 Dimensions)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

When we think about leadership in the “here and now” we tend to think about what will be most effective in the short run. When we think about our leadership over decades, though. we can turn our attention to the longer-term impact we have on others – our positive legacy. 

Long-term thinking (or the failure to apply it) can make or break our efforts to leave a positive legacy. In effective leadership, we look beyond our own interests and reflect on how we will generate a positive impact on others over time through our daily decisions and actions. 

5 Dimensions Of Our Leadership Legacy

Our positive legacy is typically discussed as a “thing” but there is more nuance than that descirption implies. This post explores five dimensions that help us understand and improve our leadership legacy. 

Reflect on the legacy you are leaving by asking yourself these 10 questions across 5 important dimensions of leadership. 

1. Personal Legacy

How am I having a positive impact on individuals through my leadership now?

How do I improve the lives of those I lead?

2. Interpersonal Legacy

How do I model the positive interpersonal behavior that leads to better workplaces and communities?

How do I teach others to promote respect, inclusion and a peaceful global society?

3. Organizational Legacy

How do I set high standard for leadership in the organizations I serve?

How do I solve problems, remove roadblocks and otherwise improve the organizations I serve?

4. Community Legacy

How do I magnify and support the positive impact of other people’s contributions to communities?

How do I leave communities better than I found them?

5. Greater Good Legacy

How do I influence the course of human events in a positive way?

How do I make life better on our planet for future generations, leaving a positive legacy long after I am gone?

Our Legacy Compounds

As we lead, we should not overestimate our own importance. The greatest leadership legacy is achieved by preparing others to do great things. This generates a positive ripple effect that multiplies and compounds the positive impact of our leadership. 

Don’t leave your legacy to chance as you manage the many tasks of the new year. Take a moment to reflect on your leadership strengths and choose a dimension (of the 5 above) where you can improve your leadership this year. 

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Top 10 Posts 2017: Leading in Context Blog

 

 

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Of the 52 posts published on the Leading in Context Blog in 2017, these 10 were the most popular. See if you notice a theme that connects these topics that readers accessed most frequently:

Do Good Things Come to Those Who Wait?

Everyone is a Stakeholder at Some Level

Ethical Leadership is About Service, Not Privilege

Ethical Leadership: The “On” Switch For Adaptability

Talking About What Matters (Part 1)

4 Connected Trends Shaping the Future of Leadership

The Evolving Purpose of Leadership: Why More is Expected Now

Yes, Leaders: Behavior Matters

5 Sites For Globally Responsible Business Leadership

Is Our Leadership “Good?”

If I had to pick a theme for these posts that were most popular in 2017, it would be “Leaders Adapt to Rising Stakeholder Expectations.” Which 2017 post was your favorite? If you have ethical leadership topics you want to learn more about in 2018, comment on this post, or tweet your idea to @leadingincontxt!

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Rethinking “Smart” Leadership in an Ethical Context

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This week I’m looking at what it means to be a “smart” leader through the 7 Lenses (introduced in the book 7 Lenses) to get the full ethical context. Take note: You can do this with any idea, concept or project to better understand the ethical nuances.

Lens 1 Profit

“Smart” means making as much money as you can (which has no ethical grounding).

Lens 2 Law

“Smart” means avoiding punishments and penalties and taking advantage of loopholes for maximum gain (which isn’t leading with values).

Lens 3 Character

“Smart” means always thinking from a grounding in personal ethical values and ethical awareness.

Lens 4 People

“Smart” means being aware of our impact on a diverse group of others, working hard to benefit them and avoid harm.

Lens 5 Communities

“Smart” means pulling the community together and improving the lives of the people who live there.

Lens 6 Planet

“Smart” means protecting the planet, nature and ecosystems for our future well-being.

Lens 7 Greater Good

“Smart” means making life better for future generations.

Seeing the Whole Picture

Looking through these 7 Lenses of Ethical Responsibility, we see a picture that matches the highest levels of corporate social responsibility. We begin to realize that “smart leadership” includes acting on all of these lenses at the same time. This practical multi-lens perspective shows us the nuances of how we need to respond to our stakeholders and handle our ethical challenges. 

Click on the book cover below to see a preview and consider how this way of thinking could move your organization’s metrics (see Chapter 2 for details).

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The Trouble With Certainty

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Leaders may think that being decisive and “sure of things” helps them succeed, but if they do, they may be harboring an outdated view of leadership.

What has changed about how we see leadership and certainty? 

Being certain carries with it the connotation of not engaging others in the conversation and using one-way communication. It evokes images of an iron fist pounding on a desk, not a leader who enjoys “working beside” a talented and diverse team.

Imagining a leader who’s “certain,” we may think about someone who operates as a lone wolf or someone who is holding fast to an outdated world view and refusing to adapt as the world changes. 

The Quest For Uncertainty

Whereas certainty is “out,” uncertainty is the new hallmark of great leadership. Uncertain leaders ask more questions and engage more stakeholders. They see value in dialogue and in the somewhat messy but always interesting process of learning. Uncertain leaders know that the minute they become “certain” and unwilling to adapt to change, they are at risk of making an ethical mistake. 

When is certainty a good thing in a global environment?

While uncertainty is hallmark of great leadership, there is one thing leaders should always be sure about in a rapidly changing global context. It helps them navigate the uphill terrain of perpetual uncertainty. What is it that they should always be sure about? Their values. 

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Do Laws Set the Standard For Ethics?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

“Do Laws Set the Standard For Ethics?” may be a simple question, but the answer is complicated. They do and they don’t set the standard. 

Laws set the MINIMUM standard for ethical behavior. This is the level that I call the punishment threshold. If your behavior drops below this level, you will be fined, sanctioned, sent to jail, or otherwise punished. The reason there are punishments when laws are violated is because they are considered the rock bottom of what we should be able to expect from people. Obviously, we don’t want everyone behaving at this level. 

Ethical values set the OPTIMAL standard for ethical behavior. They define the desired behaviors – what we want people to do. Applying ethical values requires a broad understanding of our responsibilities and a willingness to take responsibility for our role in the workplace and society. 

No one should use “following laws” as a measure of their good citizenship. It’s ethical values that are the true measure of leaders and organizations.

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Learn How to Apply all 7 Ethical Dimensions of Leadership

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

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20 Quotes To Inspire Leaders in the New Year (Part 1)

Leaders-influence-others (1)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

In the New Year, we will deal with leadership challenges we cannot predict now. To be ready, we need to set our leadership and learning on the path to success.

This series includes 20 quotes (linked to posts with leadership guidance) that will help you leverage your leadership planning. Here are the first 10:

Since our world and work are changing at the speed of complexity, every leader will always be a “work in progress.”

The changing leadership relationship requires us to put ego aside and work for the good of those we lead and serve.

Leaders are developers, team builders, imaginers, culture caretakers, roadblock removers and inspirers. Their success depends on the success of others. 

Leaders influence others, first by who they are and then by what they do.

Taking responsibility at the highest levels (even when it’s difficult) separates “good leaders” from the rest. 

Good leaders know that the road to profit leads through good work, good leadership and good ethics. 

When the leader improves, everybody can do more.

Real respect is not selective. It’s not selfish.

There is a vast difference between a leader who KNOWS and a leader who GROWS.

Leading with positive values inspires meaning-seekers who want to do more than just “show up.”

Is your organization crystal clear about what good leadership requires? Are you helping leaders get there? Use these articles as the basis for conversations that will clear things up going in to the New Year.

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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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Great Leaders Are Other-Focused

By Linda Fisher Thornton

There are many important roles leaders play. The common thread through all of them is that leadership is about enabling the success of others. Leaders are supporters, developers, guides, team builders, and imaginers. They are culture caretakers, roadblock removers and inspirers. All of these roles require being other-focused. 

As leaders, we seek to bring out the best in individuals, the best in teams, and the best in organizations, pulling together diverse collections of people striving toward common goals. We create the conditions for success, we build trust and we model and reinforce ethical choices. Doing these things consistently enables those we lead to do their best work. 

How do we define our success as leaders using this mindset? It’s simple – Great leaders create the conditions for success, intentionally building trust and an ethical culture, enabling people to do their best work. Their best work fuels the economic and social success of our organizations. We succeed when they succeed. 

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Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future. 

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

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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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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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5 Insights Into Leadership Development Future (Part 5)

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

This is the 5th post in a series called 5 Insights Into Leadership Development Future. 

Here are the 4 previous posts in the series in case you missed them:

Part 1 on Global Trends

Part 2 on Wholeness 

Part 3 on Growth and Human Development

Part 4 on Positive Ethical Values and the Search For Meaning

This final post will build on the previous 4 posts in this series and discuss how to prepare leaders for the workplace of the future. 

To help leaders adapt to increasing global leadership expectations and catastrophic change, we’ll need to: 

  • RETHINK everything we’re doing to help people succeed in leadership
  • ZOOM OUT to give them the whole picture, and 
  • REBUILD their leader awareness at a higher level

Author’s Note: I have packed three years of leadership research across disciplines into the guide 7 Lenses to help you navigate the process. Chapters where you’ll find specific topics are noted below.

To respond to increasing ethical expectations and the need for meaning and growth, we’ll need to discuss:

  • Leadership as Both a Responsibility and an Opportunity (Part I)
  • Leadership as Relational (Chapter 5)
  • The Impact of Ethical Values on Creating a Positive Workplace Culture (Chapters 2 and 5)
  • The Human Impact of Trust (Chapter 5)

To help leaders take their thinking to a higher level, to handle the complexity of their challenges, we’ll need to dig into:

  • How Thinking Drives Behavior (With or Without a Leader’s Permission) (Chapter 6)
  • The Broad-Reaching Impact of Leader Choices (Chapter 3)
  • How Ethical Leaders Must be Personally and Contextually Congruent (Chapter 4)
  • The Kind of Thinking That Ethical Leaders Choose to Use (Chapter 6)

To help leaders stay motivated while they’re learning, we’ll need to provide:

  • Insight Into the Long-Term Nature of the Leadership Learning Journey (Chapter 1)
  • Tangible Benefits (to Leaders and Organizations) of Proactive Ethical Leadership (Chapter 2)
  • Tools and Strategies for Handling Complexity (Chapter 3)
  • Our Evolving Understanding of the Purpose of Leadership (Chapter 8)

We are learning our way forward in developing leaders for the workplace of the future while they are learning their way forward through complexity, economic challenges and catastrophic change. We will need to stay ahead of that curve to prepare them. 
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Includes how ethical expectations are increasing, and what you can do to stay ahead of the curve.

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5 Insights Into Leadership Development Future (Part 2)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This post is Part 2 in a series called “5 Insights Into Leadership Development Future.” Each post in this series will address trends in leadership development and how to prepare leaders for success in a complex, connected global society (In case you missed it, Part 1 addressed trends in ethical awareness, leading with values and changes in the learning landscape). 

GIVE LEADERS THE WHOLE PICTURE

We are beginning to think more holistically about the leadership role, including its global scope and broad impact. Today I want to describe the important trend toward wholeness that is helping us improve our effectiveness in many arenas and will be changing our approach to leadership development.  

Have you noticed that: 

  • In health care, we are moving away from just treating symptoms to supporting wellness
  • In the workplace, we are moving away from focusing on treating specific individual groups of people well toward a goal of full inclusion
  • In education, we are (slowly) beginning to embrace preparing the whole child for a good life rather than focusing only on knowledge and test scores
  • In religion, we are beginning to understand common values, rather than focusing only on separate religious traditions
  • In business, we are beginning to think about ourselves as one global community rather than just a disparate set of countries and boundaries

This trend toward wholeness is informing approaches to leadership development in important ways. To see how well you’re helping leaders adapt to this trend, ask yourself:

Are we giving leaders the whole picture and expanding their awareness of how things connect? Are we helping them see global patterns and trends? – Help Them See the Connections

Are we developing them as whole leaders, addressing their thinking processes and habits and not just their observable skills? – Help Them Understand Their Own Leadership Terrain

Are we giving them a holistic picture of leadership responsibility and not just focusing on laws and ethics codes? – Help Them See the Full Scope of Ethical Leadership Responsibility

Applying the trend toward wholeness to the way we develop leaders can have powerful positive effects. For example, we can help leaders examine and improve their leadership thinking – to find out where they might be thinking narrowly and not holistically. 

Marian N. Ruderman, Cathleen Clerkin, and Carol Connolly From The Center For Creative Leadership extend an invitation in their white paper Leadership Development Beyond Competencies: Moving to a Holistic Approach – “We call upon leadership developers to work together as a concerned community, to move beyond the established competency approach to offer deeper levels of leadership development.”

Specific Actions You Can Take Now to Help Leaders Adapt:

  1. Address leader learning on the internal as well as external aspects of leadership, helping leaders learn to manage their unconscious thoughts and become aware of how their thoughts can affect their behavior
  2. Help leaders understand the dimensions of what it means to take responsibility in leadership
  3. Get them talking about the places where they are observing a trend toward wholeness, and the impact of this trend on their lives and leadership

More to Come: I will be continuing this series with more important trends in leadership development and actions you can take to help leaders adapt.  Stay tuned for Part 3!

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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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No Shortcuts WIll Get You There

Good-leaders-know-that (1)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

A for-profit company is an integral part of the global community, and its role is to provide value-creating services through the good work of good people. 

Good companies, like good citizens, make a commitment to positive purpose, positive intent and positive impact. That means that they do what’s right in the right way, showing concern for constituents and silent stakeholders.

People have tried shortcuts that go around respect, civility and tolerance, but there is no acceptable shortcut on the road to profit (or power) that “goes around ethics.”                                                                             — Linda Fisher Thornton

– See more at: http://www.fcpablog.com/blog/2016/4/26/starbucks-ceo-whats-the-role-and-responsibility-of-a-for-pro.html#sthash.t9eTeK4V.dpuf

Good leaders don’t divide the world – they don’t treat people well only when it’s convenient or profitable. They treat people well because that is what good people do. Morally developed leaders understand that despite our differences, we are all part of the same group – the human group. Treating people that way build good neighborhoods and communities, on a local and global scale.

Shortcuts won’t get you there. Good leaders know that the road to profit leads through good work, good leadership and good ethics.  While it’s tempting to take shortcuts, our global understanding of “good leadership” is moving past a self-centered view of things. It’s time for leaders to step up.

Read more insights from Trust Across America Trust Alliance Members and Top Thought Leaders in this post on the FCPA Blog.

 

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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 how to stay ahead of the curve.

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10 Ways the Leadership Relationship is Changing (Part 2)

Trust-and-responsibility

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Previously, I blogged about the first 5 of 10 Ways the Leadership Relationship is Changing, and today I want to explore 5 more. These changes reflect a growing awareness that leadership never was about the leader – it is about how the leader takes responsibility and enables the success of others.

I guess we could say that some people got caught up in the perks of leadership and forgot about the service part and the need to take ethical responsibility. Well, some of those leadership perks are disappearing (like the corner office). 

Here are 5 more ways the leadership relationship is changing to favor those who leaders serve:

6.  From keeping production high to attracting and keeping top talent (who will keep production high)

7.  From telling to asking, involving, thinking together

8.  From an “open door policy” to “no door workspaces”

9.  From position power to competence and contribution power

10. From “do as I say, not as I do” to “Let me show you how” (demonstrating company values and ethics codes)

Trust and responsibility are the scaffolding underneath positive workplace relationships. The test of our leadership is not how well we handle tasks and direct people, but how well we build high-trust workplaces where everyone can work at their best.

All 10 of these changes in the leadership relationship reflect a new leadership mindset that is more ethically developed. The changing leadership relationship requires us to put ego aside and work for the good of those we lead and serve. After all, leadership is relational. It’s not about us. It’s about how well we bring the best in others.

 

 

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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

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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