Talking About What Matters (Part 1)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This post begins a series on talking about what matters. Great attention is often paid to values in defining and marketing an organization. But what happens after that? It’s the ongoing dialogue about how to apply those values that brings them to life. 

Some leaders assume that if the values are written down, they will be followed. The problem with that assumption is that while people may WANT to follow the organization’s stated values, they may not know how. Until we engage people in conversations about HOW to apply ethical values, they only exist as an “ideal wish list,” not a set of guiding values for day-to-day work. 

Humans Are Meaning-Seeking Creatures

People seek meaning. We’ve known this since ancient times, but we’re still learning how to help them find it. 

Man is “a being in search of meaning.”            –Plato

“Consciously or not, we are all on a quest for answers, trying to learn the lessons of life… We search for meaning.”           –Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

“The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.”            –Carl Jung

Great leaders make it a priority to help people find the meaning they seek. They take the time to imagine what each person could accomplish, and who they could become. They help them grow into the best of themselves. 

Why Should We Talk About What Matters?

In addition to helping individuals find meaning in their work, conversations about what matters also help guide organizations to the success they seek. 

Ethical values are a framework for generating a positive impact on constituents and the broader global community.

Talking about ethical values, done right, engages the workforce and improves the organization’s metrics in these important ways. 

  • Engaging people’s hearts and minds in figuring out the right things to do in challenging situations

Helping people figure out the right thing to do increases ethical awareness and ethical competence.

  • Building confidence and helping people find meaning in their work

A sense of meaning and purpose improves engagement, retention and job satisfaction.

  • Centering groups and focusing work on positive outcomes for constituents

Focusing on positive outcomes for constituents makes work more satisfying and reduces ethical risk.

  • Driving good decisions and choices based on values

Having ongoing and meaningful conversations about values improves ethical thinking and decision making.

Talking about what matters gives people the grounding they need to find meaning in their work. Helping them understand and apply ethical values improves organizational outcomes.

Ethical values are the secret ingredient in some of the world’s greatest companies. But they don’t reveal their magic when they live on the website and marketing materials. The magic happens when values become active guiding principles. To get there, we’ll need to have some conversations about what matters…

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Everyone is a Stakeholder at Some Level

By Linda Fisher Thornton

“Everyone is a stakeholder at some level, and all stakeholders are important. We should consider all stakeholders as we lead – those we serve, those we lead, the powerless, the silenced, the planet, and all of humanity.” 

I shared this insight in a previous post – it was an aha moment from a Tweetchat I guest-hosted on Leading With Ethics. To reflect on where you are in the journey to leading with the mindset that “everyone is a stakeholder at some level,” explore the answers to these important questions:

  • How am I adding value for customers, employees and partners?
  • What ripples am I creating on the global landscape?
  • If everyone followed my lead, would they be showing that all stakeholders are important, regardless of who they are or where they live?
  • How well do I consider the interests of stakeholders who aren’t at the table, including the planet?
  • Have I explored and conquered my own “inner terrain” well enough to manage my biases so that they don’t impact my leadership?

To accomplish the ideal of considering all stakeholders in even our smallest decisions, we’ll have to do more than just imagine the possibilities. We’ll need to do the work.

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Values Drive Business Success (But Only If They’re Clear and Applied)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial Survey Executive Summary reported that according to responses from 7700 employed millennials from 29 countries, “the values that support long-term business success are people treatment, ethics, and customer focus. While people treatment, ethics, and customer focus may be the values that drive business success, that only works if they’re applied across the organization. Do people know what the values are? Are they evident in the everyday actions of leaders? Are they factored into daily decisions? 

Even if a company has clear values, applying them is not as easy as leaders might think. According to Gallup (2016), just 23% of U.S. employees strongly agree that they can apply their organization’s values to their work every day.  Leaders might think that values are self-explanatory, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s in the nitty-gritty application of values that people have deep questions. Here are two examples: 

A manager has been told to hire according to the company’s values and to meet or exceed all goals. The candidate that is most likely to improve the department’s chances of meeting goals is not always respectful to others. Which is more important?

An employee sees a disconnect between the company’s stated values and the actions of a new senior leader. Should she follow the stated values or the leader’s direction? 

Leaders must start the conversation and keep it open, model the application of stated values, clear up areas of confusion and use the company’s values to guide daily work. Then and only then will values be “powered up” to drive business success. The power of values is not in stating them on the website and glossy brochures – it’s in the much more difficult process of living them in our everyday choices.  

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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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Ready To Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)? – Part 1

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Each day brings new challenges for leaders. They struggle to deal with uncertainty and complexity and sometimes the most ethical choices are not obvious. In this kind of environment, we can’t assume that things are going well even when there are no lawsuits or imminent ethical crises. What we need to do is build an ethical workplace that will discourage ethical problems.

The focus of this week’s post is on Ways to Improve Accountability For Ethics. Here are 3 ways to avoid relying on the status quo – that also help you “do good” in your organization, community and world. 

Ready to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)?

Improve Accountability For Ethics

 

  1. EXPECT MORE FROM SENIOR LEADERS: Think of several examples of senior leaders who were coached, penalized or fired for ethical violations. If you can’t think of any, does that mean your organization prevents problems or lets senior leader infractions slide by? Always hold senior leaders to the highest standards since they model what others throughout the organization should do.
  2. HAVE ALL LEADERS MODEL AND REWARD ETHICAL ACTIONS: Keeping in mind corporate ethics policies and company values, examine what leaders are making important by their actions.  What are they doing? What are they holding people accountable for? Make sure that ethical decisions and actions are modeled and rewarded.
  3. SEE YOUR CEO AS THE “ULTIMATE ETHICS OFFICER”: Take a careful look at who is responsible for ethics in your organization. Is it just the compliance officer and HR Manager? It is the CEO and 1 or 2 other managers? Or is it every manager and every associate? Make sure that everyone is responsible, and be sure that the CEO is actively playing the role of the “Ultimate Ethics Officer.”

These 3 ways to change the ethics quo improve accountability for ethics. Are you ready for MORE actions you can take to move your organization toward ethical prevention and practice? Stay tuned for new posts in this series!

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5 Signs Your Culture is FAILING

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Building a positive ethical culture is a long-term process. It involves much more than just company trappings and perks – leaders must make a commitment to people and to creating a positive work space. When things seem to be going well, it’s easy to miss signs that the culture may be off track.

Mistakes slow our culture building progress, and we may lose ground if they are not fixed quickly. Have you seen signs of any of these culture-eroding problems in your organization?

5 Signs Your Culture is FAILING

  1. Closed (Lack of Transparency, One-Way Communication)
  2. Behind the Times (Failing to Stay Competent, Not Adapting to Change)
  3. Aiming For Minimum Standards (Focusing On Laws Instead of Values))
  4. Toxic (Allowing Teasing, Bullying and Other Negative Behaviors)
  5. Loose (Performance Standards and Values Are Not Enforced)

If you see culture warning signs like these, address them quickly. If left unchecked, they unravel the fabric of the culture, leaving holes that can lead to ethical problems.

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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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Reflections on Truth (Are You a Seeker?)

 

If-you-would-be-a-real

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Reflections on Truth

We’ve heard the expressions “truth is in the eye of the beholder” and “the truth shall set you free.” What is this truth that so many have spoken of? How do we find it? How does it relate to ethics? Ponder those important questions as you explore this collection of quotes about truth.

A Collection of Important Quotes About Truth 

There is no greatness where there is no simplicity, goodness and truth.                                                                                                                                         Leo Tolstoy

Truth is certainly a branch of morality and a very important one to society.                                                                                                                                 Thomas Jefferson

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.                                                                                                   Marcus Aurelius

There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.                                                                                                                         Maya Angelou

If there were only one truth, you couldn’t paint a hundred canvases on the same theme.                                                                                                                Pablo Picasso

Justice and truth are such subtle points that our tools are too blunt to touch them accurately.                                                                                                         Blaise Pascal

The truth is a snare: you cannot have it, without being caught. You cannot have the truth in such a way that you catch it, but only in such a way that it catches you.

Soren Kierkegaard

The truth is rarely pure and never simple.

Oscar Wilde

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.             John F. Kennedy

People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe.                                                                                                         Andy Rooney

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.                                               Rene Descartes

There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.
Buddha

Knowledge rests not upon truth alone, but upon error also.

Carl Jung

The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth’.
Dan Rather

The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.
Albert Einstein

According to the wisdom in these quotations, truth is not simple or easily found and there is an element of growth and open-mindedness required on the seeker’s journey. 

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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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©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®. 

Includes case examples and questions.

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5 Questions For Leaders Seeking Insight In The New Year

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Many thanks to Leading in Context friends and followers for a wonderful 2015.  I appreciate your active involvement in the movement – special thanks to all who shared posts, posted comments and let me know what they wanted to learn more about. I am grateful for the global conversation about the positive leadership we need for a better future.

This New Year, as we head into 2016, I urge you to reach for Insight.

Insight is much deeper than observation, and it can mean a variety of powerful and life-changing things:

  • An understanding of “the inner nature of things” (Wikipedia, Insight)
  • An “aha moment” when things make sense and seem clear
  • Discovering a simple solution to a long-standing problem
  • Achieving a sudden and profound understanding of our own capabilities and challenges
  • Getting a glimpse of who we could be at our very best

Insight is especially important in leadership. Without it, we may cling to outdated notions of the purpose of leadershipWith it, we may inspire many others to do great things.

Insight is especially important now because we are leading in a time of information overload. Without it, we can miss the deeper meaning. With it, we can help others see beyond the flashy messages to the values that matter.

This year, aim high, striving to be a leader who helps others achieve insight and who brings out the best in people, organizations and communities.

Ask Your Team These 5 Questions:

  1. How directly do we contribute to our organization’s mission, and how can we transform our mindset and approach to support it more deeply?
  2. What routine tasks could we automate or eliminate so that we can spend time on what really matters?
  3. How could we help our organization move from a focus on the week or the quarter to a focus on its impact over the next hundred years?
  4. How well are we honoring all 7 Lenses of Ethical Leadership in our decision making and actions? (See this video for an introduction to the 7 Lenses and this Manifesto that explains the thinking process behind the 7 Lenses framework)
  5. What is one thing that we could improve that would take our work to a higher level of positive impact in the organization, the community and the world?

Leaders, make it a priority to reach past the noise and past day-to-day pressures. Seek Insight in 2016.

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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

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

 

 

 

 

Are You Approachable?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The pace of change is out of control in the workplace. Have any of you learned more than three new software programs this week? Have you had to deliver on a deadline in spite of being completely new to a project? Have you struggled to get the attention of colleagues when you need their input, only to find that they are too busy to make the time to meet?

Leaders, if you are struggling to deal with the pace of change, how do you think your employees feel? One of the most critical things you can do is be accessible when they need you. If they get stuck, they need to be able to ask questions. And get stuck they will. It’s inevitable.

Your work is dependent on others, and your employees are even farther from the answers than you are. They need to be able to count on your availability and support. 

As fast as we are all moving, we need to realize that we are part of a connected chain of information, processes and people. Knowing that a manager is available to help can make a critical difference to employees – not just in performance, but also in engagement and morale. 

Employees count on you to be approachable. Don’t be like the prickly cactus, daring others to approach at their own risk.

 

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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

 

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

 

Imperfectly Human

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

We are all imperfectly human.   We make mistakes. We do things that aren’t responsible.

Yes we ALL do things that aren’t responsible at times. If you think you’re exempt, let me ask you this. Have you never crept even one mile per hour over the speed limit? Have you never crossed the street outside of the marked cross walk? Have you never said something hurtful to another person?

Yes, we’re all imperfectly human. We need to plan ahead, to prepare ourselves for the moments when we may  be tempted to fall into imperfect behavior.

When we want to learn to drive a car, we learn safe and courteous driving rules. We practice driving for many hours on the road. We get feedback from experienced drivers and improve our driving over time. We eventually pass a driving test and are cleared to drive.

That leads me to wonder if we are preparing our leaders as carefully, or if we sometimes throw them into situations they are not prepared to handle. Do we give our “new leaders” the careful preparation we give new drivers? 

Are our leaders cleared to LEAD? 

Leaders do not think they are well prepared according the Ready-Now Leaders: DDI Global Leadership Forecast 2014-2015, which reports that “the overwhelming majority of leaders are still saying they are not satisfied with their organization’s development offerings.” Only “37% of leaders rated the quality of their organization’s development programs as high or very high.”

So where do we go from here?

Failing to prepare leaders for what they’ll face is not just potentially bad for their success, it’s also an ethical problem for their employees and for the organization. Without tools for handling complex challenges, people may make more mistakes than they need to. Some of those mistakes can be costly to the leader’s future and the organization’s reputation.

If we want leaders to be ready to handle the steep learning curve and the tough challenges that come with the job, we’ll need to do these things:

  • Help them handle the complexity that is a reality in their day-to-day leadership.
  • S-T-R-E-T-C-H them to help them prepare for the challenges they face as leaders in a global society.
  • Make them aware of their own mindsets and assumptions.
  • Build a sturdy culture based on positive ethical values.
  • Teach them how to PREVENT ethical problems, not just how to cope with them if they happen.
  • Show them how to add value for multiple constituents and think beyond themselves.
  • Provide clear support for ethical choices at all levels in the organization, including the C-Suite.
  • Make trust building a leadership priority.

Ask them if they’re ready

Ask your leaders how well prepared they think they are and listen carefully to their answers. Preparing leaders for success today requires much more than simply providing a training program and a handbook. It requires leadership development designed for people who are imperfectly human. 

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© 2013 Leading in Context LLC

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Cut Through the Complexity — See Through The 7 Lenses®. 

Includes compelling graphics, case examples and questions.

 

 

 

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