Leaders: What’s Missing in Convenient Actions? – Values

By Linda Fisher Thornton

With all the inappropriate behavior in the news, I thought it would be a good time to explore the difference between actions that are CONVENIENT and those that are APPROPRIATE. Instead of saying “I’ll know appropriate when I see it” it seems necessary to break it down and articulate the difference clearly. So here goes…

Convenient is choosing the quick and easy solution. Appropriate adds considering the ethical impact.


Convenient is thinking about what we want. Appropriate adds thinking about what others want and expect.


Convenient is getting as much as we can from a deal. Appropriate makes sure the other parties get their needs met too. 


Convenient is getting all the attention. Appropriate is showing humility and sharing the spotlight.  


Convenient is doing something whenever we want to. Appropriate adds consideration for proper timing. 

Convenient is saying whatever we feel like saying. Appropriate is being respectful and considerate even when it’s difficult. 

The difference between convenient and appropriate is adding VALUES to the equation. Ethical values. Business values. Leadership values. Convenient actions are self-serving. Appropriate actions meet the needs of self while honoring the needs of others and respecting the boundaries of appropriate interpersonal behavior.

Acting without values may be convenient (and we’ve seen plenty of examples), but it’s not leadership. You could call it grandstanding, power-grabbing, self-serving, opportunistic, immature or incompetent. The list could go on and on. When an action is convenient and not appropriate, don’t call it leadership. Leadership is about moving beyond concern for self to also consider the well-being and success of others. Without that ability, a person is simply self-serving, and not fulfilling the other-serving job of “leader.”


To learn a process for thinking through the ethical implications of any situation, read 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership.

Top 100 Leadership Blog

Special 5 Post Series Celebrating the Second Printing of 7 Lenses

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 5)


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…

Top 100 Leadership Blog





Learn How to Think in all 7 Ethical Dimensions of Leadership




Click the cover to read a free preview!



Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

Ethics-Rich Leadership: Why We Need It


By Linda Fisher Thornton

I was originally going to use the words “ethics-infused leadership” in this post, but I realized that would treat ethics a little bit like a lime twist in a cold drink. The drink would hint of lime, but it wouldn’t be FULL of lime. So I chose to use “ethics-rich” leadership instead.

I think you may already be looking for the ethics-rich leadership I’m talking about. 

Ethics-rich leaders create a “safe space” for people that brings out their best. They leaders grow people, paying great attention to individual learning, challenges, potential and  opportunities.

Ethics-rich leaders also create a “safe space” for teams that brings out their best. They help teams learn to respect, include and engage all constituents for the most positive possible outcomes.

Why Do We Need Ethics-Rich Leadership?

Many of our biggest leadership issues are global and long term. We need to get past the distraction of ethics scandals in the news to move forward with a new kind of leadership.

What does it look like? The ethics-rich leadership we seek:

  1. Considers respect, care and long-term thinking to be minimum standards.
  2. Protects our best interests as well as their own.
  3. Respects and honors the values behind our laws and doesn’t try to find loopholes for personal gain.
  4. Leads with positive ethical values, respectfully dealing with difficult issues when people don’t agree on the best solutions.
  5.  Never pretends to “know.” Instead this leader listens, scans, gathers, learns, questions, synthesizes and uses the ethics-rich mindset “I will always be a work-in-progress.

What Does It Look Like In Action?

Anyone can divide people and cause trouble. We need leaders who unite people around positive ethical values.

But it isn’t enough for leaders to just bring people together around values. 

We need leaders who do the work required to understand complex issues so they can make good decisions.

But it isn’t enough for leaders to just unite people around values and do the hard work to understand complex issues so they can make good decisions. 

We need leaders who care about constituents.

But it isn’t enough for leaders to just unite people around values, do the hard work to understand complex issues so they can make good decisions, and show they care about constituents.

We also need leaders who seek mutual benefit, not just “self-serving benefits.”

Ethics-rich leadership, after all, isn’t about position power – it’s about values power. It treats values as the essential business tools they are.  Ethics-rich leaders will reap the ultimate rewards – in transformational performance. 

Top 100 Leadership Blog





Learn How to Think in all 7 Ethical Dimensions of Leadership




Click the cover to read a free preview!



Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC


“Great Leaders” Find Gold Within

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Great leadership is often defined based on efficiency, effectiveness or profitability, but that’s no way to define a journey of character building and authenticity. There’s much more to the story that needs to be told.

Many people work hard to strike leadership gold and become great leaders. Few have a clear picture of exactly what the “great leadership” they’re aiming for will look like. Where will they find it? What kinds of development will help them grow into it? Who are good role models for it?

The greatest leaders look beyond the visible and tangible benefits of their leadership and seek the more meaningful impact that is hidden:

  • Helping others grow, they grow
  • Serving others, they contribute to positive change
  • Learning and serving, they become capable of doing more and being more to others
  • Leading with character, they leave a positive legacy that endures
  • Guiding others to good character and ethical actions, they tap into hidden capabilities of the team
  • Bringing out the team’s greatness, they accomplish what other leaders cannot

Great leaders tap into the “gold within.” They bring out the greatness within each person, helping them to reach their potential. They bring out the greatness in each team, creating the positive space for results that seem impossible.

Like archaeologists using a small brush under the hot desert sun, leaders carefully uncover the invisible – the rich deposits of hope, potential and impact that lie within others.

Top 100 Leadership Blog




Ethical Leaders See Their Choices Through All 7 Lenses

Includes case examples and questions.

Click the book cover for a preview.





Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC





The Power of Trustworthy Leadership


When-people-trust-theirBy Linda Fisher Thornton

Why is trustworthy leadership so powerful? How does it set a positive tone and lead organizations to better performance? These 5 reasons quickly come to mind.

 The Power of Trustworthy Leadership

1. Leading with values creates a safe work environment and builds trust.

2. When people trust their leaders, they are free to create amazing work.

3. When people trust their leaders, they are also more likely to trust each other.

4. Organizations with high trust release the natural creativity and potential of the people who work there.

5. The transformational effects of #1-4 above propel high-trust organizations to greater performance.

Leading in ways that build trust releases the inherent potential within the organization and its people. It brings out everyone’s best. And it’s gaining momentum. Are you part of the Trust Movement?

Top 100 Leadership Blog






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

10 Forces Fueling the Values-Based Leadership Movement

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I believe that values-based leadership is gaining momentum. Recently I was asked to explain why I think so, and I thought I would share my answer in today’s blog post. Here are a number of trends that I see that are working together to fuel the movement toward leading with positive values.

Values-based leadership is gaining momentum, and it’s fueled by a convergence of positive trends.

These forces are coming from various directions and perspectives, all leading toward positive, proactive values-based leadership. See if you recognize any of them, and feel free to comment with your additions to the list.


ValuesBased Leadership TrendsFINALCrop


How do forward-thinking leaders define “doing well?” They don’t define it as simply reaching financial projections and avoiding lawsuits.  They define it as always leading with values. They define success in terms of mutual benefit – creating shared value for multiple stakeholders and making a positive difference. 



For more, see 7 Lenses  and the related 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  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 


Making Decisions Like Global Citizens

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Character is important, but leading ethically in the fullest sense requires much more than just demonstrating good character. In this 2 minute video, I describe 7 different perspectives that you may hear around the table as you discuss ethical dilemmas in your organization. Instead of being competing perspectives, each one is an important element of the full picture of what it means to lead ethically in a global society.

As you watch, see how many of these 7 different perspectives you can recognize in your organization’s dialogue about ethics.

For more, see Linda’s 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
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

13 Leadership Temptations (to Conquer in 2013)

10 Temptations

By Linda Fisher Thornton

13 Leadership Temptations To Conquer In 2013

We’re starting a new year, with fresh possibilities, and it is a good time to think about our leadership values. What do we believe? How do we treat others? What matters to us? Can people determine our values just by watching how we treat people?

As we think about how we want to lead this year, we need to recognize that it is tempting to make easy short-term decisions that end up having ethical consequences in the long run.  Sometimes those seemingly easy decisions are “easy” because

  • we have oversimplified them
  • we have only considered how our choice benefits us and have failed to consider its impact on others, or
  • we have ignored important ethical factors.

The 13 leadership temptations below are very real and we have all faced them. As leaders, it is our job to carefully resist them. To do that, we first have to admit that they exist and that they challenge us, and then we must decide to take positive actions.

We all have the capacity to do good and to do harm. Let’s resolve to do good and to resist these 13 Leadership Temptations in the New Year.

Resolve to Conquer These 13 Leadership Temptations in the New Year

  1. The temptation to think that “ethics” is just about words and not about our choices
  2. The temptation to attack people instead of attacking problems
  3. The temptation to choose “quick fix” solutions that do more harm than good in the long run
  4. The temptation to judge others, and to think that differences are a threat
  5. The temptation to treat others with disrespect
  6. The temptation to avoid change when we really need to adapt
  7. The temptation to think that rules and laws are for other people, not us
  8. The temptation to profit at the expense of others
  9. The temptation to blame other people instead of examining our role and taking responsibility
  10. The temptation to treat employees as commodities rather than as human beings 
  11. The temptation to ignore feedback that we don’t like
  12. The temptation to only read that which confirms what we already believe
  13. The temptation to do anything that sets a bad moral example for others

Author’s Note: This post was inspired by British ethicist Mary Warnock in her speech about scandals in the British Parliament, shared on Vimeo by The School of Life. 


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
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC 


%d bloggers like this: