5 More Ways to Avoid the “Rightness” Trap

By Linda Fisher Thornton

5 More Ways to Avoid the “Rightness” Trap

The comments kept coming! Here are 5 More Ways to Avoid the “Rightness” Trap based on social media responses to Is Needing to Be “Right” Unethical?  They are each illustrated here with quotes.

1.  A Sense of Humor

 “Humor brings insight and tolerance. Irony brings a deeper and less friendly understanding.”

 Agnes Repplier

2.  Empathy

“Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant with the weak and wrong. Sometime in your life, you will have been all of these.”

Siddhārtha Gautama

3.  Authenticity (your inner voice)

“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”

Carl G. Jung

4.  Awareness of Our Biases

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an awareness about ourselves.”

Carl G. Jung

5.  Care

“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

Theodore Roosevelt

The original September 5, 2012 post about rightness Is Needing to Be “Right” Unethical? set an all-time one-day record for the Leading in Context Blog. Perhaps readers believe, as I do, that we need to work together in ways that respect both our individuality and our connectedness. To achieve that, we will need to be always vigilant and always learning.

Related Posts:

Is Needing to Be “Right” Unethical?

10 Ways to Avoid the Rightness Trap

Civility is an Ethical Issue

Civility and Openness to Learning


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

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

Collaborative Leadership in a Global Society

What is Collaborative Leadership?

What does collaborative leadership look like in a global society?

At the societal level it’s taking the best that all of us know and can do and putting it together in ways that help everyone.

At the partnership level, it’s working across organizational and group boundaries to solve problems and accomplish shared goals.

At the workplace level, it’s respecting each other, clarifying complex issues and managing productive conflict.

Accomplishing these things requires that we learn a new set of approaches that are vastly different from the leadership that we may have used in the past.

What Do Collaborative Leaders Do?

Share Control

The problem is that companies face a mismatch: They have developed a strong base of operational leaders who perform well when they have direct control over a specific set of resources that they can deploy to achieve accountable results. Unfortunately, the matrixed, global structure that is becoming the norm for many organizations requires leaders who can subordinate their agenda, yield power and give up resources for the greater good.

Rick Lash, The Collaboration Imperative, Ivey Business Journal, iveybusinessjournal.com

Build Connections and Influence Outside of Formal Systems

Collaborative Leadership is an influence relationship, which engenders safety, trust and commitment.

John Dentico, Collaborative Leadership Defined, Leadsimm.com

In her 1994 Harvard Business Review article “Collaborative Advantage”, Rosabeth Moss Kanter talks about leaders who recognize that there are critical business relationships “that cannot be controlled by formal systems but require (a) dense web of interpersonal connections…”[1].

Wikipedia.org, Collaborative Leadership

Work Through Ambiguity and Complexity Using Creativity and Innovation

It is clear that collaboration is a necessity in navigating today’s complex work environments where ambiguity and change are constants.

Susan Hoberecht, Ph.D. student in organizational systems at Saybrook University, Rethinking Complexity, Saybrook.thinkpad.com

Collaboration, by its very nature, tends toward disorder at times and a lack of central control by any one entity.

Academics and Practitioners on Collaborative Leadership, Turning Point Leadership National Excellence Collaborative

The CEO’s in the IBM study saw the need to work with ambiguity in ways that engage creativity and support innovation. Our belief is that leaders who understand the nature of transformative learning will stop focusing on discredited controls and instead embrace creative collaboration – the lifeblood of truly 21st century organizations.

Nancy Southern, Organizational Systems Program, Saybrook University, Organizational Systems, What Leaders Need to Know, saybrook.typepad.com

Respect Others and Build on Differences

David Archer and Alex Cameron in their book Collaborative Leadership: How to succeed in an interconnected world, identify the basic task of the collaborative leader as the delivery of results across boundaries between different organisations. They say “Getting value from difference is at the heart of the collaborative leader’s task… they have to learn to share control, and to trust a partner to deliver, even though that partner may operate very differently from themselves.”[4]

Wikipedia.org, Collaborative Leadership

Align Goals and Accomplish a Shared Outcome

Collaborative success depends on trust, and trust depends on good communication. Collaborative leaders must not only be clear about their own goals, they must also understand and respect their collaborative partners’ goals in order to find ways to bring these diverse goals into alignment.

Rick Lash, The Collaboration Imperative, Ivey Business Journal, iveybusinessjournal.com

Hank Rubin author and President of the Institute of Collaborative Leadership has written “A collaboration is a purposeful relationship in which all parties strategically choose to cooperate in order to accomplish a shared outcome.” In his book “Collaborative Leadership: Developing Effective Partnerships for Communities and Schools” Rubin asks “Who is a collaborative leader?” and answers “You are a collaborative leader once you have accepted responsibility for building – or helping to ensure the success of – a heterogeneous team to accomplish a shared purpose .

Wikipedia.org, Collaborative Leadership

Continuously Learn and Adapt

In the years ahead volatility and uncertainty will tyrannize markets, and companies will need leaders who are highly adaptive, continuous learners, able to lead diverse groups across functional disciplines, regions and cultures.

Rick Lash, The Collaboration Imperative, Ivey Business Journal, iveybusinessjournal.com

The journey to a collaborative way of working is a daily challenge of learning and transformation.

Collaborativeleaders.us, What is Collaboration?

Learning how to lead collaboratively will stretch us and transform how we work. We will need to learn continuously and become comfortable with not having the answers and not controlling the process. We will need to build trust across boundaries. While we will not have the answers ourselves, using collaborative leadership we will discover them together.

Related Posts: 

Complexity, Creativity and Collaboration, Linda Fisher Thornton, Leading in Context Blog

What is Creativity, Linda Fisher Thornton, Leading in Context Blog

10 Reasons to Embrace Complexity, Linda Fisher Thornton, Leading in Context Blog


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  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

Complexity, Creativity and Collaboration

By Linda Fisher Thornton

How are Complexity and Creativity Related?

We are living in a complex world. Dealing with complexity is easier when we utilize collective knowledge and creativity. IBM interviewed more than 700 Corporate Human Resource Officers and found that creativity, flexibility and collaboration need to play a major role in leadership development:

Based on the key capability gaps revealed in this study, we believe organizations should focus on three critical workforce imperatives: cultivating creative leaders, mobilizing for speed and flexibility and capitalizing on collective intelligence.

Working Beyond Borders Executive Summary, IBM.com

Complexity is the Path We’re On 

It’s tempting to repeat the same strategies we’ve always used successfully as leaders – but those same approaches may not work well when we’re solving complex problems. To be successful leaders in a global society, we need to learn how to navigate through complexity.

The world’s private and public sector leaders believe that a rapid escalation of “complexity” is the biggest challenge confronting them. They expect it to continue — indeed, to accelerate — in the coming years. They are equally clear that their enterprises today are not equipped to cope effectively with this complexity in the global environment.

Capitalizing on Complexity: Insights from the Global Chief Executive Officer Survey, ibm.com

Creativity is a Way Through It

In his article in Psychology Today, The Creative Personality , Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes that “Creative individuals are remarkable for their ability to adapt to almost any situation and to make do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals. If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it’s complexity. They show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an “individual,” each of them is a “multitude.””

In his Note to Fellow CEOs, IBM Chairman Samuel J. Palmisano shares that “We occupy a world that is connected on multiple dimensions, and at a deep level — a global system of systems. That means, among other things, that it is subject to systems-level failures, which require systems-level thinking about the effectiveness of its physical and digital infrastructures.” The IBM report Capitalizing on Complexity found that Executives are realizing that creative thinking is critically important for business leaders.

…they identify “creativity” as the single most important leadership competency for enterprises seeking a path through this complexity.

Capitalizing on Complexity: Insights from the Global Chief Executive Officer Survey, ibm.com

Diversity of Ideas Provides Perspective

When dealing with complexity, we need fresh thinking.  We need to listen to all ideas that may help, regardless of where they come from.  We need to build solutions together. To do that successfully requires giving up the notion that we are “right.” In their HBR article “Creativity and the Role of the Leader” Amabile and Khairi recommend that we foster creativity in those we lead by:

  • Not thinking of ourselves as the source of ideas and bring out and champion the ideas of others
  • Opening our organization to diverse perspectives
  • Knowing when to impose controls on the creative process and when not to
Key Elements For Dealing With Complexity
As leaders, we are all “learning through” complexity and we need to use:
  1. an open mind
  2. the collective wisdom of the groups and organizations we lead
  3. respect for others
  4. respect for ideas, and
  5. respect for differences.


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  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

Social Media for “Good”

Joining the Social Media Information Wave

In the post Leaders and Social Media: 5 Reasons to Engage I gave 5 compelling reasons to join the social media information wave.

  1. Not Embracing Social Media is a Risk
  2. Social Media Helps us Adapt
  3. The Newest Information is Shared There Freely First
  4. It’s a Learning Connection to the “Global Brain”
  5. It’s a Hub Connecting You to the Meaningful Information You Need
  Leaders and Social Media: 5 Reasons to Engage Linda Fisher Thornton, Leading in Context Blog
These 5 reasons to engage in social media describe how social media can benefit us as leaders who are learning in complex times, but that’s only one perspective on the benefits of the social media connection.
In this post I’ll explore some of the ways social media can be used for “good.”

Connecting For Good
How can social media help us help others? How does it change how we think about marketing? How is social media pushing marketing to become more service-oriented?
Here are 5 ways that social media helps us help others and change the world.
5 Ways Social Media Can Be Used for “Good”
1.  It connects and mobilizes people to create positive change locally, regionally and globally
2.  It allows free sharing of information and advice that helps others solve complex problems
3.  It changes business marketing – with so many messages out there, the new “marketing” looks
      more like adding value and providing free services to demonstrate what your company can do
4.  It fosters fast, connected, global networks of diverse thinkers who are interested in a topic,
      allowing them to more quickly solve problems that cross geographic and political boundaries
5.  It enables anyone with a cause to start a movement to right a wrong, educate others and
     change the world for good.
These books and articles will help you learn more about ways to use social media for “good.”

9 Social Media Uprisings That Sought to Change the World in 2011  Zoe Fox, Mashable.com

How Social Media Really Can Produce Social Change Stephanie Myers, TriplePundit.com

10 Ways to Change the World Through Social Media Max Gladwell, MaxGladwell.com

Twitter for Good: Change the World One Tweet at a Time Book by Claire Diaz-Ortiz

Can NonProfits Use Pinterest to Change the World? kellis, GlobalGiving.org

Is Youtility the Future of Marketing? Jay Baer, ConvinceandConvert.com

The Networked NonProfit Book by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine

Social Media for Social Good: A How to Guide for Non-Profits Book by Heather Mansfield


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

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

Ethical Leadership and…Vitamin D Deficiency

Author’s Note: This article is not meant to take the place of medical advice. Consult your provider about your individual situation.

Why is Vitamin D3 Important?

In my research I found that vitamin D3 deficiency is being studied as a possible missing link in the research about a number of diverse health problems including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Autism, Cardiovascular Disease, Asthma, Dementia, Depression and Cancer. It is as a factor in our DNA being able to naturally repair itself (see the details in the articles and links below).

How Much Does it Help Us?

A Mayo Clinic Health Newsletter in September 2009 declared that vitamin D “appears to boost health from head to toe.” Vitamin D: Many Benefits, Optimal Dose Uncertain MayoClinic.org. 

The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University mentions a form of vitamin D as an “immune system modulator.” Vitamin D, Micronutrient Information Center, LPI.OregonState.edu.

The University of California UC San Diego News Center reports that researchers from UC San Diego School of Medicine and Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha have found out more about how much vitamin D we need to reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases:

“We found that daily intakes of vitamin D by adults in the range of 4000-8000 IU are needed to maintain blood levels of vitamin D metabolites in the range needed to reduce by about half the risk of several diseases – breast cancer, colon cancer, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes,” said Cedric Garland, DrPH, professor of family and preventive medicine at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. “I was surprised to find that the intakes required to maintain vitamin D status for disease prevention were so high – much higher than the minimal intake of vitamin D of 400 IU/day that was needed to defeat rickets in the 20th century.”

Higher Vitamin D Intake Needed to Reduce Cancer Risk UC San Diego

A 2011 BBC Health News article by Doctor Joseph M. Reed of Southhampton General Hospital in the UK explains how the problem affects his patients: “Alarmingly, our figures suggest that up to 40% of children presenting to the orthopaedic outpatient service in Southampton have vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency. But with a little knowledge, these conditions are avoidable.” Children Are at Risk of Getting Rickets, Says Doctor BBC News Health

What is Our Ethical Responsibility?

This important health information needs to be shared. I was personally diagnosed with a severe case of vitamin D3 deficiency, and learned the importance of taking a supplement the hard way. If we want to feel better, prevent disease and reduce health care costs as a society, then we must be proactive in sharing the kind of information that can help us achieve our goals. If a deficiency of vitamin D is implicated in many varied health problems, and is crucial for healing, and helps repair the body and helps prevent illness and is so affordable, then:

  • It should be part of standard patient education in every type of medical practice when patients come in for treatment or well checkups.
  • It should be discussed and recommended to patients before starting a course of treatment for any illness.
  • It should be a subject that all health and wellness practitioners follow closely.


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

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

The Learning Paradox: How Too Much Homework Harms

How Much Homework is Too Much?

As we build increasing awareness about learning, motivation and the general well-being of children, more people are beginning to wonder if the way we use homework is part of the solution or part of the problem.

The National PTA recommendations fall in line with general guidelines suggested by researcher Harris Cooper: 10-20 minutes per night in the first grade, and an additional 10 minutes per grade level thereafter (e.g., 20 minutes for second grade, 120 minutes for twelfth). High school students may sometimes do more, depending on what classes they take (see Review of Educational Research, 2006).

The National PTA says that “when you add classroom time to homework time, school-age children should not be working longer than an eight-hour day.”  (Hints to Help Reduce Homework Stress pta.org)

According to my research and my own experience as a parent, children in elementary school are sometimes being given homework that takes their required school time well beyond an eight-hour day.  Spending too much time on homework means losing important family time and missing out on exercise, time outside and other stress-reducing activities. For these reasons and others, it can create more stress for children than they know how to handle if too much homework is given too early in their development.

Paradoxically, by trying to help children learn more by adding graded homework for every child,we may be hurting the learning process more than we’re helping it.

Here are some of the reasons why giving homework for additional practice is not necessarily better for learning:

…Because love of learning is driven by curiosity and exploration, not repetition.

children “lack the time to pursue interests they care about” Homework Harms Kids, Says Debunker, by Kris Rushowy, TheStar.com

“damaging our kids’ interest in learning.” The Myth About Homework, Time Magazine

“single greatest extinguisher of a child’s curiosity” Homework Harms Kids, Says Debunker, by Kris Rushowy, TheStar.com

“I’ve heard from schools in the U.S. that have banned homework that kids are more likely to read for pleasure, to follow the news in the newspaper, to pursue a question online, to show their parents a science experiment they did at school, and so on.” Homework Harms Kids, Says Debunker, by Kris Rushowy, TheStar.com

I agree with Bill Glassner (1992, p. 231) that children would be better emerging from schooling ignorant, than hating to learn. It’s the children’s willingness to learn that is most harmed by compulsory homework. Children don’t like it, many parents don’t like it, teachers don’t like it. For good reason.” Homework Hysteria by Louise Porter, Child Psychologist

…Because completing independent work requires a level of development that only comes with age and is not well developed in the elementary and early middle school years.

“One of the complicating factors is age. Most small children and early adolescents have not yet developed the kind of self-reflective or self-monitoring skills to get the benefit out of either homework or self-study” LeTedre explains.  Probing Question: Is Homework Bad for Kids? by Alexa Stevenson

…Because more homework is not better for the child.

“It is generally agreed that the younger the child, the less time the child should be expected to devote to homework. A general rule of thumb is that children do 10 minutes of homework for each grade level. Therefore, first graders should be expected to do about 10 minutes of homework, second graders 20 minutes, third graders 30 minutes, and so on. If your child is spending more than 10 minutes per grade level on work at night, then you may want to talk with your child’s teacher about adjusting the workload.” Homework: A Guide for Parents by Peg Dawson, EdD, National Association of School Psychologists Online

“The trouble seems to crop up in the elementary grades when kids do too much homework — defined by some as an hour or more. Studies have shown a negative correlation between math scores and the amount of homework completed. In other words, the more homework the students did, the worse they performed on math tests.”  Does More Homework Mean Better Grades? ABC World News With Diane Sawyer

…Because too much homework creates a burden on students and harms their academic skills.

“Prior to the late high school years, children who are given more than 30 minutes of homework a night show declines in their academic skills, compared with children who are given none. “  Homework Hysteria by Louise Porter, Child Psychologist

“The problem, he (LeTendre) adds, is that most teachers use ‘the shotgun approach,’ photocopying worksheets and giving each student the same assignment.” Probing Question: Is Homework Bad for Kids? by Alexa Stevenson

“Teachers have to set homework, police its completion, and mark it. For the majority of students who are progressing well, this extra work is an unnecessary burden on both students and teachers. If instead teachers could design specific remedial activities for the handful of struggling students, both they and their students would be less burdened.” Homework Hysteria by Louise Porter, Child Psychologist

…Because too much homework takes the place of things children need, like relaxed family time, play and rest.

“Homework eats into relaxation time, which would offset stress.” Bill Glassner, quoted in  Homework Hysteria by Louise Porter, Child Psychologist

“takes the place of “evenings for family and serendipity” The Myth About Homework, Time Magazine

“Play is so important to optimal child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child.1” The Importance of Play in Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds by Kenneth Ginsberg, MD, and the Committee on Communications and the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, American Academy of Pediatrics

“Homework does not meet children’s needs and indeed violates their requirements for recreational and extra-curricular activity time, and for sleep…” Homework Hysteria by Louise Porter, Child Psychologist

“homework demands can limit the time available to spend on other beneficial activities, such as sport and community activities” Homework: Is it Worth It? Memory-key.com

Bright students who are conscientious about doing homework have no time left to pursue other recreational activities; less able students do not do the homework but because this defines them as failures, they do little else either.” Bill Glassner quoted in Homework Hysteria by Louise Porter, Child Psychologist

…Because when children who have not developed the skills to handle independent work are given challenging assignments and asked to do them by themselves without parent help, it creates a stressful dilemma for them and their parents.

 “nightly grind that is stressing out children”  New Recruit in Homework Revolt: The Principal, The New York Times

“brought home homework only a parent could complete”  Do Kids Have Too Much Homework? SmithsonianMag.com

“straining parent-kid relationships” The Myth About Homework, Time Magazine

“Most homework is more easily and better done at school.” Bill Glassner quoted in Homework Hysteria by Louise Porter, Child Psychologist

“turned their living room in to an anguished battleground” Do Kids Have Too Much Homework? SmithsonianMag.com

“Then there’s the nightly nagging to get started on the homework. This policing role leads to tension in the family and disputes between parents and the many children who cannot or do not want to do the work.” Homework Hysteria by Louise Porter, Child Psychologist

…Because to get the homework done and protect free time, parents, children and teachers have to lower their standards for completing the homework, which sends the wrong message to children.

“schools are deciding what happens during family time” Homework Harms Kids, Says Debunker, by Kris Rushowy, TheStar.com

“To avoid arguments, teachers (and parents) accept low quality homework, sending the message that it is acceptable to do poor work.” Bill Glassner quoted in Homework Hysteria by Louise Porter, Child Psychologist

While there are differences of opinion on the impact of too much homework, I believe that we need to fiercely protect the rights of all children to keep their:

  1. curiosity
  2. love of learning
  3. time to play, and
  4. time with family and friends

…and that whatever approach we take to the homework issue should be in that context.

“When we lack choice, activities become work, and when they are joyless, they teach us very little – other than to dislike them.” Homework Hysteria by Louise Porter, Child Psychologist

Additional Resources: 

Research Spotlight on Homework National Education Association, nea.org

Homework: What the Research Says Brief National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, nctm.org

Rethinking Homework by Alfie Kohn, Principal

Research Spotlight on Homework, National Education Association, nea.org

American Students are Underwhelmed by Homework Assignments Carnegie Mellon

Do Students Have Too Much Homework?  The Brookings Institute

The Balanced View: Homework Sharingsuccess.org


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

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

Precautionary Principle: Profiting With Care

What is the Precautionary Principle?

Simply stated, the Precautionary Principle asks us to err on the side of caution. Following the Precautionary Principle as business leaders, for example, we would avoid using product ingredients that may be harmful in addition to avoiding those that we know are harmful.

Using the Precautionary Principle we would do more than simply follow the law – we would make the decision that would be in the best long-term interests of our customers and other stakeholders.

Proactive Leadership for the Long Term

The Precautionary Principle (PP) is a proactive way for leaders to make decisions that are the best over the long term.  Using the PP, we take the long view and make decisions that offer the most protection to our company and its stakeholders.

It was originally formulated as a response to the constraints of policy and science in sufficiently addressing complex and uncertain risks and its consequences to human health and the environment (Tickner, 2003: xiii).

Rabbi Elamparo Deloso in “The Precautionary Principle: Relevance in International Law and Climate Change” a Masters Thesis in International Environmental Science, Lund University, Sweden

The Temptation to Squeeze Out Extra Profits

Using the Precautionary Principle as a basis for making decisions helps businesses avoid the temptation to squeeze out extra profits while something is “still legal.” The PP uses a  broader definition of what is “responsible” and a narrower definition of the level of  “harm” that is acceptable.

There is still some disagreement about how widely we should use the PP.  Some leaders think precaution is critical and others think it is unnecessary. Here are two examples of what can happen when we do and do not use the PP in business decisions:

Example 1: Embracing PP and Avoiding Suspected Carcinogen

Erring on the side of caution, a company using the Precautionary Principle would stop using ingredients that were suspected carcinogens rather than waiting for a series of studies that showed with certainty that they caused cancer.

Regulations often lag behind science and consumer experience. Waiting for scientific certainty and for an ingredient to be banned, a company could harm millions of people and poison the environment.

Precautionary companies would take action to avoid the harm that might take place while we were waiting to be “sure” that it was actually harmful.

Example 2: Choosing to Do Harm 

NPR did a news story on the cosmetics industry several years ago that revealed that some cosmetics manufacturers were using ingredients that were suspected of causing harm to people and had been banned in other countries. The cosmetics manufacturers were selling purer versions of their products in the tighter-regulation countries, but still selling the suspected harmful ingredients here in the U.S., where the Precautionary Principle had not yet fully been embraced.

Why would any business continue using ingredients suspected of being harmful? If they were using a narrow profit-based view of  responsibility it could easily happen. If the banned ingredients were cheaper, and they were not yet illegal in the US, then legally they could  be used.

……But is that a responsible decision?

The Importance of Profiting With Care

In a profit-based view of business responsibility, profits are not balanced against possible harm. That short-sighted view does not honor the way that we now understand our global leadership responsibilities. The world is more connected, and that connection informs consumers.

Businesses continuing to use ingredients that have been banned in some countries as possible carcinogens are finding that global shopping sites now rate them lower on ethical business.

The emergence of the PP has marked a shift from postdamage control (civil liability as a curative tool) to the level of a pre-damage control  (anticipatory measures) of risks.

The Precautionary Principle, UNESCO World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST)

Precaution is Gaining Momentum

The Precautionary Principle is gaining momentum as the way the world can best deal with risk and human and environmental safety.  Looking at ethics on a global scale, and our world as one global community, it makes sense to  many to err on the side of caution when evaluating possible harm that choices could cause.

…philosopher C. West Churchman had struggled with the question, “What is morality?” He eventually decided that morality is “what a future generation would ask us to do if they were here to ask.”

Edward Cornish in his book Futuring: The Exploration of the Future, published by the World Future Society

Global principles (developed by diverse global groups) are including precaution as a required element of responsible business.  The U.S. has now recognized the importance of Precaution as a guiding principle:

We believe: (number 12) even in the face of scientific uncertainty, society should take reasonable actions to avert risks where the potential harm to human health or the environment is thought to be serious or irreparable.

President’s Council on Sustainable Development. Sustainable America: A New Consensus, 1996, cited in The Precautionary Principle in Action: A Handbook

There are 17 international treaties and agreements that include the Precautionary Principle on pages 20-23 in The Precautionary Principle in Action: A Handbook, written by Tickner, Raffensperger and Myers for the Environmental Science Health Network.

Profitability is usually the reason that businesses continue using products after they are identified as possibly harmful or known to be harmful. At the same time that our economy struggles to regain stability, consumers are increasingly aware of how they are affected by the long-term greed of  business leaders who have chosen to ignore precaution and cause harm. Consumers are aware that if you use an ingredient or process that you know MIGHT be very harmful in the long run, then you know that you MIGHT be causing them great harm, and you are still choosing to use that ingredient.

Today’s more informed consumers are seeking businesses and products that go well beyond following laws to intentionally demonstrate a higher level of care and concern for constituents.

Because the Precautionary Principle is broad and still being interpreted, I’ve included resources below that explore the complexities of its various interpretations.

Questions For Discussion:

1. In what areas are we applying the Precautionary Principle?

2. Where are we ignoring precaution so that we can increase profits?

3. What are the likely long-term results of our decisions as shown in our responses to questions 1 and 2 above?

4. What could we do now to apply the Principle of Precaution and how could that improve our brand?

For Further Reading:

Debating the Precautionary Principle by Henk van den Belt, PlantPhysol.org

“A Core Precautionary Principle” article by Stephen M. Gardiner, Philosophy, University of Washington, in The Journal of Political Philosophy

For information about cosmetic safety, see Market Shift: The Story of the Compact for Safe Cosmetics and the Growth in Demand for Safe Cosmetics at safecosmetics.org.


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

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

Leadership and…Human Rights

Honoring Human Rights

As business leaders, it is our responsibility to honor human rights in all that we do. Article 1 of the The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights

What Does Honoring Human Rights Look Like?

These sources discuss human rights issues that business people need to be aware of, and explain how to lead in ways that support human rights:

Human Rights Compliance Assessment (HRCA) Quick Check   humanrightsbusiness.org

Business and Human Rights Resource Center, Principles and Standards business-humanrights.org

Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework    United Nations General Assembly Human Right Council, ohchr.org

Top Ten Business and Human Rights Issues   Institute for Human Rights and Business, irhb.org

Profit at What Price? Amnesty International Business and Human Rights

Questions to Consider

1. How well do we understand our responsibility as leaders to protect human rights?

2. How well are we respecting human rights in our work and leadership?

3. What improvements would put us in alignment with the guiding principles listed above?


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

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

Business Leader Future : A Sketch

Leading in a Complex Global Context

I did some research about global trends and challenges and how they will change the way we will lead in the future.  The answers I found explain why we sometimes feel that we’re in a perpetual state of disequilibrium.

The Leader of the Future

This description was adapted from the sources listed below.

The Leader of the Future is a globally aware, fast-learning, socially and financially responsible leader with amazing digital skills and social media savvy, who is agile, resilient and collaborative, demonstrates exceptional thinking skills, deals well with uncertainty, has connections across disciplines, synthesizes information easily to find meaning, learns quickly and continually, adapts to solving new and complex problems and meeting competing demands, is environmentally responsible, open and transparent, internationally mobile, with a global view and local cultural sensitivity, who cares about others, behaves and leads ethically, holds people accountable while helping to develop their leadership potential, serves as a change agent promoting responsible leadership, values differences, and engages diverse collections of employees, customers and communities in a common purpose.

Improving Our Leadership 

Consider these questions:

1. What does this business leader of the future do well that I need to learn?

2. How will learning in those areas make me a more responsible leader?

3. How will I engage the other leaders in the organization in learning with me?

4. How will making these changes in leadership help us survive and thrive?


Key Global Trends Impacting Leadership Hay Group Press Release About “Leadership 2030” Report

The Leader of the Future: Ten skills to begin developing now  Greatleadershipbydan.com

Emerging Leadership Trends Rick Lash, Hay Group on YouTube

The 2020 Leader: Attributes for Success in the 2020 Workplace Jeanne Meister at skillsoft.com

Emerging Leadership Journeys Spring 2011, Regent.edu

Shaping Health Systems Network: Emerging Leadership in a Global Context Center for Innovation in Health Management, UK

Emerging Leadership Issues  Lev Lafayette, doctoral candidate at the Ashworth Centre for Social Theory

Future Work Skills 2020 Research Institute for the Future


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

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

Complexity and Childhood Education

We are Beginning to Understand the Kind of Educational Leadership that Prepares Young Students for Success in Our Complex World. Many forward-thinking leaders are advocating the following educational approaches and roles that lead to creativity, learning, growth and innovation:

The Teaching Approach is more organic, flowing, rather than rigid and fixed. It is responsive and based on where the learners and learner groups need to go to take their learning to the next level.

The Teacher functions more like the “media specialist” – a supportive, human hub of information used when needed as learners explore subjects in their own way to integrate information. A human guide to “how to learn what you need to know to succeed in tomorrow’s world” and not “how to memorize” or “how to pass a test.”

The Measurement considers individual and group progress and learning, not just measurement to a “minimum standard.” We measure what we want them to do – grow, learn, deepen knowledge and understanding, think about and solve complex problems, and treat one another respectfully. Discussion of “right” and “wrong” answers is avoided. Complexity is embraced and discussed openly – when could something be right and when could it be wrong? How does thinking about the question in terms of “right and wrong” oversimplify it?

The Environment is respectful, safe, engaging and low-stress. The joy of learning is apparent and anything that can make students feel “not good enough” has been removed. People support each other’s learning and place that first, ahead of any other external measures of success. Students are encouraged to find out what they love to learn about and pursue that learning with a passion. Movement and music are used as ways to explore learning and sitting still is not considered necessary for learning to happen.

The Leadership puts the well-being of the whole child in first position when making decisions, and one of the top goals is to nurture a love for learning, fun, exploration and wonder. Leaders understand that learning is an organic process and that memorization alone does not prepare learners for life and work in our complex world. Technology and social media are embraced for their ability to help meet learner’s needs but not used as an “end” in themselves. Grades are considered a form of judgement and are used minimally or phased out in favor of measures of learning progress.

The Learner is engaged in following curiosity, developing individual gifts and talents, respecting and helping others and preparing to use individual gifts and talents in service to others as healthy and productive citizen of our global society. Basic skills are learned in that context, providing meaning and the intrinsic motivation for learners to excel. In this scenario, homework gradually becomes an outdated construct and learners have more time to explore the natural world, stay physically active and participate in community service.

The Possibilities

I believe that students are capable of achieving much more than we realize when the restrictions on learning are removed and they are free to explore our complex world with their own curiosity and love for learning. There are many courageous principals and teachers who are making these changes in their classrooms and schools, even within an educational infrastructure that is struggling to adapt to a new model of learning.

When we believe that innovative educational leadership is attainable – instead of accepting things as they are – everything changes.

Sources for Learning:

Linda Fisher Thornton is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Leadership for the University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies. She is also CEO/Owner of Leading in Context LLC, a consulting firm helping business leaders lead responsibly in a complex world.  Her background includes:

  • Executive Leadership Experience as Chief Learning Officer of a Virginia Bank
  • 26 Year Record of Engaging Training Design, Curriculum Planning and Group Facilitation 
  • Bachelors Degree in Communication and Linguistics from the University of Virginia
  • Masters Degree in Adult Education and Human Development from George Washington University
  • Award-Winning History of  Community Service and Training Relevance


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

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

Responsible Management Education: UN Principles

What is the Purpose of Management Education? 

The purpose of management education is obviously to develop capable and responsible managers. But what does that mean?

Does it mean:

  • Responsible profitability?
  • Service to society?
  • Economic development?
  • Sustainability?

How Do We Know What to Teach?

The UN Principles for Responsible Management Education guide us so that we can be sure that we are incorporating the global principles of  responsible management into our teaching and training. They provide clarity about the values we should focus on when teaching managers.

Principle 1 provides a great deal of clarity about the purpose and scope of our teaching:

Principle 1 | Purpose: We will develop the capabilities of students to be future generators of sustainable value for business and society at large and to work for an inclusive and sustainable global economy.

United Nations Principles for Responsible Management Education at unprme.org

Principles 2 through 6  provide guidance about how to achieve that purpose through Values, Method, Research, Partnership and Dialogue.

Our Clear Responsibility

If we had no guidelines, we’d be left to determine just what we wanted responsible business management to mean. Because these guidelines exist for us as educators, we are now compelled to stretch beyond whatever definition of  “responsible management and leadership” we are now using to incorporate this broader global definition.

There is no longer a place for the kind of management and leadership training that teaches only how to make money while following the law. There is so much more required of us that it is irresponsible to teach only profitability and law to the exclusion of other variables like sustainability and service to society that are important for our global future.

“We urge business schools to adopt the Principles and organizations to balance their economic and social objectives.”

Declaration for the 2nd Global Forum for Responsible Management Education

As Teachers and Trainers, We Need to Be Role Models for Others

When teaching managers and leaders in universities and corporations, we need to be sure that we are teaching the global values that will serve leaders well in our connected society. When we do, we are demonstrating and modeling responsible leadership and preparing leaders to be part of the solution as we solve problems that cross organizations, continents and disciplines.

“The Principles for Responsible Management Education have the capacity to take the case for universal values and business into classrooms on every continent.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, quoted on unprme.org

Questions for Discussion:

1. How well does our management and leadership education align with the UN Principles?

2. What are the major differences between what we are teaching and the UN Principles?

3. How will we realign what we do to be in line with the UN Principles?

4. How will our realignment with UN Principles help the leaders we teach be more responsible corporate and global citizens?


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

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

Leading in Context® Blog Index

Thank you for being committed to responsible leadership, and for following the Leading in Context® Blog. This Index includes over 550 posts that I have written since 2009 on a wide variety of subjects related to ethical leadership. May they help you find your way as you undertake the journey to authentic ethical leadership.

Helping You Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

Linda Fisher Thornton, CEO, Leading in Context LLC, LeadinginContext.com.                                                        © 2009-2018 Leading in Context® LLC. All rights reserved.


7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics
2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses 
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