What is Duality?

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

What is Duality?

What is duality? This is a tricky question, because the answer depends on your perspective and why you’re asking. Each discipline answers the question from a different angle. This post samples the varying disciplinary perspectives on duality.

Two Parts in Perpetual Opposition 

“Dualism (from the Latin word duo meaning “two”) denotes a state of two parts… Dualism can refer to moral dualism, (e.g. the conflict between good and evil), mind-body or mind-matter dualism (e.g. Cartesian Dualism) or physical dualism (e.g. the Chinese Yin and Yang).”

http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/duality?region=us dual nature

Duality in Human Nature   

“Stevenson describes how there is a good and an evil side to everyone’s personality, but what is important is how you behave and the decisions you make. The choices people make determine whether a person is good or not.”

Themes, Duality of Human Nature, BBC (On Stephenson, the Author of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde)

Duality in Language

“I take the term ‘duality’ to stand for an opposition or dichotomy between, or of, two entities.Some examples of dualities are: Day and Night, Left and Right (i.e., polarities of direction,and chirality, ‘handedness’), Positive and Negative (e.g., electromagnetic poles, values), Lifeand Death, Male and Female, Up and Down (i.e., polarities of spatial dimensions), True andFalse, Right and Wrong, etc.”

Begley, The Concept of Duality and its Representation in Language as Antonymy

Duality in Neuroscience and Cognition

“The idea that we have ‘two minds’, only one of which corresponds to personal, volitional cognition, has also wide implications beyond cognitive science.”

Frankish, The Duality of Mind

Duality in Leadership

In terms of ethical leadership, duality can refer to good and evil. But good and evil are not mutually exclusive. Someone is not “all good” or “all evil.”  We each have the capacity for both. So in ethical leadership, duality is an oversimplification. 

At the highest levels of leadership, thinking is more complex and duality is transcended.

Level 5 leaders are a study in duality: modest and willful, humble and fearless.” 

Jim Collins, Good to Great

We must stretch to see the complexity of ethical leadership, looking beyond the “all or nothing” “one or the other” thinking that duality represents. 

 

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The Messages Micromanagement Sends

magnifying-glass-48956_1280By Linda Fisher Thornton

Micromanaging is not just another “leadership style.” It harms people. When leaders micromanage, they send many negative messages to employees. Take a look at this list of more than 20 negative unspoken messages micromanagement sends to employees. Can you afford to let this happen in your organization? 

The Unspoken Messages of Micromanagement

  • I don’t think you can do it
  • I know how to do it and you don’t
  • I don’t trust you 
  • If I leave you alone, you’ll mess things up
  • Do what I say
  • Don’t think for yourself
  • I’m in control
  • If I didn’t think of it, I won’t like it
  • I see everything you do. 
  • I don’t respect you
  • I’m the one who matters on this team
  • I’ll be looking over your shoulder
  • I know I’m going to catch you doing something wrong
  • I’m not here to be liked
  • I’m going to find every mistake you make and call it to your attention
  • I’m not here to cater to you
  • You’ll never move up in this company
  • Your motivation is irrelevant
  • I may be doing this because I’m insecure about my leadership
  • I need to feel important
  • I may not have had any positive leadership role models
  • I may think this is what good leadership looks like
  • I don’t think you know what you’re doing
  • I don’t care if this behavior makes you uncomfortable
  • I may have been promoted too soon, before I learned how to lead others

Micromanagement may result from a high need for control or an unwillingness/inability to trust. A leader may not have had a positive leadership role model, or may have been promoted without any leadership development and left to sink or swim. These are just a few of the possible causes. If your boss is micromanaging you, you might find this helpful: 15 Ways to Get Your Boss to Stop Micromanaging You. If you think you might be a micromanager, you might want to read Signs That You’re a Micromanager. 

If you are an employer and a leader in your organization is micromanaging, you’ll need to act fast to provide development and coaching so the leader doesn’t send all of those negative messages to your talented employees. Otherwise, those essential and talented employees you thought were on a long-term career path with your firm may be heading for the career exit. 

 

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Rights, Responsibilities and Freedom

question-1422600_1920By Linda Fisher Thornton

While some people think of rights, responsibilities and freedom separately, in a compartmentalized way, I believe they cannot be separated. According to John Courtney Murray, freedom was always intended to be grounded in ethical values.

“Freedom was not conceived in terms of the sheer subjective autonomy of the will. Man’s freedom, like man himself, stood within the moral universe. It meant the objective right to act; it meant what Acton defined as “the right to do what one ought.”

John Courtney Murray, S.J., Freedom, Responsibility, and the Law, Woodstock Theological Library, Georgetown University

All Three Concepts Are Morally Defined

Here is an excerpt from a previous post I wrote that addresses the relationship between rights and responsibilities: 

“Can rights and responsibilities be separated? Clearly they are both part of good citizenship and ethical leadership. But what happens if we try to separate them? If we demand our rights but fail to live up to our responsibilities, we will have a negative impact on others. 

If we assert individual rights without also taking responsibility, we are asking for more than we are willing to give. We are conveying that what we want is more important than what others want. We are demanding that our needs be met without caring about what happens to others.

Under those circumstances the answer to “Can rights and responsibilities be separated?” is ‘Yes, but not ethically.'”

Linda Fisher Thornton, Leaders: Can Rights and Responsibilities Be Separated?,  Leading in Context Blog

All three concepts – rights, responsibilities and freedom, fall within what John Courtney Murray called “the moral universe.” To be whole, then, arguments advocating rights and freedoms must include a willingness to take responsibility. As ethical leaders, we need to talk about them as a “package deal” to ensure that we are always taking responsibility for our actions. 

 

 

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Unethical Leadership: Selective Respect

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

We’ve seen selective respect too often. Beyond harming the people who are disrespected, it also destroys trust, and leads to chaotic environments and fear-based cultures. Even though we’ve all seen selective respect in action, we may not have had the vocabulary to describe why it’s wrong (beyond calling it mean or inappropriate). This week I’m digging in to those details. 

I define “selective respect” as doling out respect only under certain circumstances. It is not an ethical leadership behavior since it applies the ethical value of respect conditionally and not universally. 

Examples of Selective Respect in Action:

  • Teachers picking on certain students while encouraging others.
  • “Cool” kids teasing less popular kids while being chummy with their friends.
  • Employees repeating ethnic jokes or otherwise demeaning certain groups of people.
  • Public leaders treating people in their groups (political, racial, religious, gender, etc.) kindly while alienating and attacking others. 

The times when respect is applied may be predictable (certain people or groups are predictably respected or not respected) or unpredictable (who is treated respectfully varies from moment to moment).

Important Ethical Principles Selective Respect Violates:

  • Respect for Others (the ethical principle is not respect for certain others, it is respect for all others)
  • Respect for Differences (this requires moving beyond the “like me” bias)
  • Trustworthiness (only some people can trust you to treat them well)
  • Moral Awareness (shows a lack of awareness that respect is a minimum standard for ethical leadership and must be universally applied)
  • Ethical Competence (selective respect is a sign of failure to stay ethically  competent)
  • Ethical Thinking (believing that some people are “not worthy” of respect is unethical thinking)
  • Modeling Expected Behavior (selective respect shows others the route to an unethical path, multiplying the error and the harm it generates)

Are you tired of people talking about toxic leadership behaviors as different “styles” or different approaches to leadership, without saying what really needed to be said? When you see leaders using selective respect, call it what it is – unethical leadership.

 

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In the post comments, one reader mentioned the risks of “calling out” an ethical leader in a toxic culture. If you work in a toxic culture, read Taking on a Workplace Bully to assess the risks before you call out unethical leadership. 

For More on Unethical Leadership: Unethical Thinking Leads to Unethical Leadership

Building Trust: What to Weed Out

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I was weeding in the garden this week, and I discovered two new weeds that were taller than I was. I started thinking about how quickly things can get away from us, in the garden and in our organizations. There are actions we must take to build a high trust workplace. But there are equally important things that we must prevent or weed out for trust to flourish.

What are the things that can get away from us if not corrected quickly? What can damage the trust we have worked so hard to build? What do we need to weed out for trust to flourish?

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A “Weed Out” List For Trust Building

  • Needing to be “right”
  • Being too busy to listen
  • Saying one thing and doing another
  • Treating people like “resources” rather than humans
  • Being disrespectful to any one or any group
  • Selectively praising only favorite employees
  • Blaming instead of resolving the problem
  • Correcting employees in public
  • Withholding information from people who need it to be successful
  • Asking people to do something you are not willing to do
  • Vague values
  • Mixed messages (“use the highest ethics” AND “do whatever it takes to make the numbers”)
  • Oversimplified conversations about ethics (which leaves it to individual discretion)
  • Fear-based or controlling leadership
  • Failure of leaders to learn and grow as times change
  • Not listening to employees who want to improve processes and results
  • Using profit-centered (instead of values-centered) leadership
  • Ignoring work complexity and leaving people to “figure it out”
  • Status-based communication (top down, don’t ask questions)
  • Using cause-and-effect thinking in a systems world
  • Generating high stress situations (without providing support for employee well-being)

I realize now that this list could go on… and on…. What else do you think we should “weed out” to build and nurture high trust cultures?

 

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

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

Leading For Ethical Performance

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Discouraging Unethical Leadership 

One of the most important responsibilities of the senior leadership team is to discourage unethical behavior and build an ethical culture. Senior leaders need to work together as a team to create an organization where ethical leadership is rewarded and unethical leadership is quickly corrected.

Modeling Ethical Behavior 

To build an ethical company, every senior leader needs to model the ethical leadership behavior that is expected, and promote ongoing conversations about how to lead ethically.

Leading Organizational Ethics

Beyond modeling expected ethical behavior, each senior leader also leads the ethical aspects of their role for the organization as a whole. For example, the Chief Human Resource Officer also oversees the ethical performance management system, and the The Chief Learning Officer works to build the organization’s ethical understanding and ethical competence.

To build an ethical organization over time, Chief Learning Officers can work with leaders throughout the organization to build ethical competence in areas that support effective communication and leadership. Building ethical competence and having an ongoing dialogue about ethical leadership will make it easier to identify and correct unethical behavior (think about the headlines and lessons learned as you review this list that can get you started):

• Employees who ask tough questions of leaders are praised, not punished or ignored.

• Leaders are evaluated on how they communicate and lead, not just on their bottom line results.

• Employees are screened for ethical behavior before they are hired.

• Performance problems are corrected quickly, so that they are not given time to be considered acceptable  by others.

• Recognition is given to leaders who achieve financial goals ethically, while engaging employees and using responsible leadership (not to leaders who achieve results at the expense of employees, customers, or organizational values).

Linda Fisher Thornton, Ethical Leadership Training: Why is it So Hard to get it Right?, Training and Development Journal, Best of Leadership Development 2009

Individual Effort, Collaborative Effort

Leading for ethical performance requires a concerted effort from each member of the senior leadership team and a collaborative, integrated approach at the team level.

Leading for ethical performance requires:

  • aligning performance management around clear ethical expectations for behavior
  • hiring for ethical performance
  • modeling ethical leadership expectations at all leadership levels
  • requiring that those expectations are met every time, and
  • developing ethical leaders using ongoing dialogue and training

Building an Ethical Culture

By leading for ethical performance, senior leaders are also creating a work culture where people work well together as a team.

“Our work indicates that not only do leaders have to be moral individuals, but also have to go one step further and actively model ethical behaviors and use reward and punishment systems to influence followers’ behaviors. Thus, companies that can hire and/or train ethical leaders are more likely to create ethical and interpersonally harmonious work environments.”

Mayer, Acuino, Greenbaum & Kuenzi, Who Displays Ethical Leadership and Why Does it Matter? , Academy of Management Journal 2012, online at bus.umich.edu.

Related Article:

Ethical Leadership Culture: The Case of The Dissenting Senior Leader, Linda Fisher Thornton, Leading in Context Blog, January 26, 2011

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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 

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