Great Leaders Unite

By Linda Fisher Thornton

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The most capable and ethically competent leaders reach for unity, which represents the highest levels of interpersonal and global responsibility. While it would be much easier, the best leaders don’t just aim for “getting along” or “getting by.”
Queen Elizabeth II said “I know of no single formula for success. But over the years I have observed that some attributes of leadership are universal and are often about finding ways of encouraging people to combine their efforts, their talents, their insights, their enthusiasm and their inspiration to work together.”
Great leaders use meaningful connections, shared values and mutual understanding to bring people together. Their decisions and chosen paths are mutually beneficial for multiple constituents. They understand leadership as a process of bringing out the individual and collective best in others for the long-term good.

The words and actions of the best leaders unite and uplift rather than divide and tear down. They use a calm demeanor and peaceful means to reach desired ends. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Divide and rule, the politician cries; unite and lead, is watchword of the wise.”

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5 Things Money Can’t Buy (Even Now)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I had the opportunity a few years ago to hear Michael Sandel, professor from Harvard and author of What Money Can’t Buy, speak at the University of Richmond about “the sky-boxification of society.” He talked about how easy it is today to buy your way into a better situation (or a sky box). I just finished reading Tom Friedman’s book Thank You for Being Late and in it Friedman refers to and builds on Sandel’s observations. 

I started thinking about some of the qualities that are highly valuable and make leaders great that money can’t buy – some of the priceless qualities that define great leadership. Here are 5:

5 Things Money Can’t Buy (Even Now)

  1. Trust – (only achieved through intentional use of positive interpersonal behaviors that build mutually beneficial relationships over time)
  2. Integrity – (only achieved when thoughts, words and deeds align)
  3. Authenticity – (only reached through personal struggle, service to others and an intentional growth journey)
  4. Sincerity – (only achieved when you avoid lies, partial truths, rules that apply to others but not to you, and choices that harm others)
  5. Growth – (you can pay for education, but being open to learning and growth must be chosen)

Money may be a token of exchange in the global marketplace, but so are these 5 priceless leadership qualities that money can’t buy. It is these essential priceless qualities that enable leaders to bring out the best in diverse, connected groups of people working toward a common goal. These are leadership qualities that kindle people’s imagination, creativity and innovation (which are needed to solve today’s complex problems). 

What other positive qualities (that money can’t buy) define great leadership? Feel free to comment with your additions to the list. 

If you enjoy the Leading in Context Blog, here are 5 ways you can help this important movement: 

  • SPREAD THE WORD: Encourage others to subscribe, or share a link to your favorite post
  • READ THE BOOK: Get a copy of 7 Lenses, in  Paperback or for Kindle, iPad, and Nook. Share it with a friend, or with your Book Club or leader group. 
  • SCHEDULE A WORKSHOP: Help your team or organization gain insight into positive, proactive ethical thinking and action with a workshop led by 7 Lenses author Linda Fisher Thornton.
  • PARTICIPATE IN THE CONVERSATION: Engage in dialogue on social media. Imagine better leadership with others. Let people know what you’re learning. Include @leadingincontxt in your Tweets. 
  • SUGGEST A TOPIC: Suggest a future topic you want to learn more about by commenting on a blog post or contacting Leading in Context. 

Together, we can make a positive difference. 

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Ethical Leaders See Their Choices Through All 7 Lenses

Includes case examples and questions.

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

Ethical Leadership: The “On Switch” For Adaptability

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The post “Leader Competence: Will It Be A Multiplier or Divider?generated some great discussion on social media. Here’s a quote from the post:

“Leader competence is either going to be a multiplier or a divider. When you have it, you multiply performance and trust, with exponential results. Without it, you divide your possible results by the incompetence factor.”

After reading the post, one reader requested that I write more on the topic. This week I’m digging deeper into the multiplying and dividing effects of leader (in)competence, looking at how a leader’s ethical competence impacts trust, people, bottom line results and organizational adaptability:

Impact on Trust

Competent ethical leaders intentionally build trust.

Incompetent leaders damage trust (and they may or may not be aware of it/and they may or may not care).

Impact on Bottom Line Results

Competent ethical leaders set the stage for people to do great work and then get out of their way. They support and enable great performance. This releases powerful pent-up energy within the organization that improves employee satisfaction, retention and productivity and fuels positive bottom line results.

Incompetent leaders can confuse, misdirect, distract and un-empower people, and the resulting loss of productivity reduces bottom line results. How? It increases turnover and reduces employee satisfaction and productivity, which erodes customer service quality and customer retention (and so on).

Impact on People

Competent ethical leaders know that their success depends on enabling the success of others. It is at its core about service and support and not prestige or privilege.

Incompetent leaders may mistakenly believe that leadership is all about them, and people don’t usually trust an incompetent leader enough to tell them that THEY are the problem. Employees may have to risk their wrath to get work done the right way when a leader is determined to use old thinking, old behavior and old leadership approaches that don’t work in a global society.

Incompetent leaders divide people by not communicating clear standards, giving all the good projects to “favorites,” or playing games with people to try to maintain the fragile illusion that they are “in charge.” Ethically competent leaders know that any illusion that they are “in charge” is not only false, it is a “brand-killer,” a “trust killer” and a “results killer.”

Impact on Adaptability

Adaptability is the key to an organization’s survival, and in the midst of accelerated global change and uncertainty, it provides a critical competitive advantage. Leaders who make it a priority to stay competent see the need to help others stay competent, and that helps everyone respond to change quickly.

Incompetent leaders don’t stay current, and since they don’t stay current, they probably don’t realize (or don’t care) that others in their organizations need to stay current. They do things that competent ethical leaders  know are counterproductive and harmful. The lack of leader awareness and failure to stay current creates a DRAG on the group and the organization that can make adaptability next to impossible.

The Equation

Ethical leadership competence is an adaptability enabler, people uniter and results multiplier. Ethical leadership incompetence is an adaptability reducer, a people divider and a results diminisher. 

Adaptability is a key challenge for leaders and organizations, and ethical leadership is a critical tool for “switching it on.”

The Adaptability Paradox

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Ethical Leaders See Their Choices Through All 7 Lenses

Includes case examples and questions.

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

Top 10 Posts 2016: Leading in Context Blog

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Of the 52 posts published on the Leading in Context Blog in 2016, these 10 were the most popular. See if you notice a theme that connects these topics that readers accessed most frequently:

10 Ways the Leadership Relationship is Changing (Part 1)

Great Leaders are Other-Focused

The Future of Learning Isn’t About “Knowing”

15 Quotes for Leadership Insight

Leaders, Don’t You Care? (9 Red Flags That Tell Employees You Don’t)

5 Insights Into the Future of Leadership Development Part 1

Every Leader is a Work in Progress (Yes, Even You)

What Does “Good Leadership” Mean?

What Does it Mean to “Be a Leader?”

Ethical Failures: What Causes Them?

If I had to pick a theme for these posts that were most popular in 2016, it would be “Understanding Leader Roles, Responsibilities and Relationships.” Which 2016 post was your favorite? If you have ethical leadership topics you want to learn more about in 2017, comment here, or tweet your idea to @leadingincontxt!

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Prepare For Ethical Leadership Future – Learn To See Through All 7 Lenses

Includes case examples and questions.

Click the book cover for a preview.

 

 

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

 

 

20 Quotes To Inspire Leaders in the New Year (Part 2)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Are your leaders prepared for the year ahead? Each day will bring new challenges. To succeed within ethical boundaries, they’ll need a clear picture of “good leadership.”

This series includes 20 quotes (linked to posts with leadership guidance) to inspire you and help you improve your leader development. Part 1 included the first 10. Here are 10 more:

Demonstrating care is one of the hallmark requirements of good leadership. 

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.

Leaders are the key to values alignment – they model and reinforce values and hold people accountable for following them. 

The triple bottom line, a great improvement over “win at all cost,” is only the beginning. The future of work will require much more.

Leaders are culture caretakers. To fulfill that role successfully, they need to know what a positive ethical culture looks like.

Hands-off leadership can be as bad as micromanagement in terms of its ultimate impact on organizational ethics.

Understanding what causes ethical failures can help us build a more robust infrastructure for preventing them.

We must grow into our ethical leadership competence… intentionally…over time. 

Trust transforms.

Leading with positive ethical values builds trust and brings out the best in people, which brings out the best in the organization, which leads to great results.

As we approach 2017, be sure your leadership team is ready for what’s ahead. Use these links to consider how to improve leadership development in your organization. Make sure each leader is clear about what “good leadership” looks like in action. 

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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.

Click the book cover for a preview.

 

 

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

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

Leaders-influence-others (1)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When the leader improves, everybody can do more.

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

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

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

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

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Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future – Help Them Learn To See Through The 7 Lenses®. 

Includes case examples and questions.

Click the book cover for a preview.

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Do You Recognize a Trustworthy Leader?

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

I’m hearing people talking about trustworthy leadership everywhere I go. We all crave it. We seek it out because trustworthy leadership allows us to be at our best so that we can make a meaningful contribution.

To recognize a trustworthy leader, look for all of these tell-tale signs:

  • Values Centered – character, integrity and moral awareness are top priorities
  • Full Congruence – behaves the same way in every context, and shows congruence between thoughts, words and deeds
  • Genuinely Cares – treats people well – everybody, not just the inner circle
  • Shows Respect  – demonstrates respect for people and differences
  • Other Focused – realizes that leadership is about bringing out the best in others – and it shows in every interaction and conversation

The best leaders strive to live out all five of these characteristics every day. They center themselves in positive ethical values like respect, care and trustworthiness. 

What should you do if you can’t find a trustworthy leader? Keep looking. They’re out there.

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Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future – Help Them Learn To See Through The 7 Lenses®. 

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

Click the cover to read a free preview!

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

Leaders Are Culture Caretakers: 10 Actions For Success

 

leaders-are-culture-1

By Linda Fisher Thornton

There are many ways to understand culture, and some of the definitions are very complicated. My favorite way to think about culture is as an infrastructure or scaffolding that supports the behaviors we want. Culture drives what people do, and is the setting and framework for great work.

What leads to strong ethical cultures? Here are 10 critically important actions every leader should take:

  1. Keep Ethics Alive and Relevant
  2. Build an Engaging, High Trust Culture
  3. Establish Positive Conditions for Success
  4. Learn Ethical Thinking
  5. Develop Ethical Leadership Competence 
  6. Demonstrate Organizational Integrity
  7. Manage Ethics as a Performance System
  8. Have Meaningful Conversations About Staying Ethical
  9. Tend the Culture Carefully to Prevent Gaps
  10. Weed Out Negative Interpersonal Behaviors

Leaders are culture caretakers. To fulfill that role successfully, they need to know what a positive ethical culture looks like. Start the conversation today. 

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Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future. 

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

Click the cover to read a free preview!

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

What Does it Mean to Win?

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

What it means to “win” in business has changed. Driving this change is a greater awareness of the impact we have on each other:

  • A better understanding of our global connectedness
  • An awareness that laws aren’t ideal ethical standards, just punishment thresholds
  • A greater focus on human rights and dignity and human well-being
  • Increased attention on the well-being of communities

The message used to be “WIN at all cost” to achieve strong financial performance. Then we began to consider what happened to  other people when we “won at all cost” and “Win-Win” became the mantra. As we gradually became aware of our many stakeholders, “Win-Win-Win” looked better – paying attention to the triple bottom line, our impact on Profits, People and the Planet. 

When we consider our interdependence and the leadership context, the way we think about a “win” changes. 

Driving this change is also a greater awareness of the global context:

  • Our constituents are global, and our impact is global
  • We are part of a connected, global economy
  • We are experiencing dwindling natural spaces and increasing demand for natural resources
  • Global citizenship is a growing issue as we deal with border management and complex social issues
  • Leadership and ethical duties are inseparable if we are going to create a positive environment, locally and globally

The triple bottom line, a great improvement over “win at all cost,” is only the beginning. The future of work will require much more. Taking extended stakeholders and the broad responsibilities of corporate social responsibility into account, we are ultimately looking for a 7 Way Win. To learn more, see The Triple Bottom Line is Just the Beginning and 7 Definitions of “Good” (Why We Disagree About Ethics).

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Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future. 

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

 

 

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

 

Is Our Ethics Who We Are Or What We Do?

 

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This week’s question is about what defines our ethics – “Is our ethics based on who we are or what we do?” Some people would argue that we have a persona, a manner, that is either ethical or not. Others would say that it is our decisions and actions that define how ethical we are, and therefore our ethicality changes from moment to moment.

Instead of trying to decide which perspective is right, we would be well advised to take our lead from Aristotle. He conveyed in his famous quote “we are what we repeatedly do” that our ethical persona and actions cannot be separated. 

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Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future – Help Them Learn To See Through The 7 Lenses®. 

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

Click the cover to read a free preview!

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

Ready to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)? – Part 3

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The first post in this series addressed ACCOUNTABILITY. The second asked you to evaluate your IMPACT. These four ways to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good) focus on MANAGING THE SYSTEM.

Ready to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)?

Manage the System

  1. COMMUNICATE OPENLY ABOUT ETHICAL ISSUES: Are ethical expectations clear and widely communicated? Does widely communicated include open conversations about grey areas? If not, start those conversations, framing them as important ways to change the ethics quo and improve the organization. 
  2. BRING ETHICS TO LIFE: Does ethics have a life beyond procedures and the shelf full of ethics manuals? Are the materials readable and relatable so that people can succeed in applying them? Are they current? Are they followed? If not, find ways to bring ethics to life so that people know it’s “the way we do things” and not “that binder on the second shelf.”
  3. REWARD ETHICAL CHOICES: Is ethical behavior rewarded just as much as financial profitability (in promotions, awards and public recognition)? If not, the message of your ethics system is “we are ethical unless it interferes with making money.” Get it straight by making ethics at least as important as (or more important than) profits.
  4. INTEGRATE ETHICS INTO EVERYTHING: Is ethics an integrated part of all training and performance management instead of being “separate?” If ethics training is separate that may give the impression that ethics can be separated from good performance and good leadership. If performance is rewarded based on results and not ethics, you’ll get results without ethics. Make sure that ethics is a thread woven through every learning experience for every audience and through the fabric of your culture. 

We may think that things are going well when there are no major problems, but that’s a “false reading” for ethics. Without prevention and taking the steps recommended in this series, we will be “putting out fires” and cleaning up damage to our organization’s reputation. Don’t wait for that to happen. This week, work on these important ways to MANAGE THE SYSTEM.

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Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future – Help Them Learn To See Through The 7 Lenses®. 

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

Click the cover to read a free preview!

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

What Is Organizational Integrity?

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Individual integrity is the full alignment in what a person thinks, says and does. Taking that concept to another level, this post will explore the question “what is organizational integrity?”

Clearly, organizational integrity is broader than individual integrity, but what does it include? It seems to me that taking the concept of individual integrity to the organizational level, organizational integrity would mean full alignment in what an organization thinks, says and does.

When an organization demonstrates full alignment, all company messages, actions, decisions, leadership and rewards align. It’s not enough to just ensure alignment, though, because alignment without values can lead an organization away from ethical decisions and actions.

Messages, actions, decisions, leadership and rewards  must be aligned around positive ethical values that the entire organization supports.

This positive values-based alignment in what an organization values, says and does creates the scaffolding for an ethical culture. What does your organization say it values? How consistently does it live out those values in daily practice?

If your leaders are all perfectly clear about which high level ethical values to uphold and how to demonstrate them, you are probably incorporating complexity into your leadership development. You are also probably providing leaders with the level of detail about ethical values that they need to navigate through information overload, constant change and demands from multiple stakeholders. If not, you may be rolling the dice by taking an “I’ll know it when I see it” approach to ethics.

Linda Fisher Thornton, “What Is Integrity?: Beyond I’ll Know it When I See It”, Leading in Context Blog

Leaders are the key to values alignment – they model and reinforce values and hold people accountable for following them. Organizational integrity (at its most effective) is what happens when leaders consistently immerse an organization in positive ethical values and align all leadership, actions, decisions, messages, and reward systems accordingly.

 

 

Top 100 Leadership Blog

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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.

Click the cover to read a free preview!

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

Leaders, Don’t You Care? (9 Red Flags That Tell Employees You Don’t)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Demonstrating care is one of the hallmark requirements of good leadership. In addition to caring about what happens in our own careers, we must CARE about people, about their success, and about creating a positive work environment. If leaders don’t seem to care, that harms the organization’s culture.

The 9 behaviors below are red flags for employees – pointing out that a leader doesn’t care.

9 Red Flags That Tell Employees You Don’t Care

  1. Being too busy to meet with people
  2. Not showing interest in people or their success
  3. Asking about how someone is doing, then losing interest or becoming distracted when they answer
  4. Breaking promises, not acting on commitments
  5. Telling people you’re sure they’ll figure it out on their own when they come to you for help
  6. Failing to recognize accomplishments and milestones
  7. Asking people to do some of your work, then taking credit for it
  8. Withdrawing during times of change when support is most needed
  9. Making YOUR OWN success more important than THEIRS (missing the point that as a leader, their success is the measure of your own)

All 9 of these choices hurt employees who want to do their best and who want a manager who believes in them. They are behaviors that damage trust, reduce engagement and limit productivity. 

The bottom line? Acting like you don’t care might work if you’re leading a team of robots – but people expect more.

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Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future – Help Them Learn To See Through The 7 Lenses®. 

Click the cover to read a free preview!

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

What Does it Mean to “Be a Leader?”

What-Does-it-Mean-to-Be

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Leadership is not about being “in charge” or standing “at the front of the room” or “exercising personal power.” Authentic ethical leadership flips that paradigm. 

The authentic ethical leader is:

  • Standing beside, encouraging, supporting, guiding
  • Standing in the back offering encouragement
  • Stepping aside when people are capable of doing the work without support
  • Stepping forward to remove obstacles and clear the path for success
  • Taking responsibility and sharing credit
  • Being available and ready to help

This is the work of leadership.

Do not be fooled by someone trying to use power for personal gain. Bottom line — If it’s loud, self-serving and egotistical, it’s not leadership. 

 

Top 100 Leadership Blog

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Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future – Help Them Learn To See Through The 7 Lenses®. 

Click the cover to read a free preview!

 

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

What’s Does Genuine Respect Look Like?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

We can disagree calmly in ways that help us solve problems together, or we can show our stripes by using aggressive behavior under the banner of “with all due respect.” Whichever approach we use, how we interpret respect impacts the people around us. 

There is no place for disrespectful behavior in a “good” society. Even if we agree on that point, respect can be understood from a variety of angles. You may already be thinking of a leader who operated in the red zone (in the graphic above), creating a toxic environment that caused emotional harm.

Real respect is not one dimensional.  

You may have also encountered people operating in the yellow zone who were carefully polite but did not go out of their way to help others or demonstrate care.  

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

How we choose to offer respect to others is an ethical issue. A narrow view – for example, “I will respect whoever I choose to respect and no one else” can lead to negative interpersonal behavior, which increases tension, conflict and stress. 

Leaders with a SELFish understanding of respect may look for opportunities to BENEFIT THEMSELVES by using respect selectively. 

Leaders with an OTHERish understanding of respect might look for opportunities to BE FAIR AND EQUAL in respecting others, not showing favoritism to certain groups, but showing respect for all. 

Respect at the highest level incorporates positive intent and impact. 

Leaders with a high level OTHERish understanding of respect (that incorporates care for others) will go beyond using polite behavior to look for opportunities to help and be in service to others. They will tend to stay in the green zone, where they don’t just “not offend people,” they have an intentional positive impact on others.

I think of the “respect” in the yellow zone as only the minimum standard for interpersonal behavior. Don’t great leaders give so much more?

Top 100 Leadership Blog

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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.

Click the cover to read a free preview!

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

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