"Think beyond ourselves in all of the scope and complexity that 'beyond ourselves' represents."
Linda Fisher Thornton, through her compelling guide, 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership, offers a clear, relevant set of proactive strategies to help leaders along the ethical leadership journey. Sounds simple and easy – but taking action is the key. As Fisher Thornton points out, “we deal with a complexity of information that is expanding exponentially”, which makes the constant need for balance, particularly when impacting workplace culture, challenging and in a state of never-ending transition. Fisher Thornton views ethical leadership through a variety of lenses, which underline differing levels of responsibility and focus amongst leaders. These lenses encourage a collaboration of ethics and leadership, meant to impact day-to-day choices and actions. Always maintaining a learning perspective, Fisher Thornton reveals, is integral to success. And, leading for “the greater good” will lead to a longer-term outcome that benefits society and future generations built on trust and integrity. Fisher Thornton also has excellent credentials. She is the CEO of Leading in Context and one of the 2013 Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior. Stephen M. R. Covey has written the forward for her book and says it “insightfully pulls together the bigger picture of what ethical responsibility includes and at the same time provides enough detail to guide daily actions as leaders…instructively takes a long-term view of leadership impact, and is steeped in how to build trust at many levels.” 7 Lenses aims to encourage a level of global service, inclusion, respect, and care which results in a better world for all. So, what are the 7 Lenses of ethical responsibility?
The Big Idea
Make the world better for future generations
"Movement toward leadership for the greater good is the expected level of ethics in a global society."
Fisher Thornton writes: “When we use all 7 Lenses together we see a kaleidoscopic view of ethical leadership that honors its inherent complexity.”
She moves through the 7 Lenses to show that there is an ever-increasing level of responsibility and impact:
- Lens One: Profit – Make Money
- Lens Two: Law – Comply
- Lens Three: Character – Be Moral
- Lens Four: People – Care
- Lens Five: Communities – Serve
- Lens Six: Planet – Sustain
- Lens Seven: Greater Good – Do Good
The idea is to work all seven lenses concurrently, from making money through to concern for the greater good. If you just focus on Lens One, which is profit, or Lens Two, which is avoiding penalties by complying with laws and regulations, then money is where your morality will be, or you will be grounded in the punishment threshold of worrying about the need to comply. Instead, lead with Lens Seven, and focus on benefitting society and future generations. At the same time, always consider and integrate Lens Six, which is respecting life and nature; Lens Five, helping those in need; Lens Four, respecting others; and Lens Three, aligning your thoughts, words, and deeds.
Apply moral concepts
"Bring out the best in people, organizations, and communities, with principles that are broad enough to provide a framework for leading ethically in any context."
Fisher Thornton introduces 14 Guiding Principles of Ethical Leadership to help incorporate the 7 Lenses into day-to-day decisions and actions:
Lead With a Moral Compass
- Principle 1: Demonstrate Personal Congruence
- Principle 2: Be Morally Aware
- Principle 3: Stay Competent
- Principle 4: Model Expected Performance and Leadership
Lead in Ways That Bring Out the Best in Others
- Principle 5: Respect Others
- Principle 6: Respect Boundaries
- Principle 7: Trust and Be Trustworthy
- Principle 8: Communicate Openly
- Principle 9: Generate Effective and Ethical Performance
Lead With Positive Intent and Impact
- Principle 10: Think Like an Ethical Leader
- Principle 11: Do Good Without Doing Harm
- Principle 12: Work for Mutually Beneficial Solutions
Lead for the Greater Good
- Principle 13: Protect Our Planet for Future Generations
- Principle 14: Improve Our Global Society for Future Generations
The first step starts with you – leading with a moral compass – which means consistency between what you feel, say, and do, and aligning your actions with your core values. As Stephen M.R. Covey states: “People who are congruent act in harmony with their deepest values and beliefs…The voice they listen and respond to is the quiet voice of conscience.” A foundation of moral and ethical awareness, and the continued development of personal competence, will earn the respect of others. From here, you will emerge as a strong leader, bringing out the best in others, moving forward with positive intent and impact, which can help shape the world for future generations.
Leadership for the greater good
"Move from thinking about leadership as ‘transactional’ to thinking about leadership for the ‘greater good’."
To show the expected evolution of leadership, Fisher Thornton talks about six connected trends shaping the future of ethical leadership:
- Broadening scope
- Increased visibility
- Focus on protecting human rights
- Companies contributing to society
- Managing ethics as a performance system
- Retooling skills to stay ethically competent
Broadening scope is about moving beyond the local mindset to the global mindset. There is an increased visibility of products and services around the world, which means we should provide customers with positive experiences fueled by strong ethics and leadership. At the same time, we are all unique and all connected, making human rights and respect a critical component of every interaction. Companies should always be thinking about the business impacts on the environment and how they contribute to society. Ethics should be communicated clearly through an ethics code, incorporating consistent messaging through a moral compass. We need to be thinking as global citizens, collaborating across boundaries, which means constantly retooling to stay ethically competent.
Throughout 7 Lenses, Fisher Thornton invites leaders to think beyond themselves, and communicate openly about ethical responsibility and how to take action in our connected, interdependent world. Ultimately, the 7 Lenses and 14 Guiding Principles are meant to be transformative, and to release positive energy into the workplace, creating great places to work. It is part of a powerful and necessary movement, Fisher Thornton concludes, making us better leaders and people.
While reading the book, I felt inspired to focus on the ethics of service, the greater good, and the value of honesty and respect. While these values seem simple, it is easy to get caught up in the minutiae of generating revenue and day-to-day operations. Yet, living at the broader level – of benefitting society and future generations – does encourage business changes that lead to greater happiness, every day, and greater fulfillment. Ethical leadership is a way of thinking that leads to new behaviour and outcomes that benefit everyone.
How do you plan to embrace ethical leadership?