The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Leading For the Future: Responding to Increasing Ethical Expectations

ethics-trainingThis blog post was contributed by Linda Fisher Thornton, chief executive officer of Leading in Context LLC and adjunct associate professor at University of Richmond. Fisher Thornton, author of the book 7 Lenses, recently presented a CUPA-HR webinar on the topic of ethical leadership, which you can now view on-demand at no charge.

How can we help prepare our organizations’ leaders to succeed in a socially and globally connected world? There are specific strategies that will help your leadership team prepare for the future. Organizations employing the following strategies will help leaders stretch to stay on top of changing expectations.

Be Clear, Keep It Relevant and Ground Learning in Ethical Values
To prepare leaders to make confident values-based choices, leadership development needs to be clear and based on positive ethical values. To make it worth the time spent participating, every aspect must be relevant to meeting their current challenges.

Embrace Complexity, Honor Learning Trends and Use a Growth Mindset
Leaders need support as they learn to embrace complexity (and seek meaning in an age of information overload). We will need to use a growth mindset, letting leaders know that we understand that learning to lead responsibly is a lifelong journey. We will also need to honor learning trends and acknowledge that in many cases, leaders can be the architects of their own learning.

Build Trust and Welcome Open Dialogue
Welcoming open dialogue about any aspect of leadership will help leaders feel comfortable asking questions. If we are going to make responsible leadership a way of life in our organizations, we will also need to help our leaders steep their leadership in mutual trust – which includes trusting others and being a trustworthy leader.

Think Ahead and Prepare Them for the “Leadership Future”
If we prepare leaders to handle today’s problems, that doesn’t mean they will be ready to handle the problems of tomorrow. The solution? Aim well ahead of the curve of change, to where the field of leadership is headed. Leaders need a strong infrastructure grounded in ethical values and lots of opportunities for learning and conversation. With the pace of change accelerating, how does leadership development need to change? We must prepare leaders for where they’re going to be (not just where they are now) and help them stay competent in a rapidly changing world.

Three Questions – Are Our Leaders Ready For The Future?
Are leaders capable of handling the complexity of work life and meeting ethical expectations? If so, how can we build on what they know in mentoring leaders across the organization? If not, is our approach to leadership development too oversimplified to be helpful?

Are leaders crystal clear about what ethical leadership requires of them in a global society? If so, how are we sharing that knowledge at every level? If not, is our ethical leadership information too vague to be actionable?

Are leaders bringing out the best in those they lead by leading with positive values and building trust? If so, how can customers, partners, suppliers and other stakeholders benefit from what we’ve learned? If not, how can we intentionally build a high-trust culture where people can do their best work?

Your leaders face information overload, globalization and increasing complexity. And they hold the key to your organization’s future. Make it a priority to help them be ready.