Today’s guest contributor is Linda Fisher Thornton, CEO of Leading in Context LLC and one of the 2013 Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Leadership for the University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies. Her new book is 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership.
Most people would agree that leaders are responsible for balancing the needs of multiple stakeholders. But knowing that, we are still left with these questions:
– Which stakeholders should we include?
– Should some stakeholders carry more weight than others?
– Once we have considered the situation and the needs of the stakeholders, how will we know which decisions would be most responsible?
Wrestling with questions like these in day-to-day decisions helps reveal the most responsible choices.
While it is tempting to oversimplify decisions by supporting whichever stakeholder we most agree with, we make better decisions when we consider our responsibilities broadly.
To stay grounded when making difficult decisions, we need a clear framework for thinking through complex ethical questions. In 7 Lenses: The Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership, I describe seven perspectives on ethical responsibility. Ethics experts and notable leaders through the ages have made a compelling case for all seven of these perspectives on ethical responsibility.
Seven Perspectives on Ethical Responsibility
7 Lenses™ of Ethical Responsibility
Lens One: Profit – How much money will this make?
Lens Two: Law – How can we avoid punishment and penalties?
Lens Three: Character – How can we demonstrate integrity, congruence and moral awareness?
Lens Four: People – How can we respect and care for people?
Lens Five: Communities – How can we serve communities?
Lens Six: Planet – How can we honor life and ecosystems?
Lens Seven: Greater Good – How can we make the world better for future generations?
Today’s ethical leader will not oversimplify decisions by choosing which one of these lenses to honor, but will wrestle with how to honor as many of them as possible in daily choices.
A Clearer View and a Broader “Win”
I believe that what we so desperately need is a way to make sense out of all of these 7 perspectives at once—to consider many seemingly competing interests without losing our moral grounding.
This takes us well beyond the concept of win-win: it brings us to the level of “win to the 7th power” or win7.
“Winning to the 7th power” means making decisions that honor all 7 Lenses—profit, law, character, people, communities, the planet, and the greater good. The whole picture—the full scope of our impact as leaders—pops into focus with this view. What we see matches the complexity of our work, our connections and our world.
You may be thinking, “This is all well and good, but can we afford to make decisions this way?” This “win to the 7th power”—besides being the right thing to do—benefits our business metrics. It:
- Engages customers and employees
- Improves retention
- Reduces risk
- Improves profitability, lives, and communities
- Creates a better world
This is the future of ethical leadership.