Pulling the fragments of ethical leadership together


One of the biggest challenges in leadership development right now is what Nick Petrie of The Center For Creative Leadership calls “Vertical Leadership Development.”

Petrie describes programs that support vertical leader development. These have “less emphasis on the content to be poured into the leader, and more on the cup itself–the mindset, identity, and mental models of the leader.” [1]

When leaders in the past were given knowledge about ethics it took the form of training, articles or books. That knowledge has therefore often been fragmented.

Understanding the fragments does not help leaders learn to take on ethical responsibility because fragmented knowledge is difficult to apply successfully in complex situations.

Teaching ethical fragments has not answered questions like these:

  • How do we resolve the apparent conflict between ethics and profitability?
  • What should we do when we want to do business sustainably,
    but we can’t afford to replace our equipment?
  • How can we build a high-trust culture where people make ethical choices? 

Ethical Responsibility (to the 7th Power)

The book 7 Lenses pulls the fragments together. It describes seven different perspectives on ethical responsibility we might hear around the table when discussing an ethical dilemma.

These perspectives are not competing as many ethicists have thought. Instead they represent a multidimensional picture of what ethical responsibility means in a complex world.

We don’t have the luxury, for example, of deciding to demonstrate care for people while ignoring what we’re doing to the environment, or to just follow laws and ignore how our product harms people. We are expected to honor all seven dimensions in our daily leadership.

Honoring all 7 Lenses without some guiding principles would be difficult which is why there are also 14 Guiding Principles. These help us honor all the 7 Lenses in our daily leadership.

Leaders who take the ethical leadership learning journey and learn to follow these principles will not just improve their ethics; they will also begin to build lasting trust in their organizations.

Bringing Out the Best in People and Organizations

connected worldIn a connected world of increasing complexity, we must move beyond learning about fragments. We need a clear understanding of our leadership responsibilities and how to honor them. 7 Lenses is a guide to the aspirational level of ethical leadership – the kind that enhances lives and communities and creates great places to work.


Linda is an Author, Speaker, adjunct faculty member and leadership development consultant. She is on a mission to Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™. She was named one of the 2014 Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business. Her website is LeadinginContext.com.

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