THERE IS NO SIMPLE ANSWER TO A
Can altruism coexist with capitalism? A growing body
of thought holds that organizations with a strong ethi-cal
mandate are not just a nice idea; they tend to be more
productive, better at attracting and retaining desirable em-ployees
and ultimately more profitable than those without.
Nonetheless, the value of ethical leadership can be a hard sell
to senior executives negotiating a tough economy. And even when
they do buy in, who defines the ethical code, especially when val-ues
clash? Environment, human rights, loyalty, inclusivity – all are
admirable values, but may not always align.
Is it permissible to test medical treatments on animals in or-der
to reduce human suffering more quickly? What if a decision to
source supplies more sustainably threatens to end a relationship
with a long-established supplier? How can you accommodate an
employee’s right to observe non-statutory religious holidays in a
way that’s fair to other workers?
The short answer, says author and consultant Linda Fisher
Thornton, is that it’s complicated; workplace ethics can’t be gov-erned
by a single rulebook. Fisher Thornton is the CEO of Leading
in Context, a leadership development firm based in Richmond, Va.
In her recently published book, 7 Lenses: Learning the principles
and practices of ethical leadership, she analyses a practical approach
for organizational leaders who wish – in the words of her own
mission – to “unleash the positive powers of ethical leadership.”
Fisher Thornton believes that it is necessary to consider
decision-making from the point of view of different sets of criteria.
By Sarah B. Hood
HRPATODAY.CA ❚ SEPTEMBER 2014 ❚ 45