Ethically Adaptive Leadership

Ethically Adaptive Leadership

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This morning, I was reading another blog that I regularly check out for great discussion of leadership issues (Leading in Context, by Dr. Linda Fisher Thornton). In her current entry (see here), she discusses the three words above, which often are not used together – ethical, adaptive, leadership. I was very intrigued by this pairing, as ethical leadership (or ethical behavior) more broadly is often thought of as rule-bound and process-oriented, certainly not often seen as “adaptive” (probably because people often connect it to Aristotle’s virtue ethics or Kantian deontological ethics). On the other hand, adaptive leadership fits well in the American context particularly, as it is very focused on the conditions of the moment and is often very pragmatic in orientation (i.e. let’s solve the problem or meet the opportunity in front of us). Neither is right or wrong, in my view, but bringing them together is a fascinating pairing, especially in times of such great volatility and rapid, unpredictable change. I would recommend looking at Dr. Fisher Thornton’s post if interested, but I will close with a quote from that blog:

Due to the relentless pace of change, maintaining consistency of character requires ongoing growth. Being ethically adaptive goes beyond any lower level definitions of ethical competence. It allows us to handle crises and life-and-death challenges responsibly, including the ones we’re facing now during the pandemic. Staying ethically adaptive has proven to be so important that it may very well become the new leadership measure of success. (Linda Fisher Thornton, 2021)

Dr. Todd Matthews is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Leadership and Organization Development and Change at Cabrini University, where he has worked since 2015. He also serves as the Coordinator for the Doctoral Program in Organization Development and Change. He earned his doctoral degree in Sociology (with a concentration in social stratification/inequality) from Mississippi State University, a Masters of Arts in Sociology from the University of Tennessee, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Salisbury University (with a minor in Communications). He teaches and engages in scholarship and practice around areas of organization development and change, leadership, and the nexus of civic engagement, religion, and social change.

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