Workers Will Walk Away if CEOs Don’t Act on Moral Issues

July 13, 2020
LRN Corporation

American workers want moral leadership, and say they would consider leaving their job if their chief executive doesn't exhibit moral leadership and champion moral issues they care about, according to a study by the HOW Institute for Society.

“American workers are looking for moral leadership in CEOs more than ever…as the U.S. is confronted with the worst health crisis and economic downturn in decades, and widespread protests against racial inequality,” stated an article in Barron’s about the study.

In a survey of 2,305 Americans–employees, managers and executives at companies in a range of industries–86% expressed the need for moral leadership in business. Half of those surveyed said they would potentially leave their organization if the CEO did not act on a moral issue that mattered to them. Notably, 46% say they would take a cut in pay to work for a moral leader.

The findings underline a moral leadership gap; employees believe their companies’ leaders fall short. While 43% say they have seen their CEO take a public stand on an important issue, 5% say their leaders elevate others by demonstrating empathy and building connection.

“The combination of the coronavirus pandemic and the wave of global protests against systemic racism have illuminated the deep need for moral leadership in our world today,” HOW Institute Founder and Chairman, Dov Seidman, who also is founder and chairman of LRN, told Barron’s.

HOW defines moral leadership as leading with a purpose that is connected to human progress; inspiring and elevating others; acting on principles even when doing so is uncomfortable and inconvenient; and wrestling with questions of right and wrong, fairness and justice.

When it comes to the recent social justice movement, “stakeholders expect corporate leaders to do the right thing and address issues of racism by not just condemning it, but by doing their part to eradicate it,” Seidman told Barron’s. “It starts with the humility to listen more deeply, and to learn more comprehensively…and then take the necessary steps to strengthen or transform their organizations as fully human endeavors, where a commitment to justice and racial equality is central to all that they do.”

The Barron’s article cites steps HOW Institute says are daily practices for leaders that can help them build “moral muscles.” They include “acting with courage” by taking a stand on moral issues, even if it might involve a personal risk and might not be related directly to the business; asking for, and listening to, tough feedback; approaching employees as people who deserve honest, thoughtful communications; and inviting new voices into key conversations.

About the Author

LRN Corporation

Ethics and compliance leader providing tools, education, and advisory services for global companies to inspire principled performance.

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