Being a Moral Leader Goes Beyond Social Stances: The E&C Pulse - July 8, 2020

July 8, 2020
Ben DiPietro

July 8, 2020

Being a Moral Leader Goes Beyond Social Stances


Why do so many executives fail to exhibit the behaviors of a moral leader?


Those leaders who consistently demonstrate the behaviors or moral leadership as outlined in the State of Moral Leadership in Business 2020 report from The HOW Institute for Society often oversee organizations that are outperforming their competition. 


The report found people who have managers who are in the top tier for consistently exhibiting moral leadership are five times more likely to report satisfied customers, seven times more likely to expect better business results in the coming year, and 13 times more likely to see their company as being highly adaptable to change. 


Just as important, employees are 12 times more likely to depart if their direct manager isn’t a moral leader.


So, what behaviors should moral leaders possess? 


Among other traits, they should treat everyone with dignity and respect; encourage others to contribute their own ideas or suggestions; extend trust to their colleagues; pause to reflect on whether they are living their purpose and values; ask difficult questions about right, wrong, justice, and fairness; and ask for help in a way that exposes their vulnerability.


Some of these are being put into practice more than others. For example, 

around four in 10 managers were said to treat everyone with dignity and respect, while about one in five pause to reflect on whether they are living their purpose and values.


This year’s report found more than one in three managers, and nearly half of chief executives, rarely exhibit moral leadership, with 7% of managers and 8% of CEOs doing so at a high level. 


Yet, events are forcing leaders to stake out moral stands on issues of politics, race, fairness, and climate change--any or all of which can have consequences on revenue, reputation, and potential legal liabilities.


“We believe this development signifies a blurring boundary between public and private spheres in an interconnected and interdependent world,” stated the report. “The trend also reflects a recognition that customers, employees, and other stakeholders expect corporations to stand for something beyond shareholder value.”


While corporations increasingly are being seen by the public as institutions with strong connections to the broader society, activism in and of itself doesn’t  necessarily make an executive a moral leader.


While 43% of the report’s respondents said they have seen their CEO take a public position on an important issue, less than half those people said they saw that same CEO consistently exhibit key behaviors of moral leadership.


For example, 20% said the CEO pursued a significant and noble purpose; the same percentage said the CEO elevated someone else by demonstrating empathy and building a connection. One in four said the CEO demonstrated virtue and principle, while 21% said the CEO helped others to develop the wisdom to make right decisions.


“While taking a stand on a social or political issue may require moral leadership, it might also reflect ulterior, self-interested motives,” stated the report. “The conviction behind one’s activism is the key ingredient in moral leadership, not the act itself.”


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BSR explains why companies especially need to watch for slavery in their supply chains during COVID-19. 


Are ethical leaders good for business?


The Business Roundtable asked lawmakers to advance police reform legislation.


Former Unilever CEO Paul Polman talks about leadership with LRN Founder and Chairman Dov Seidman on a podcast with Fortune's Alan Murray.


Sports teams names are being examined in the light of addressing racial inequalities. The Washington NFL team is reviewing its name, as is Cleveland's pro baseball team. Hockey's Chicago Blackhawks will keep their name.


Science was able to show there is a benefit to being kind.


As companies pledge to help break down racial inequality, they are asking what is the right thing to do; Richard Levick tells them.


Aspen Institute details three next moves for directors to make.


The head of human resources at Adidas resigned after employees complained about a lack of diversity in hiring.


A man who shared photos of his lavish lifestyle on Instagram was charged with helping to launder hundreds of millions of dollars. 


Pigs in China were found with a flu virus some health officials fear could blossom into a new pandemic

About the Author

Ben DiPietro

Joined LRN in October 2018 after 30 years as a journalist, including seven years at The Wall Street Journal, including Risk & Compliance Journal and was a creator of the WSJ Crisis of the Week column. In 2015 was named one of the 100 most influential people in business ethics by Ethisphere Institute. Spent 14 years as a reporter in Hawaii, 11 with The Associated Press.

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