What the article says
Humanity is facing a crisis of leadership—but what kind of leadership is needed? Economic leadership has been tried and found wanting. The crisis is not one of political, social or economic leadership, but of moral leadership, exercised by moral leaders.
The basic building block of moral leadership is one’s moral code, or moral compass. This is a set of moral principles, informed by a sound conscience, reinforced by repeatedly acting in accord with those principles.
We demonstrate moral leadership when we follow our moral compass and our actions serve as an inspiration for others. Moral leadership exercised by moral individuals challenges the status quo and suggests there may be a better way of acting. It is not the reserve of the few or the prominent but something that should pervade the actions of all.
When a person consistently exercises moral leadership, and others are spurred to act for good because of this example, that person begins to take on the mantle of a moral leader. A moral leader is someone who projects moral force, or moral authority, in and through their life. They embody our aspirations for the better version of ourselves, in the way they live with themselves, relate to others and the deep moral insight and perspective they bring to the world. It describes someone whose entire being is constituted by a moral outlook, moral commitment, and moral courage.
The size and complexity of the challenges facing humanity, the transitions we are undergoing and the lack of traditional guides means that leaders require considerable intellectual, emotional, and interpersonal capability. This paper argues however, that the greater need is for leaders with outstanding moral competence, and that perhaps the biggest leadership risk governments, organisations, and societies face today is moral risk.
This white paper is the fruit of almost ten years mentoring CEOs, five years of global research across more than 100 high level leaders and thinkers, and several months reviewing journals full of notes, interviews and my published writings. What emerged was what I believe is a significant risk for Boards and senior leaders today. And that risk is the assumption that because people share or subscribe to our values, that they in fact share our moral perspective. Enron, the LIBOR scandal, and even current news headlines, would indicate immediately that is not the case. This paper addresses the moral risk facing business and what can be done, by both individuals and organisations, to mitigate that risk.
Since leadership is exercised at every level in an organisation, Boards and CEOs need to have a clear strategy and commitment to exercising moral leadership and helping their people meet not only their legal obligations, but also their moral obligations. The paper concludes by making some suggestions about how Boards and CEOs can address latent moral risk.