Moral Leadership

Is resignation from a “morally indefensible” position the right or brave strategy for someone with leadership responsibilities?

Moral leadershipBaroness Warsi’s resignation from Government on the grounds set out in her letter http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-28657623 raises questions on ethics and morals  relating to leaders and leadership. Those who hold leadership positions should take the opportunity to explore the issues.

When, for example, is doing the right thing not necessarily the right thing to do?

A Leader’s role is to imagine and shape a better future for those who they lead. In resigning her position, the opportunity to influence decisions or future actions is lost. In resigning, without thought to succession, a vacuum is created and followers left without direction.

When does the responsibility to walk away from a morally challenging problem outweight the responsibility of a leader to strive to effect positive change and protect those who look up to them?

Baronness Warsi cited that Government policy was counter to our national interest, values and the rule of law. Was it braver to walk away or, knowing the contrary position this Government (of which she was a part) holds, use her influence and moral indignation to fight for change in policy?

Is leadership in politics or for that matter leadership in business, public service or any other role ever truly black and white? Are decisions always right or wrong?

Making a loyal employee redundant might be the right decision for the business but may not be the right decsion for the employee. This might be a matter of perspective but how does a leader know that they have the right perspective on any decsion? How do you as a leader balance perspective on a moral stand point with pragmatism over a situation that we cannot have ultimate control?

Governance is a topic now covered in many management courses and is debated in many board meetings. It encompasses morals, ethics, risk and best practice. Yet there are no hard and fast rules against which leaders can weigh up the pros and cons of moral and ethical challenging choices. We must look instead to our internal moral compass the directionality of which is established by our life experiences, our upbringing and cultural context.

To be a better leader how do you hone this moral compass?

Leaders should seek out and socialise with those leaders they respect and who carry the largest moral burden, study strong and powerful decisions that have had meaningful outcomes at a level of influence greater than the organisation within which it was formulated.

Top tips

  1. Consider moral and ethical issues early and often
  2. Share your thoughts and views with peers and guage their response
  3. Seek alternative perspectives
  4. Ask “what is the brave choice to make”
  5. Consider the balance of your responsibilities
  6. Hone your moral compass
  7. Establish a moral code
  8. Live by your code – always – it is who you are
  9. Associate and learn from leaders you respect
  10. Taking on the mantle of leadership is an honour you grow into
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