Morality in business is receiving increasing attention in practice and in classrooms. Inner leaders’ morals and ethics come out of their individual and community (cultures) values. Moral values define one’s life and impacts all interpersonal relationships. Including a moral dimension in their choices and actions helps inner leaders think and act beyond narrowly defined business and political interests. It forces them into the realm of the spirit self. Such leadership will give meaning and purpose to work. Arguably, this is the only way leaders can attract tomorrow’s workers to their vision and goals.
Inner leaders see morality as both a process of inquiry and a mode of conduct. It is asking questions about what is right and what is wrong. And it is setting an example for others about the rightness or wrongness of particular actions (Kouzes and Posner, 1987). Being moral is creating a climate of ethical expectation; and the best way to teach ethics is by example, that is, to practice them.
Inner leaders are moral examples. There are some things they prefer not to compromise, adapt, accommodate, or collaborate on where their core values are at stake. Indeed, being moral means inner leaders cannot compromise some ideals, they must defend them. Thus, leaders may sometimes be assertive and deliberately confrontational of alternative value systems. At times, they feel the need to affirm the superior value of their personal, spiritual values over the demands of technical operating system. Morally motivated inner leadership entails principles of action, motivated by an inner sense of the leader’s spirituality (see, for example, Burns, 1978; Covey, 1991; DePree, 1989; Fairholm, 1991, 1994, 2000b; Greenleaf, 1977; Lee and Zemke, 1993; Vaill, 1989). Application of the leader’s moral values in work situations necessitates a spiritual orientation, one that centers on moral conduct. It is a task of doing good while doing well.
Inner leaders set the standards for behavior for the work community. They create a higher moral standard of personal conduct that serves as a model for follower emulation. The dimensions of the moral standard, of course, vary with the individual leader and with the character of the work community and its members. At least the following elements of leader action to develop their moral side seem relevant to their preparation to lead.
Critically, inner leaders are models of morality. They live their moral standards. Living by their moral values asks leaders to first know what their core values are, live by those values consistently, and communicate them to their followers in both word and deed. Living by one’s inner truth means putting that truth into practice. Followers work harder when the work community is characterized by mutual trust, respect, concern for each other, and where work community members honor each other as human beings. These ideas are appropriate for the inner leader to learn, as well as the lowest worker.
Love defines the soul of moral leadership and is the source of its courage. Moral leaders learn to access the healing and energizing powers of love in their own lives so they can pass that attitude—attribute—to followers.
Leading with love also means that leaders understand that their passion for the work and their workers comes from the attribute of compassion. They learn that, in the final analysis, leaders serve and support their followers, not the reverse. Moral leaders come to love leading, love their work community’s products, and love their followers.
All people have multiple needs, only some of which the work community can ameliorate. Today’s workers want more balance between their own needs and the work community’s (Ruppert, 1991). They want to be active in the several dimensions of their lives: love, family, faith, self-confidence, others. These qualities of life animate and qualify their lives. Inner leaders make sure that they serve other people’s highest standards of personal and work community conduct.
Inner leaders have developed a sense of ethics based on their core values as a precursor to effectively developing work-community values. That is, the leader’s personal core values provide the basis for the sanctions systems that define his or her personal moral (spiritual) center and form the basis of community morality. Some leaders operationalize their personal moral codes in the work community through formally adopted codes of ethics. Others schedule time to formally discuss moral issues and practices. Primarily, the business of being ethically moral is engineered by inner leaders who take charge, set the moral climate, and accept accountability for their own actions and results. These leaders set the standards for performance and morality within their work community and enforce these standards through their expectations. Operationally, moral leadership involves following ethical standards and patiently sticking to their goals and purposes enough that followers can predict the leader’s behavior.
Inner leaders draw on their spiritual cores to build and use a belief system that reflects their own innate goodness, ethics, and morality. And then they consistently live it. Inner leaders listen to their inner selves as they develop a kind of credo that accepts life, reverences it, and gives it dignity. At a minimum, such a life credo includes ideas like doing no harm—doing nothing to make people or matters worse. It recognizes debts, mental or material, to a variety of external others—tradition, family, colleagues, former leaders, current followers, and many others. An articulated credo puts a ceiling on desires and limits the leader’s personal freedom. Morally centered leaders strive for integration, wholeness of self, spiritual unity, and integrity. Once attained, this sense of moral certitude lets leaders feeling good about themselves and reflect on the morality of current business questions. It also lets them think about their actions in terms of their inner values and standards of right and wrong.
There is a pressing need for stability and spiritual values in America today (Garton, 1989). Living by their inner truth asks leaders to strengthen their personal and work community integrity (Hawley, 1993). Honesty is essential in moral leaders. So is giving attention to their spiritual needs. Inner leaders seek—and find—the authentic nature of their inner spiritual selves and discover and nurture people, situations, and objects that feed their spirits and nourish their souls (Hinckley, 1967). Morality demands integrity of all who govern their lives by high moral standards. Moral integrity is having courage and self-discipline to live by one’s inner truth. It is a function of feeling whole, total, entire, complete. It involves the idea of goodness, human decency, fairness, kindness, consideration, and respect (Badaracco and Ellsworth, 1989). Learning to be morally whole—integrated—takes courage. It involves a willingness to say what needs to be said and not needlessly say what may hurt another. It demands self-discipline. It asks inner leaders to spend time in consolidating their inner, intimate strengths and connecting themselves to their inner promptings.
Ethical behavior flows from our ability to distinguish right from wrong and the commitment to do what is right. The measure of moral judgment is summed up in positive answers to two questions: “How would I want to be treated in this situation?” (the Golden Rule) and “How will the decision or action read on the front page of the newspaper?” Moral judgment is the activating mechanism of one’s moral character. It is part of the self-analysis leaders engage in as they observe and reflect on their actions and judgments of events. It is a part of all aspects of life. Their moral core is what sustains inner leaders through long periods of emotional drought in a crumbling, corrupt, and oftentimes disappointing world.