Most people spend most of their waking life at work and want work to have a moral dimension. Everybody wants to do good work, to work for the common good and contribute to the success of the work community. Unfortunately, too many people have been led to believe that there is one standard for private morality and another for business morality and conduct (Nair). The fact is that moral integrity argues for one ethical standard, applicable in personal, social, economic, and all other aspects of life. Inner leaders provide that moral standard. Their task is to create it in themselves first, then bring it out in their followers.
Arguably, much government regulation of business and industry is a result of business leaders not accepting personal responsibility to ethically serve their clients. Some corporations, perhaps unwittingly, encourage a spirit of moral turbulence by rewarding executives who achieve economic goals by humiliating people, promulgating questionable policies, or stimulating subordinates through fear. A society driven by "responsibilities" is oriented toward service. One motivated by individual "rights" is oriented toward acquisition, confrontation, and advocacy. The first builds, the second destroys.
The word ethics derives from the Greek word, ethos, which means more than mere obedience to rule. It is also about character, how one feels about oneself (Blanchard), and reputation, how others feel about you. Being ethical means being moral. It means doing the right thing for yourself and for the greatest number of people. It is a matter of personal and professional character.
Character is a cluster of related ideas that includes morality, ethics, honesty, and humane values. It is knowing that the actions taken are right, that is, acceptable. Moral leaders learn to know good from evil. They understand that all people have the inalienable right of free moral choice. And they know that the irrevocable law of the harvest - restoring good for good and evil for evil - operates in life, including work life.
Woefully, some jobs ask leaders to sacrifice fundamental values (Gortner) at the altar of the expedient. Too often leaders are asked to accept a lower work morality as necessary to get things done in the real world of business or government. For example, politicians ask us to judge them on their policies, not their personal conduct. Social activists claim high moral ground for their programs and sometimes use violence to obtain their ends. Business executives do not want their day-to-day conduct examined, but ask instead that others evaluate them on their bottom line performance (the Enron debacle is a case in point). Journalists may maintain a personal commitment to truth but often succumb to the pressure to be first, and rather than wait for the whole story, and publish half truths. Or they print their biases as the truth.
Both the ends and the means of accomplishing the inner leader's program goals are important, not just the ends. Many Americans measure the operational manifestation of morality by the Golden Rule: treating other human beings as we want to be treated. Moral leadership is a process, not just an objective. It is love in action. As we enter the twenty-first century, it is apparent that inner leaders are acquiring a new language of leadership, one where it is again okay to use all of the operative "S" words - soul, sacred, spirit, and sin, as well as structure, standards, strategy, system, and style.
Successful inner leaders have learned that they cannot be successful over the long term unless they base their relationships with those assigned to assist them on moral systems. Follower commitment comes after leaders demonstrate their moral code by their actions to institute procedures, techniques, and work processes that consider moral factors. These factors include how the leader handles differences of opinion about human worth, whether or not they highlight impartial analysis and inquiry, and how much they demonstrate caring for their followers.
Our work communities do not function well (Wheatley) when honesty and personal responsibility atrophy, particularly at the top or when leaders are content to focus for ten or more hours a day on only the mundane tasks and ignore their inner spiritual needs or those of their followers. The soul of the inner leader's morality is love. Love - concern for the well-being of another - constitutes the basis of ethical leadership. Leaders love leading, love their work community's products and service, and love the people with whom they work. Love accesses the healing and energizing powers of the leader's spiritual core and recognizes that his or her leadership is a reciprocal relationship with all members of the work community.
Part of moral leadership asks leaders to create "corporate spirit," a spiritual force that honors high performance, compassion, empathy for others, and individual contribution. It is illogical, therefore, to assume that when leaders come to work they leave at home their innermost core values and beliefs. Moral leaders deal with follower contentment, capacity, equanimity, detachments, and connectedness. When leaders liberate the spiritual content of their leadership, they unleash a powerful commitment to help the less fortunate, to be of service, and to respect those who are different.
Traditional values are waning in those work communities today that have not followed a solid affirmation of moral values. Nothing is filling the values vacuum. The 1970s and 1980s turned vice into virtue by elevating the unbridled pursuit of self-interest and greed to the level of social virtue (Etzioni). Leaders in the middle are sensitive to the nonphysical. They argue for a return to a society where some things are beyond the pale. All people, including coworkers, want a set of moral virtues, some settled beliefs and values that their work community can endorse and actively affirm - beyond which they will not allow themselves or others to go. This apparent change of position can be seen today in the move to be drug free in the workplace, in the demand to return to values of hard work for a fair day's pay, and in followers' desires for leaders to treat them with the same basic dignity with which they wish to be treated.
The higher leaders climb in the corporate hierarchy, the greater their burden of responsibility and their need to reevaluate themselves and their spiritual roots. And the root of spirituality is service. The infrastructure of inner leadership is based on the idea of moral leadership founded on service. It is uncompromisingly committed to the higher principle of selfless concern for others. Spiritual leadership rejects coercion to secure desired goals. It is noninterfering of human freedom and choices, though these choices may entail some painful decisions and shifts in priorities. Elements of moral and spiritual leadership include several elements that inner leaders possess and inspire in their stakeholders.
The inner leadership task is more than physical structuring of people and functions that has occupied business managers throughout time. It includes formal relationships, of course; but, more important, the inner leader provides values, meaning, and focus to that structure. It is leaders (not managers) who focus the power present in work relationships on more than just productivity. These leaders shape the cultural surround within which the work community and its people operate. They provide direction, incentive, inspiration, and support to individuals and work communities if support is to be forthcoming. Inner leaders deal with the intimate core being of their followers as they also deal with their bundles of skills needed to do work.
Leadership is the integrating capacity in complex social interaction. The leaders others volunteer to follow will set the goals and determine the values by which the work community measures accomplishment. These values and goals also define the acceptable process, guiding the interrelationships between leader and led. They integrate the needs and activities of the pluralistic constituencies that look to the work community for support, assistance, and meaning. They tie together the disparate goals, measures of success, and strategic policies that govern work life.
In effect, true leadership is conferred by followers. The measure of leadership is not the celebration of the mind but the tone of the heart (DePree). Leadership over volunteers - the only kind of leadership there is - relies on moral rectitude. Moral inner leaders make followers feel powerful and able to accomplish things on their own. The model of spiritual leadership is not command and control. It is confer and network. The leadership process is an influence process aimed at transforming - changing - both people and system. Success in the twenty-first century will depend on how well leaders understand the role, the technique, the values, and the orientation of moral leadership. Inner leaders are influential in the work community and with each member. Unless the influence they exert is morally acceptable, followers will not follow, and leaders cannot lead. They will have to revert to managing others to get their work done.
Moral leadership is done in activity, and action involves risk. Sometimes inner leaders need to challenge existing work and work community processes (Kouzes and Posner). They cannot always simply accept current work systems or existing structural relationships. Rather, these leaders are pioneers, often producing real change that meets people's enduring needs regardless of the risk. Inner leadership is intended to convert, change, and transform followers to moral action. And change is always risky.
Risk taking is challenging the process (to use Kouzes and Posner's words), not simply the existing structural relationships but the value system underpinning it. Moral leadership seeks to produce real change that meets peoples' enduring needs. It enhances production and improves operational efficiency. It improves morale in work communities, fosters greater coordination across functional areas, and enhances relationships with and within the larger community and society.
Moral leaders are spiritually transforming. They enhance people's moral selves, help confirm others' beliefs in their own inherent self-worth. In the process, they help create a new scale of meaning within which followers can see their lives in terms of the larger community. Successful inner leaders influence change in the values, attitudes, abilities, and behaviors of individual followers. In this sense leadership is transformational of the people and their work community. Transforming leaders try to elevate the needs of their followers in line with their own goals and aims. In doing this, leaders pay attention to the individual by understanding and sharing in the realization of followers' developmental needs.
Moral leadership is a change process that transforms both the stakeholders and the institution itself into something better than they were before. This transformation takes place in a consciously created and managed culture that prioritizes morality and focuses on the spiritual side - the heart - of the individual stakeholders. Of course there is some gamble that leading on the basis of moral standards may not work. Asking the leader to foster a specific moral dogma entails risk. The risk is that members will accept only the outward form, not the inner conviction necessary to true moral change. That is always a risk - that members will accept the tenets as an outward show, not have it written on their hearts. Inner conviction, patience, and predictable moral actions will ensure the leader's success as a moral guide for the work community and its people. If leaders remain focused, if they are seen as authentic, success will come.
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). 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; Covey; DePree; Fairholm; Greenleaf; Lee and Zemke; Vaill). 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). 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). Living by their inner truth asks leaders to strengthen their personal and work community integrity (Hawley). 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). 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). 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.
Most people spend most of their lives in work. They want it to have a moral dimension.
Moral integrity argues for one ethical, moral standard, applicable in personal, social, economic, and all other aspects of life.
Inner leaders work to promote a moral standard for themselves and for their work community.
If leaders don't give their core values place at work - the most significant part of life for many, certainly in terms of time - they loose their moral centers.
Ethics means more than mere obedience to rule. It means doing the right thing for yourself and for the greatest number of people.
Some jobs ask leaders to sacrifice core values at the altar of the expedient.
Many Americans measure the operational manifestation of their morality by the Golden Rule: treating other human beings as they want to be treated.
It is apparent that leaders are acquiring a new language of leadership, one where it is again okay to use all of the operative "S" words - soul, sacred, spirit, and sin, as well as structure, standards, strategy, system, and style.
Successful inner leaders have learned that they cannot be successful over the long term unless they base their relationships with those assigned to assist them on moral systems.
Moral inner leadership is done in activity, and action involves risk.
Inner leaders are moral examples; and moral leaders prefer not to compromise, adapt, accommodate, or collaborate in areas where their core values are at stake.
Love defines the soul of moral leadership and the source of the inner leader's courage.
Some leaders operationalize their personal moral codes in the work community through formally adopted codes of ethics.
Morally centered leaders strive for integration, wholeness of self, spiritual unity, and integrity.
The measure of moral judgment is summed 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?" Measure your leadership on these criteria.
Do I try to create a community of interest that circumscribes both work community and member values, ethics, and morality?
Do I publish, by all possible means, a set of morals and ethical behavior that accurately reflects my vision?
Do I provide direction, incentive, inspiration, and support to my work communities and each member?
Do I include a clear moral dimension in my work choices and actions?
Do I think and act beyond narrowly defined business and political interests?
The following may be useful to both individual leaders and to leader trainers to gain experience in integrating his or her personal moral values into workplace actions.
Instructions. Read the following two sets of statements and indicate whether on balance you agree with Choice A or Choice B.
Success is largely a matter of getting the right breaks.
It is foolish to think that I can really change another person's core values and attitudes.
Getting promoted is a matter of being a little luckier than the next person.
A lot of what happens to me is probably a matter of luck.
Many times the reactions of my bosses seem haphazard to me.
Marriage is largely a gamble.
Sometimes I feel I have little to do with the evaluations I receive.
I have little influence over the way other people behave.
It is only wishful thinking to believe that one can readily influence what happens in our society at large.
It is almost impossible to figure out how to please some people.
Promotions are earned through hard work and persistence.
If you know how to deal with people, they are really quite easily led.
People like me can change the course of world affairs if we make ourselves heard.
Getting along with people is a skill that must be practiced.
The success I have is the result of my own efforts; luck has little or nothing to do with it.
I have noticed a direct connection between how hard I work and the rewards I get.
When I am right, I can convince others.
In our society, a person's future earning power depends on his or her ability.
I am the master of my fate.
What do you suppose are the ethical standards of someone who selected Choice A? Choice B?
If you were the leader of someone who is characterized by the statements in Choice A, (Choice B) how could you induce him or her to do what you wanted him or her to do? Be explicit.
How would someone characterized by Choice A statements respond to a formally promulgated code of ethics? Choice B?
Write a short essay describing what you suppose would be the ethical basis of a leader characterized by Choice A factors.
Write another short essay describing what you suppose would be the ethical basis of a leader characterized by Choice B factors.