Moral Leader

Moral leadership

Building block of moral leadership and moral values compass

Moral leadership is building together on your values

Moral leadership is the result of knowledge, experience, courage, and conversations with others about values, according to Alex Brenninkmeijer (former Dutch national mediator and advocate for individuals in their interactions with public authorities) in his book. Moral leadership is not a result of power; it actually stems from equality. A moral leader gains authority based on integrity, which leads others to follow their moral choices. As a moral leader, you can have a positive impact on people, the planet, and profit.

What is the definition of moral leadership?

We use the following definition of moral leadership: ‘contributing, based on wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation, to what you deem good for society’. This is a broad definition. As mentioned above, it is not a narrowly defined field of expertise. It is a personal skill. A moral leader continues to develop themselves.

Moral leadership has only winners

The foundation lies in creating win-win situations. A win-win situation occurs when we have a clear understanding of both our own values and those of others, according to Covey. This means that a moral leader:

  • has determined their own values and has the courage to defend them
  • simultaneously listens to other perspectives with the intention of understanding them
  • and is capable of engaging and involving the environment in the narrative

An essential aspect of moral leadership is continuously nourishing oneself with new insights and daring to question existing beliefs. In the model below, the three mentioned characteristics of moral leadership are linked to criteria for assessing the strength of moral leadership. These criteria provide an indication of the strengths and areas for improvement in an individual’s moral leadership

Moral leadership is taking responsibility

Moral leadership means taking responsibility for your actions. This entails assessing your intentions against your own values beforehand and being accountable to society for the consequences afterwards. This requires three things from a moral leader:

  • Reflecting on personal values: A moral leader needs to engage in self-reflection and clarify their own values, understanding what is truly important to them.
  • Making ethical decisions: A moral leader must apply their values to make decisions that align with ethical principles and consider the potential impact on others and society as a whole.
  • Being accountable: A moral leader takes responsibility for the outcomes of their actions, being transparent about their intentions, and being willing to evaluate and learn from the consequences.

magination is necessary to assess the consequences and reactions of others. One’s own values must be clear in order to measure against them. Finally, courage is needed to persevere. Often, not everyone will be willing to accept the consequences, such as uncertainty, reduced profitability, etc.

Moral leadership guided by the moral values compass
Moral leadership guided by the moral values compass

Rapid developments call for slower thinking

Listening to understand is also a prerequisite for moral leadership. It is not just about what is verbally said and/or rationally substantiated. Much is hidden in non-verbal signals. A moral leader allows space for “emotion” and ensures that divergent opinions are heard, even when those opinions are expressed in a “deviant manner.” This includes incorporating research, feedback, imagery, music, or literature. Noticing these nuances requires “slow and sensitive” thinking, which also enhances one’s imagination

Balance is not so much about finding equilibrium; it is about finding time and tranquility to objectively weigh everything around you

Staying on course as a moral leader with a moral values compass

Are we allowed to use algorithms that make decisions without users being aware of it? One of the many questions where moral leadership plays a significant role. The moral values compass helps in reaching a consensus on a decision. A decision that:

  • aligns with your values (integrity)
  • is widely supported (understood by others
  • and is followed by others (win-win)

The moral values compass works just like any other compass. It provides direction and serves as a tool to check whether your morality is widely supported. Key components of the compass include acting with integrity, exploring and appreciating different perspectives, and assessing whether your actions have an impact by influencing others. The final aspect involves determining whether you succeed in creating a win-win situation for all stakeholders, thereby maximizing your positive influence.

A strong (personal) brand has a widely embraced moral compass and acts accordingly