What does your sign say?

The Role of Moral Courage in Today’s Business Leaders

Who among us would have expected the 21st century to evolve at such a fast pace? As leaders, it has been become ever important, many would say even critical, to not yield to the pressure of a difficult situation. Today, we find our managers, employees and customers extremely distracted by the multitude of things that are fighting to steal their time and attention. Rapid technology, social media, war, terrorism, and ultimately life itself all striving to dominate their attention scale. However, the biggest crisis faced by you, today’s leaders, are society’s constantly eroding ethics, morals, and values.

All of us can remember how the top executives at Enron (2001), WorldCom (2002), Tyco (2002), and Lehman Brothers (2008) abused their power, influence and privileges, manipulated and misdirected information, incongruously treated their employees and other shareholders, placed self-interests ahead of their workers and the public, and characteristically failed to bear responsibility for their ethical shortcomings. Unfortunately, their subordinates were all too hasty in following their example. In Enron’s case, much of the blame can be squarely placed at the feet of company founder Kenneth Lay, his successor Jeffrey Skilling, and chief financial officer Andrew Fastow. Each failed to meet their ethical responsibility as leaders of the organization.

Today, we can learn much from these failed “false leaders”. Each of their organizations articulated the central values of the company as being “respect, integrity, communications, and excellence.” Regrettably, these values and policies had slight bearing on the way in which Lay, Skilling, and their subordinates did business.

One characteristic that is hardly ever addressed in creating an ethical organizational culture is the moral courage of its top executive. Moral courage is in desperate demand today from our leaders. A key determinant of moral courage is having resilient and resolute core values. Leaders must not only have their individual set of core values; they must hold themselves duty bound to be in 100% observance with the values of the organization they represent. Holding themselves and their employees to the established standards, reinforcing the standards at all times, and when a situation presents itself, having the strength and vigor to take the necessary actions to correct it is essential.
Accountability is another key component that helps define the moral courage of a leader. Today, accountability is evidently absent in several fragments of our society and this one component is undoubtedly the most significant of all. Morally courageous leaders comprehend and practice accountability at all times.

Leave a Reply