We all know there are times when our drives are in conflict with our reasons to act morally. The question is, how do we develop the ability to follow our moral compass, even under pressure?
- You are a CEO for a utility company and you have to tell a very influential mayor of a major American city that the power is going out across part of the city within the hour. Do you immediately disclose that you don’t know why or how to fix the problem?
- As the chairman of the board you receive a call from the media that your CEO is doing company business at a local topless venue. This is the first you have heard that your organization entertains there. Do you fire the long-term executive to save face?
- You are a manager and have terminated a difficult employee who the next day comes into your office, is very angry and verbally aggressive. He is mad because a $400 reimbursement has been denied. Even though company policy is that this type of reimbursement is not allowed, do you give it to the disgruntled ex-employee?
Now, Lennick and Kiel, the nation’s leading experts on moral intelligence, prove that we all are qualified to answer life’s highest stake questions.
How do we do the right thing even when we are scared or pressured? Although both emotional intelligence and moral intelligence come into play when moral decisions are at stake, they are not the same. Emotional intelligence is values frees. Moral intelligence is not. Emotional skills can be applied for good or evil. Moral skills, by definition, are directed toward doing good. Moral intelligence is not just important to effective leadership - it is the “central intelligence” for all humans. Why? It’s because moral intelligence directs our other forms of intelligence to do something worthwhile. Moral intelligence gives us the necessary fundamentals for life’s challenging circumstances.
What the Best Leaders Believe
The most effective leaders hold a common set of principles and consistently use those principles to guide their day-to-day actions. The principles business leaders follow are the same set of principles that all human societies throughout time have believed to be “right.” These fundamental beliefs have been embedded in human society for so long that they are now widely recognized as universal.
Noted anthropologist Donald E. Brown found in his research that the moral codes of all cultures include recognition of responsibility, reciprocity and the ability to empathize. Other studies have confirmed his findings. The major world religions preach common values: commitment to something greater than self, responsibility, respect and caring for others. Genuine differences in behavior in different cultures may distract us from what we have in common with all people–a universal moral compass.
Moral intelligence is an outgrowth of “living in alignment,” the interconnection of an individual’s moral compass (basic moral principles, personal values, and beliefs); their goals; and their behavior, including inward thoughts, emotions, and external actions. Living in alignment means an individual’s behavior is consistent with their goals and that their goals are consistent with their moral compass. Living in alignment is not accidental. It requires understanding and building on each component while maintaining alignment among all components, especially during pressure points in our work or personal life.
Moral Positioning System
Think of your moral intelligence as a “moral positioning system” for your life’s journey, analogous to the global positioning system (GPS) used in some cars as a navigational tool. You can be a great driver. Your car can have a powerful engine and four-wheel drive. Then, life being as it is, you find yourself driving when it’s dark in unfamiliar neck of the woods, you have directions that were given you by someone who doesn’t know the street names and you cannot see the map you got from AAA. You are lost. Despite all your tools and resources, you have no idea if you are headed in the right direction. But if your car had GPS, it would be virtually impossible for you to get lost. Like having a GPS for your car, your moral intelligence allows you to better harness all your resources, your emotional intelligence, your technical intelligence, and your cognitive intelligence, to achieve the goals that are most important to you–whether on the job or in the rest of your life. Unlike today’s GPSs, moral intelligence is not optional equipment. It is basic equipment for individuals who want to reach their best creative potential and business leaders who want to capture the best efforts of their workforce.
The business advantages of moral intelligence may be hard to quantify, but the business costs of moral ignorance are undeniable,” said Lennick. “We’ve all seen more than enough images of corporate executives being carted off in handcuffs. Moral intelligence is a leader’s secret weapon for lasting personal and organizational performance.
Donald E. Brown. Human Universals, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991.
R.T. Kinnier, J.L. Kernes, and T. M. Dautheribes. “A Short List of Universal Moral Principles.” Counseling and Values, October 1, 2000.