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CEO activism does not equal moral leadership

A vacuum of moral authority has been created by the lessening influence of cultural institutions and the widespread distrust of governmental agencies. Employees are rightfully turning to and yearning for leaders with the courage to use their influence to stand up to those acting with seeming impunity.

The research in our December 2022 State of Moral Leadership in Business Report confirms that the imperative for moral leadership is more urgent than ever. The report found that in organizations with CEOs who rank in the top-tier compared to the bottom-tier for moral leadership, employees are five times more likely to strongly agree that their organization is purpose-inspired and 20 times more likely to strongly agree that they can express political and social opinions.  

This clearly shows that today’s corporate executives who are confronted with navigating difficult societal issues need to develop effective frameworks for decision-making that are rooted in their organization’s values and purpose. These decision-making frameworks can help leaders choose when and how to lean into the issues most relevant to their organizations.

Indeed, new research from The HOW Institute board member, Paul Polman, reinforces the finding that people want to work for leaders and organizations that are making a positive impact in the world. The Net Positive Employee Barometer found that nearly half of employees say they would consider resigning if the company’s values don’t align with their own, even in these difficult economic times.

While some continue to debate the role of business in society, employees have given executive leaders little choice. Moral leadership has become a survival skill. If you don’t have a moral perspective, you’re going to get run over by the very people you employ or serve.

Read and download The State of Moral Leadership in Business Report

Q&A with Dov 

The HOW Institute founder, Dov Seidman, joined Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership as a Hauser Leader in the Fall of 2022. Read this Q&A with Dov to learn more about his time on campus and the deeper philosophy behind HOW. 

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