Today, the world is fundamentally fused and morally activated. Each of us has the power to do good or harm at a scale like never before. With one swipe or post, we can put ourselves into intimate proximity with one another, regardless of our distance. These connections can deepen our empathy, but they can also spread vitriol and disinformation with breathtaking speed.
At the same time, artificial intelligence has redefined how work is done. Increasingly, machines are not just outproducing and out-processing us; they are outthinking us. This challenges us to focus on and scale the unique ways humans contribute and create value.
Together, these unprecedented forces have radically reshaped our world, often faster than we have yet been able to reshape ourselves, our institutions, and our leadership. Organizational leaders across all sectors must no longer just do the next things right—tasks machines can easily do—but rather do the next right things.
Human systems cannot function without formal leaders. Some of us are parents, some coaches, some educators, some managers, some executives, some elected officials, and the list goes on. Take a moment to reflect. Each of us leads, in some way, every day of our lives.
But what makes organizations—and ultimately all the institutions that make up our society—really work is when formal leaders have moral authority too. While formal authority can be seized, won, or bestowed, moral authority must be earned by who you are and how you lead.
Above all, moral leadership is about how leaders touch hearts, not just minds. Only moral authority can build trust, inspire others, create meaning, and help people imagine a different and better future—enable them to contribute their fullest talent, realize their deepest humanity, and do the next right things.
Moral leadership is a precious resource, but it need not be a scarce one.