The Future of Moral Leadership & Organizational Behavior

Understanding the current state of moral leadership is crucial for today’s leaders. But what does the future hold? Our latest report presents a complex yet enlightening picture: nearly half of our respondents felt that the best days of moral leadership were in the past, while 32% believed the best days were in the future, and 18% think they are in the present. This array of perspectives suggests we are at a pivotal juncture in the trajectory of moral leadership.

Perspectives on Moral Leadership: Past, Present, or Future?

Our report asked, “Are the best days of moral leadership in the past, present, or future?” The results showed:

  • Past: 49%
  • Present: 18%
  • Future: 32%

These insights reflect a longing for days when moral principles seemed more pronounced and an eagerness to evolve moral leadership practices for contemporary challenges. Understanding these varying perspectives can help organizations navigate the path forward more effectively.

Bridging Perspectives for Effective Moral Leadership

Bridging the gap between these perspectives requires a concerted effort. Organizations must commit to developing moral leadership at all levels, ensuring that ethical considerations are not just an afterthought but a core aspect of decision-making and strategy. This means creating environments that foster open dialogue, critical thinking, and empathy, ultimately enabling leaders to navigate complex ethical landscapes with insight and integrity.

As we seek to build these environments, The HOW Institute’s prior research offers some helpful insights. In our interviews with over 7000 employees across 17 countries, we identified three primary organizational archetypes: blind obedience, informed acquiescence, and self-governance. Organizations need to facilitate the shift from blind obedience to informed acquiescence, before finally achieving self-governance. By driving this transition, leaders can move beyond rhetoric to take tangible, impactful action.

The Three Archetypes of Organizational Behavior

  1. Blind Obedience

    • Power-based, task-driven organizations that operate through command-and-control structures
    • Emphasizes adherence to rules and directives, often at the expense of ethical considerations
    • Focus on short-term goals
  1. Informed Acquiescence

    • Rules-based, process-driven organizations that operate through hierarchy
    • Management “promotes” adherence to set protocols
    • Employees are motivated by performance-based rewards but are expected to fulfill the expectations of their superiors
    • Short-term focus remains, but with more emphasis on processes
  1. Self-Governance

    • Purpose-inspired, values-based organizations that integrate shared values into their operations
    • Employees are empowered to act as moral agents and are encouraged to lead from their values
    • Organizations that foster self-governance achieve higher levels of ethical performance

Organizations must strive to evolve from blind obedience to self-governance, creating environments where ethical considerations are not just an added benefit but a fundamental aspect of how business is conducted.

The future of moral leadership lies in our ability to learn from the past, adapt in the present, and innovate for the future. By committing to the development of moral leadership at all levels and fostering environments that support ethical decision-making, organizations can bridge the gap between varying perspectives and lead with integrity and insight.