The State of Moral Leadership in Business 2024 – Methodology

The HOW Institute’s Ongoing Study of The State of Moral Leadership
At the heart of The HOW Institute’s mission is a dedication to developing novel metrics that delve into the how of leadership, decision-making, and behavior. The 2024 State of Moral Leadership in Business report is the latest in an ongoing study of the presence of moral leadership and how, when it is present, it inspires elevated behavior in people, shapes values-based organizational cultures, strengthens performance, nurtures meaningful relationships within teams and builds stronger links to society and communities.
How The HOW Institute Defines and Measures Moral Leadership
We adopt a broad and holistic concept of moral leadership in this report, emphasizing the significance of relationships, inspiration, and a profound sense of purpose. Moral leaders go beyond mere compliance, exemplifying and inspiring higher levels of conduct by engaging those they lead in meaningful endeavors that are underpinned by common values. These leaders do not only focus on following the rules. They are also deeply invested in carefully considering and reflecting on what they should do—and why. There is no checklist or prescribed set of actions that defines moral leadership. To the contrary, serving as a moral leader necessitates embracing a framework that rests on four fundamental pillars: Let Purpose Lead, Inspire and Elevate Others, Be Animated by Values, and Build Moral Muscle.
To better understand how moral authority is expressed and perceived in real-world workplace environments, we invited employees to assess their managers with respect to a number of distinct moral leadership behaviors. These behaviors fall under seven central moral leadership practices, shown below.
  1. Start with a pause
  2. See the humanity in everyone
  3. Uphold ethical standards
  4. Act with courage
  5. Seek the truth
  6. Foster freedom
  7. Demonstrate humility
We evaluated both the frequency and the impact of these behaviors, analyzing the ways in which actively practicing them influences teams and organizations. In addition to this analysis, employees assessed their most senior organizational leaders with respect to a set of behaviors that was similar but modified slightly to better align with leaders’ unique perspectives and roles.
Finally, we also encouraged participants to provide personal accounts of moral leadership observed in their everyday work. These narratives offer invaluable, qualitative insights that complement the quantitative data in our report, and they are included as direct quotes throughout.
The 2024 State of Moral Leadership Methodology
The 2024 State of Moral Leadership report is underpinned by a rigorous mixed-methods approach, combining quantitative analysis of survey data with qualitative insights from open-ended responses. This analytical framework enables both statistical insights into patterns and correlations related to moral leadership as well as nuanced perspectives from real-world narratives.
A key strength of the methodology is the tiered system used to categorize leaders into levels of moral leadership. By assessing respondents’ experiences of how consistently their managers demonstrate specific moral leadership behaviors, the analysis generates a robust portrait of the varying degrees of moral leadership organizations exhibit. This tiered system is based on the framework of moral leadership developed by Dov Seidman and detailed on the HOW Institute website. The framework has guided years of research originally at LRN and subsequently at The HOW Institute, including several prior State of Moral Leadership reports.
The multi-level structure of the survey instruments also bolsters the analysis. Inquiring about moral leadership at direct manager and CEO levels provides a holistic view of how moral leadership manifests across organizational hierarchies. The impacts of moral leadership are likewise explored at multiple levels, spanning team dynamics, organizational performance, and societal relationships. Powerful insights emerge from correlating managers’ moral leadership tiers with outcomes such as team behaviors, turnover intention, and impunity. These relationships spotlight the tangible influence moral leadership exerts on organizational culture and results.
By combining rigorous quantitative analysis that isolates correlations with evocative qualitative narratives that provide context, the report methodology generates actionable and accessible insights. This blended analytical approach ensures the quantification of moral leadership does not occur in isolation from the human experiences and organizational relationships it is meant to serve. In this way, the analysis brings statistics to life while also embedding stories in a rigorous framework.