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What Is the Moral Gauge for Leaders?

By Frank C. Bucaro

If we use this as a "gauge" for leadership today, what would this tell us? Maybe that leaders don't examine deeply enough the moral dimension of their actions or their decisions or that those leaders who exemplify this "gauge" are far and few between? Or could it be that too much other stuff gets in the way, be it, CYA for your job, focusing solely on shareholders, etc.? or is that morals are not on one's radar or the belief that morals have nothing to do with business. All are dangerous, and people can see the effect of the lack of moral leadership.

1. Do leaders personally know what is "right?" If so, according to what standard, for what reason, and for what result? Leaders need to take time to discern their morals, in what ways they bring them to the workplace. Why do they need to take the time? Because if they do or don't, there is always a price to pay.

2. What are the leaders' deeply ingrained habits? The only way to judge this is to observe the leader's actions and their effect on the people around them. Habits become "second nature" in that the leader doesn't even have to think about them. It is an automatic consideration, behaviour, and an integral part of one's decision-making. The real issue is, are they positive or negative habits?

3. The goal of the moral life is to cultivate character. What are the keys to character development? It seems to me that character is built on three concepts:

a. Who you are: the virtues one has acquired, especially honesty and integrity.

b. What you represent: one's ability to recognize moral issues and choose the "good."

c. How you act when no one is watching: This denotes the degree of moral internalization.

These need to be an integral part of all values-based leadership development programs. One of the critical issues in keeping the moral gauge pointed in the right direction is ongoing, practical, interactive ethics training. However, bland training seems to be the norm and can no longer be acceptable.

Bland training is training that it is a "one-shot" deal and does not provide skills to help change behavior or just settles for knowledge transfer i.e. "let's get everyone in a room and tell what they need to know" attitude. It should be evident that this type of training does not work. It may fulfill a requirement but has little to do with attitude and behavior change. There is very little substance. It should make you wonder how much money is poured into this kind of training without a quantifying ROI.

Training that isn't bland is training needs to start with these questions: 1. What needs to be done? 2. Why does it need to be done? 3. How and who should do it and why? Effective values-based training is an ongoing process with simple, practical training requirements that always provide knowledge transfer. When fully utilized, this transfer helps to change behaviors. The result of any quality values training is to assist people in making better choices and thereby making a decision to change their attitudes and behavior. Effective values training is all about the transmission and application of wisdom, not just knowledge. Knowledge is the "stuff"(information), and wisdom (practical use of knowledge) is what you do with it. Bland training is solely knowledge-based, with a limited behavioral application.

Another critical issue is to understand what are the moral challenges for Leadership in 2020.

I have identified four Leadership challenges:

1. What does it mean to you to be moral?

You need to define it, not just for your self but for your people. You need to embrace it and consistently promote and live it.

2. What guides you morally?

List the values that you internalize and prioritize them in order of personal preference.

3. Have you made it a priority to help your people think morally/ethically about their work?

This is not just a training activity, but by embracing a process of moral thinking that encompasses and is a significant part of all training initiatives.

4. How well are training your people in moral reasoning, moral theory, and ethics? This process needs people trained in ethics, ethical thinking and moral reasoning. This process needs to be viewed as A. an investment and not an expense; B a proactive approach to creating an environment of trust; C. A process that will be ongoing, al inclusive, open to discussion to focus, on not just the common good but the greater good as well.

More specifically, what would your employees' answers be as you "dig deeper" into planning the development of your own moral/ethical training options and content?

· Is ongoing training for all employees provided on moral/ethical decision-making techniques?

· Does your mid-level management leaders receive additional moral/ethics training than the rank and file do?

· How does your company express and reinforce its moral commitment to ethics to all employees?

· What support systems are in place to help employees deal with moral/ethical issues?

· Are employees encouraged to question their leaders when asked to do something they consider wrong?

To "see" what your employees think about morals and ethics

Frank Bucaro is an ethics expert who has leading the crusade for ethics in business for the past 24 years. He is a Certified Speaking Professional(CSP) and was elected into the Professional Speakers Hall of Fame in 1997.

Frank's programs focus on ethics, ethical leadership and marketplace morality. He can be reached at 847-77-8-5498 or

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