Moral leadership is the way leaders take decisions on the basis of what is right and wrong. It is the way moral decisions are taken based on their interpretations of values. Moral leaders are visionaries and affect personal change. They put ethics first to take rough decisions when stakes are high. They think of all the win-win situations for all the parties that are at stake. Sometimes they might even be torn apart by two different responsibilities. Such moral leaders are very rarely found in today’s world. One of the key aspects of a moral leader is “reflection”. When thinking about decisions he/she must know how to handle the issue in a better way and how to arrive at a consensus. The characteristics of moral leadership develop overtime and are influenced by upbringing life experiences, immediate social norms and feelings.
The foundation of moral leadership is values. And accordingly moral leadership can be defined as a quality of a leader to step back regularly to take stock-to look within himself/herself to question his/her values when something challenges the value he/she holds. Paul R Lawrence, the author of Driven to Lead once said, “Humans will probably always need the help of especially gifted moral leaders in order to extend the bonds of caring and trust beyond the easy range of the family and the face-to-face community. Such bonds have become essential to the future of humanity.”
The four main qualities that are displayed by a moral leader are:
Integrity is defined as a person’s ability to be honest, fair, and accept the consequences of all deeds which fall under the person's responsibility, regardless of who committed the action. Integrity is a difficult characteristic to maintain but easy to identify. Leaders who embrace integrity as a valued characteristic admit fault when their subordinates make mistakes and give credit to their subordinates when they succeed.
Mahatma Gandhi, was one the most influential and famous moral leader, of all times. He fought for the freedom struggle of India from the British. He was man of simplicity and integrity. He was fuelled by moral values to strive for independence of India. He followed non-violence, and tried to gain the sympathy and trust of the British, while most of the other freedom fighters in India retorted to violence. But ultimately it was Gandhi’s strategy that won. But yet Gandhi did take the blame for a lot of violence that was caused by his followers. He was in fact jailed several times, for the mistakes done by his subordinates.
Leaders who lead with integrity are more successful than other leaders. They examine their moral principles during bleak situations and a**** the degree to which they adhere to their moral code. They lead by example and work with great zest with their followers.
Selfless service can be defined as service committed for the improvement of society that puts your personal concerns behind. This is not regarding oneself when serving. This is the opposite of selfish service. . A leader who practices true selfless service is promoted by his/her subordinates as an individual who should be followed. The leader is talked about in a positive manner and referred to as hard worker who will do anything for anybody.
Selfless service is where service is performed without any expectations. This is very hard to perform as humans have a tendency to work only when they gain something out of it. But a leader should be able to serve selflessly.
Mother Teresa is a very good example of a leader who performed selfless service for the needy. She was Albanian born Indian Roman Catholic sister who founded the Missionaries of charity and led 4500 sisters to help people HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis; soup kitchens; children's and family counseling programs; orphanages; and schools. She was really open hearted and did not fail to help anyone who approached her. Eventually she received the Nobel Peace prize.
A strong leader of moral character is able to make decisions and accept the consequences of those decisions. Too often, a leader makes decisions but is quick to find fault in others when the consequences of his decisions result in a negative outcome. Correlating to integrity, decision-making requires that a leader look at all situations honestly and with an unbiased point of view. When making decisions involving people, a leader of moral character is just and consistent when considering what actions must be taken. This is especially true when considering disciplinary actions.
Nelson Mandela was an Independent Thinker. His thinking was Independent of others thoughts. In both his thinking and actions, he tended to stay as close as possible to reality. Although he cared what others think but it is definitely not the main influence in his decision making. He had his strong internal frame of reference for what is right and what is wrong. He didn’t really care if someone approved of him or not, he knows right from wrong and lived that way through any type of criticism. During his initial anti-apartheid movement, he was greatly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolence mantra but it was his Independent thinking that helped in convincing him that when many years of non-violent protest against apartheid had achieved nothing and could not succeed, he retorted to armed struggle.
A leader of moral character has personal values that he/she will not compromise. These are simple things that make the person who he/she is today. A good leader presents these values to others through her daily interactions and holds true to these values in all situations, not just when he/she is in front of an audience. Personal values, which can consist of relationships, commitment to parenthood or education, vary according to the individual.
One of the world’s best known advocates of non-violent social change strategies, Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK), synthesized ideals drawn from many different cultural traditions. Recent studies of him emphasize the extent to which his ideals were rooted in African-American religious traditions which were then shaped by his education. The image of a social activist and leader was the result of extensive formal education, strong personal values and licit ethics. This excellence in leadership can be traced to his character which is shaped by his moral values and personality. Through studying the life and example of Martin Luther King, Jr., it is evident that his moral values of integrity, love, truth, fairness, caring, non-violence achievement and peace were what motivated him.