What does moral leadership mean to me?
Moral leadership would definitely be some hot topics when people live under monarchy, especially under the reign of some absolute monarchy. Ideas would arise questioning the court and the roles played by the citizens. Today, moral leadership may sound less familiar to us, but the common understanding of moral leadership may be the leader of a democratic society. In my opinion, moral leadership is way more than the establishment of a true constitutional regime. To discuss leadership, focusing on the rule of a political leader seems to be too remote; I would rather define leadership as simply a social influence of a person enlisting support from those with a mutual objective, rather than generalizing leadership as something “big” and omnipotent. As suggested by Confucianism, “Cultivate oneself and put family in order, ruling the country and giving peace to the world”, only by starting from one’s morale can one be a true moral leader.
Everyone can be a leader. In a shared leadership, everyone shares power and influence rather than centralizing power in a single individual. For example, in school, a class can act as a leader to promote an idea, whereas the leadership is shared among the classmates; or when we ask questions to focus a discussion, the ability to influence others is shared among the group. Therefore we can see the authority of leadership is not based on the position of the central power but on the power of shared ideas. In this sense, the definition of morality must be universal; else the defined moral leadership would be unethical.
From a Confucian approach, Junzi, meaning gentleman or superior person, is often used to describe moral qualities required by a leader. A Junzi is knowledgeable and loyal; however, above all positive qualities, benevolence is the core. This agrees with the Plato’s idea in the Republic as he mentioned intelligence, integrity and selfless concern for the welfare of the governed, as the prerequisite qualities of leadership; however, the central piece of his view is intelligence. I would agree both benevolence and intelligence are crucial on the success of leadership; however, standing on the viewpoint of leadership being shared, I think that benevolence, as the basis of morality is more beneficial to the public. Benevolence represents the quality of being well and kind to others; As influence is shared among people, this quality of being well behaved can easily influence others, building up a spirit of kindness among these people. However, intelligence itself is more of an inborn quality; Given that a person in the group attains high intelligence and the others barely have intelligence, an idea raised by the one with high intelligence would fail as the other intelligence, most likely, would not concur with the thoughts of the higher intelligence. Intelligence creates a gap between the powerful and the impotent, which hampers the power of shared ideas.
Super-intelligence may not imply benevolence, but benevolence acts as the basis of intelligence. The ability to understand the rights and wrongs requires critical thinking, which is also the ability to question old ideas. As a society is built up on old ideas, the doubt of knowledge becomes the greatest way to influence others. As intelligence could be defined as “understanding”, the awareness of benevolence is the highest form of intelligence to be possibly achieved.
One may think that benevolence barely means disposition to do good. Yes, indeed that’s the definition; however, when breaking down benevolence into parts, it does not sound that easy.
First, being benevolent implies that the person cherishes both the intrinsic and extrinsic value of benevolence: he should not just act kindly but be kind to the others. As only the appearance of the quality of the person can be seen, a person’s intrinsic motivation remains unknown. Being a leader is a personal choice, and being benevolent is also in one’s control. To be a moral leader, is not merely based on the views of the others but to reflect one’s self-quality. We could not judge one’s benevolence by critics as morality is subjective, and therefore a set of qualities under different environment may receive diverse opinions. Being truly benevolent is the only way to achieve successful leadership; however, as mutual idea establishes power for leadership, we shall not neglect the objectivity of moral: benevolence comes into place when power is shared, as benevolence is a quality that can be built up as a spirit among people.
Secondly, being benevolent implies being rational. Not only does a benevolent person show kindness but also appropriate loathe. If a man could not be just when being kind to others, he would not show understanding of morality. In a shared leadership, if a person acts kindly to everyone despite others being apparently unethical, the unethicalness will grow and the leadership will fall. As ethic binds people together by giving people a basic consensus of good and bad, unethicality tears mutual ideas apart, abating the power of shared idea. The focus of this quality is not on showing loathe to the others but to control oneself and be appropriate at appropriate situation; As kindness exist, there must be loathe.
Lastly, being benevolent implies being selfless. In Confucianism, benevolent can also mean sacrificing one’s life to achieve morale instead of keeping one’s life and injure morale. It is impossible for us the stay benevolent at all times; we would not suicide to fulfill morale. However, it is important for us to keep in mind that being benevolent should stay as the top priority in our life, only in that way could a leadership be successful and fruitful.
However, shared leadership clearly is not what we see in the political side of a society. As we move up the hierarchy of power, we could see people being more impulsive, as people who are aggressive tend to obtain higher power barely for its extrinsic value. Being in power and ruling citizens is not unethical, only the lack of benevolence would lead to problems. In China, leaders lack benevolence and corrupt, neglecting the benefit of the country as a whole. If a person could not be rational and manage its self-qualities, he would not be able to manage a state/ country; in what way could this person be called a leader? Such corruption has leaded to frustration in the public and torn apart the power of shared ideas. In the United States, parties polarize due to lack of benevolence; in other words, the quality of being selfless. Once again, such polarization causes the public to polarize, diminishing the power of shared ideas.
Instead of focusing on the government, we shall pay attention to our own qualities. Being benevolent is not about how others see you as a person; it is about nurturing such quality and contributing to the society. “Cultivate oneself and put family in order, ruling the country and giving peace to the world”. Being benevolent to one another is the beginning to successful leadership.
Name: Tam Long Yat
School: Baptist Lui Ming Choi Secondary School
High School Junior Stduent