Drenched into the never ending debate on morality and ethics i asked myself do we really need heroes to inspire us or to make us believe in the goodness of a system. As a child one would have heroes playing their roles in the moral drama of the world who would make us trust each other. Today we live in a world full of hatred, enmity, selfishness, greed. We are in dire need of heroes, people who can inspire us, help shape us morally, spur us on to purposeful action—and from time to time we are called on to be those heroes, leaders for others, either in a small, day-to-day way, or on the world's larger stage. At this time in my country India, and in the rest of the world, we seem to need moral leadership especially, but the need for moral inspiration is ever present. Everyone’s role is defined in this world and what we truly lack is the one with moral leadership. I live in a country where national elections are scheduled in 2014 and where the country is marred with scams and corruption issues. The honourable Prime Minister has been asked to step down on moral grounds for involvement in coal scam. The PM candidate of the opposition party for the upcoming election has been questionably involved in riots on communal lines. There has been a constant demand for him to step down on moral grounds. The question i ask today is that where is moral responsibility. I am living in a country where the current head of state and contender for the next head of state arguably should have resigned on moral grounds. So can i say that my national leadership is devoid of moral responsibility towards the nation and its people? I hope to show through these accounts of moral leadership that how each of us plays a role in the moral drama of the world around us, and by implication how we can play an even greater role, at one time or another, in the course of our lives.
Moving out from my country there is no dearth of instances where leaders at all levels have acted immorally and have diminished their ability to realize their true objective and vision. Time and again they have been involved in issues like sexual harassment, bribery, and discrimination. These are large scale ethical issues. For me moral leadership has a lot to do with inter personal relationships. It all begins at a fundamental level and depends a lot on how we deal with people on an individual basis on our day to day lives. Morality is mainly about how we relate to and deal with others, but it also includes how we interact with ourselves, the respect with which we engage ourselves. Actions towards others do not have to reach the level of stealing from them or sexually harassing them to be immoral. I am arguing that many leaders act immorally at work and have no idea they are doing so. How can this be? In simple terms, it has to do with the fact that many leaders appear unaware of the motives underlying their behaviour and of the impact of that behaviour on others.
Apart from this there is not an iota of doubt that respect forms the basis of moral behaviour. Being disrespectful is harmful to others and that in itself is immoral. Unfortunately, defining respect in any precise terms is impossible as each of us has a somewhat different view or a different set of characteristics that make up respect. Not only are there legitimate differences in how we use the word respect, the issue is further complicated by the fact that respect is not about agreement, or even liking the other person. Now being disrespectful surely acts as a contributor to immoral leadership. We can see that too often, the human race gets so consumed with power and being “right” and dirty politics that we forget about our ultimate obligation which is to take care of each other by acting judiciously, conservatively and responsibly. It is more than often that we pin all our hopes on moral leadership which raises our sensibilities that it is an obligation. Neglecting it will lead to our downfall and fulfilling it will be our legacy.
Intention or motive is another aspect of a moral leadership. In situation wherein a leader consciously and intentionally acts in ways that harm others leads to immoral behaviour. There can be situations where a leader has good intentions but is not able to foresee the harm to others and sometimes he is willing to accept the harm to others in order to achieve far greater and more valued. Clearly any leaders who intentionally desire to harm others, or who do not care that such harm may occur, are acting immorally. For me, a person as a leader with understanding, commitment and will can bring about a profound level of change that encourages moral leadership. The difficulties are innumerable and only few can turn the tide
We see the need for a broader understanding of what good leadership is. The idea of right and wrong is inherent in the word “moral”. When we are looking for right leadership we see that there are no particular standards. It requires great amount of introspection, critical thinking and dialogue, which would ultimately lean into the discomforts of uncertainty, exploration and learning. One can’t claim to be having a definitive model about what Moral Leadership is or isn’t. In any organization the primacy of profit-making as the ultimate purpose of an organization inevitably neglects other fundamental human needs such as connectedness, contributing to the greater good, belonging, and personal growth and development. This would generate a tension in organizations that results in alienation, the feeling of disconnect with the organization, its goals and leadership and which are exactly the opposite effects of what leaders want and need in today’s increasingly conscious world and marketplace.
In the end it would be justified to say that if a leader with a noble intention/motive, having contributors of moral behaviour and having respect for every individual is able to overcome his conflicts and philosophies in life with strong determination then it will not be difficult to flow against the tide. The perfect idea of such a moral leadership might turn the tide too.
Devvrat Singh Shekhawat
National Law University, Jodhpur