Leaders’ decisions and actions have moral ramifications, both on an individual and an organizational level. There are three factors of moral development, namely moral capacity, moral courage, and moral resiliency.
Being able to recognize a dilemma as a moral issue is one of the critical aspects of leadership. Such awareness is referred to as moral capacity, which influences the characteristics and recognition of a moral issue. There are multiple aspects that influence a leaders’ moral capacity. The first aspect is their previous experiences with moral dilemmas and how much they learned from them. The second is to what extent a leader is able to see and understand the multiple perspectives of an issue. The third is how leaders view their role and whether or not that incorporates a moral view.
It is not enough to understand and recognize a moral dilemma, it is important to act on it. Such moral courage is especially important when under pressure to act immorally. Such pressure can come from peers, supervisors, or the entire organization. Therefore, the more moral courage someone has, the more likely it is that they take a moral action or make a moral decision. One important aspect of moral courage is the notion of willpower. Willpower is a muscle that people can practice with small tasks, such as drinking a glass of water before breakfast. The more people practice it on small tasks, the more likely they are to use it during challenging situation, such as making a moral decision when pressured to do otherwise.
Moral resiliency is an extension of moral courage. While moral courage focuses on the strength to make moral decisions in the short-term, moral resiliency is a process through which leaders continuously adapt their moral compass and actions. Moral resiliency is this what creates sustainable moral decision-making.
Depending on how leadership effectiveness is defined, moral behavior can either make leaders more or less effective. When looking at effectiveness in the short term, it is possible that moral behavior can impede effectiveness if measured in terms of money or short-term success. However, when looking at effectiveness in the long term, moral behavior increases leaders’ effectiveness. The more honest, and thus morally, people behave, the more effective they are. In a world that is becoming more globalized, it is critical for leaders to understand that culture influences moral and ethical behavior. In other words, what is moral in one culture might be immoral in another. To increase leaders’ effectives it is therefore important to understand the cultural implications of behavior and to be aware of the differences in appropriate and effective behavior.
-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.