Socrates and Plato, both taught that knowledge and virtue are one in this these ways:
• If one knows what is right, then one will do what is right.
• Virtue is a kind of knowledge in that they are deeply ingrained habits that guide one’s action.
• The goal of the moral life is to cultivate the very best character one can.
If we use this as a “gauge” for leadership today, what would this tell us? I would suggest that by in large leaders don’t examine deeply enough the moral dimension of their actions or their decisions. Too much other stuff gets in the way, be it, CYA for your job, placating shareholders, wanting to be re-elected, etc., 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 lack of moral leadership.
1. Do leaders really know what is right? According to whom? For what reason? And for what result? Leaders need to take time to discern their own morals and how they bring them to the workplace and why.
2. What are the leaders’ deeply ingrained habits? How ingrained? Positive or negative? The only way to judge is to observe the leader’s actions and their effect on the people around them. These habits need become “second nature” so that the leader doesn’t even have to think about them, it is an automatic consideration and integral part of one’s decision making.
3. If 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 you have acquired, especially honesty and integrity.
b. What you represent: your ability to recognize moral issues and choose the “good.”
c. How you act when no one is watching: the degree of moral internalization.
So take some time to take a step back, reflect on these questions/points and gauge for yourself how you’re doing and what you need to do next.