When I started to focus on the morality of business and leadership in my research, I surveyed some past clients in my inner circle, for their definition of moral awareness. One of the most striking definitions I received was the following:
“Moral awareness is when one is in touch with our innate sense of morality and can feel the moral component of events. Someone who does not have moral awareness does not notice the moral cues provided to him by his psyche ……”
I believe that business culture may shy away from using the word “moral” because it usually implies some sense of spirituality or religion, which may not fit succinctly in the business world. However, recent events that have led our entire economy down a dangerous path, have forced many to dive deeper into what exactly is the problem. I believe part of the problem is that everyone wants to force or mandate ethical conduct….and you just can’t!
Even President Obama, when interviewed on Jay Leno (March 19, 2009) commented, when speaking of AIG and Merrill Lynch and their ‘payout of billions of dollars of bonuses, noted that these actions were actually legal.’ His point, I believe, was although these actions were legal, certainly they were not ethical or moral.
The problem is this: you can not mandate or enforce an innate sense of morality. However, we can create a corporate culture where acting in the most moral and ethical way, is the norm. Morally aware people will be attracted to these types of ‘high-road’ companies. The morally unaware will be the minority.