August 23, 2008

Moral Leadership

I attended the annual American Psychological Association's Convention last week so be prepared, gentle reader, for my blogging reflections from this event. I do not normally attend this convention which is primarily focused on the more clinical side of psychology--however, there were a number of presentations geared to Organizational Psychology practice and one that was particularly inspiring to me was given by Richard Kilburg entitled "The Evolution of Executive Conscience and the Practice of Justice". Kilburg, a consulting psychologist, seasoned executive coach and professor at the Carey Business School of Johns Hopkins University challenged those in the audience, many of whom were executive coaches and organizational consultants, to push the moral issue with our executive clients. He presented us with challenging questions and exercises we can provide our clients to help them to develop their "Moral Compass".

Morality is a topic often left to our church, community or home life. But it is clear that strong ethics and integrity are characteristics we want to see in our leaders and we are all too often disappointed in this area. I doubt the problem lies in choosing leaders who are immoral, though there are a certain amount of psychopaths who make it to powerful leadership positions. I suspect the problem is more likely in the difficulties and challenges we all face in our daily work world.

Consider this: Have you ever been asked to lie about your work? Maybe its to fudge the numbers "just a little bit" to make things look better? or, to keep quiet about errors or problems that may impact the sale of your product. Do you sometimes exaggerate your capabilities to get the job? Have you ever kept quiet about practices in your company that are clearly wrong? There are many situations we face in our work world that require a decision to take the high road, or not. The impact of these situations becomes bigger as the scope of one's job enlarges.

The pressures of business can make it easy to get off track and lose our moral compass. It is often routine every day decisions that can lead us astray or keep us on track. Leadership is not just about doing things well, its also about doing what's right. Not always the easy path---but who said it would be easy, anyway?

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