No leadership principle and practice inspires trust and confidence more than moral authority of the leader. A leader without clear and firm moral and ethical practices is liken to a flowing river without banks to keep the water on course. With no moral compass, leadership is boundless in its daily practices and behaviors, veering right and left with the changing wind of what “seems” or “feels” to be a good thing to do, which leads to an erosion of their moral authority. This constant inconsistency of leadership creates a distrust by followers in the leader’s ability to lead with a clear vision and moral standard.
So what is the foundation of one’s moral authority? Steven Covey, writing in the Forward of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Robert Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness, says that it is emanates from the natural law that is self-evident and universal.
Immanuel Kant, in his Critique of Practical Reason, affirms the existence of a moral law within that makes everyone a “good person” or one who does right things, because it is the right thing to do. He stated: “Two things awe me most, the starry sky above me and the moral law within me.”
Our conscience within is that moral law that impels us to place others well-being and needs before our own ego-driven, sometimes emotional and unjustified, wants and desires. Consistently leading with this moral compass strikes a similar chord within others who follow the moral law, thereby setting a foundation for trust and confidence in the leader. Moreover, the building of this trust and confidence in the leader is the creation of the moral authority of that leader.
Leading with Moral Authority is one of the Seven Pillars of Servant Leadership by James Sipe and Don Frick, which resulted from in-depth research in the topic of Servant Leadership in companies.
Leading with Moral Authority makes one worthy of respect, inspires trust and confidence and enables them to lead with high standards of performance. Leaders with accepted moral authority are able with a clear conscience to enforce and maintain organizational standards of performance. Additionally, leaders are able to mentor poor performer from the heart, intrinsically within, to improve not only the performance, but also the behaviors of their employee or co-worker.
Servant Leaders function with a firm belief in doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do. Accordingly, their moral authority is enhanced and solidified.