Employees Say Their Companies Would Perform Better If Their Leaders Showed Greater “Moral Leadership,” New Survey Finds


NEW YORK, Feb. 27, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Moral leadership – focusing on human progress and improving the world, having the courage to speak out for principles and being willing to ask tough questions about right and wrong – is in very short supply among company leaders, and it’s not good for business.

So say employees at big companies in North America, according to a new survey of over 500 individuals by LRN Corporation, which helps corporations build values-based cultures and leadership, strengthen their ethics, governance and compliance efforts and inspire principled performance in their operations. The survey aims to gauge whether employees believe greater moral leadership on the part of their managers and CEOs would lead to better business outcomes, and the extent to which leaders are actually demonstrating moral leadership.

Overall, employees think their companies would operate a lot better if their leaders demonstrated greater moral leadership. Leaders are falling short in terms of how they “show up” and behave, and this could be hurting business results. Among the findings:

  • More than four out of five employees – 83% – say their companies would make better decisions if they were to follow the “Golden Rule,” i.e., treat others as you would have them treat you.
  • Sixty-two percent of employees believe their colleagues’ performances would improve if their managers relied more on their moral authority than on their formal power.
  • Most employees – 59% – said their organizations would be more successful in taking on their biggest challenges if their leadership had more moral authority.

“Our system can’t function without leaders with ‘formal’ authority – whether our Commander in Chief, CEOs or school principals. But what makes it all really work is when leaders occupying those formal positions – from business to politics to schools to sports – have moral authority. Formal authority can be won or seized, but moral authority has to be earned and sustained every day by who you are and how you lead,” said LRN Founder and CEO Dov Seidman.

Employees Point to Moral Leadership Deficit at the Top of Firms

Despite employees’ clear appreciation and desire for moral leadership from leaders, they say it is in short supply, according to the survey results.

  • Only 23% of employees say that the managers and executives, with whom they work closely, are moral leaders.
  • Only 17% of employees say their leaders stand up for people who are being treated unfairly.
  • Only 12% say their managers make time to speak with them about why their work is meaningful.
  • Most employees – more than 60% –  say their direct managers ask for and expect their loyalty.

“The vacuum of moral authority must, and will, be filled. Building moral authority isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight. But there’s no better time to start than now,” Seidman said.

The Path Forward

He added, “The upside is that in today’s reshaped world, leaders can come out of nowhere – fast. People – no matter what age, color, gender or faith – can build moral authority in the respective realms and then use it to do big, meaningful things. Use it to run for office, start a company, lead a team, operate a school, lead a movement or build a community organization.” Significantly, the survey findings suggest that the seeds for moral leadership are in place.

Three-quarters of employees (75%) say their leaders generally behave in accordance with company values, even when no one is watching; most (65%) say leaders generally cultivate an inclusive workplace, and most (65%) generally make ethical decisions, even if times are hard for the company.

Said Hannah Wilken of LRN, “Even though today’s leaders seem to have the ‘table stakes’ for developing moral authority, employees remain thirsty for a greater level of moral leadership at their organizations. They’re experiencing a shortage of it. That is a cue to leaders to find a path to acting with humility and a focus on issues of right and wrong.”

To access LRN’s Moral Leadership Report, please visit: http://pages.lrn.com/moral-leadership-report.