Vast Majority of Employees Say There’s an Urgent Need for Moral Leadership in Business Today – but It’s All Too Rare, New Report Says

LRN Research Shows Jump in Percentage of Employees Who Believe Increased Moral Leadership Will Improve Business Performance

NEW YORK, February 19, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The vast majority of U.S. employees – 87% – say business today urgently needs moral leadership. That’s according to a new report “The State of Moral Leadership in Business 2019” released today by LRN Corporation.

LRN, a leading ethics and compliance company, surveyed 1,100 employees, managers and top executives at companies with at least 1,000 people across 17 industries. Across industries, roles, gender, and tenures, respondents were equally emphatic about their desire for managers and executives to lead with the company’s deeper purpose, inspire and elevate people, uphold moral values, and actively engage in questions of right and wrong.

But the moral leadership they yearn for is largely lacking. According to respondents, only 7% of business leaders consistently demonstrate the qualities of moral leadership, according to the findings. And they say that 59% of leaders rarely or never demonstrate moral leadership characteristics.

“In a top-down world, formal authority, armed with carrots and sticks, was sufficient to get people to do the next thing right, exactly as specified. But, in our now interdependent world, formal authority is less potent. Only moral authority can build trust, inspire colleagues, create meaning, or help people imagine a different and better future—in other words, enabling them to do the next right things,” said Dov Seidman, founder and CEO of LRN and author of How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything.

Employees are also convinced that moral leadership will lead to better results for their companies

  • Nearly three-quarters (72%) of employees say their companies would be better at taking on their biggest challenges if led with moral authority, up from 59% in the 2018 survey.
  • 94% of managers who consistently demonstrate moral leadership are regarded as effective in achieving business goals, compared with 14% of managers who don’t.
  • 90% of leaders who display moral leadership are seen as effective at encouraging innovation, compared with 11% who only lead with formal authority.
  • 94% of leaders who consistently show moral leadership are seen as fostering creativity.

The scarcity of moral leadership clearly relates to company policy and culture. Only 50% of employees say leaders at their companies receive training on complex moral issues in the workplace. The research notes that moral leadership can be scaled across the organization, multiplying the benefits. But this depends a good deal on whether top leaders are modeling the right behaviors: when the CEOs fails to show moral leadership, 89% of company managers also fail to act as moral leaders.

“There is now further proof that the imperative for moral leadership is more urgent than ever. Unprecedented forces are radically reshaping our world, compelling business executives to reimagine how they manage and lead,” added Seidman. “We are being challenged to focus on and scale the unique ways in which humans contribute and create value. It is my sincere hope that this report will encourage leaders to take the deliberate and necessary steps to build their own moral authority, scale moral leadership across their organizations, and seize the opportunities of our reshaped world.”

About LRN

LRN’s mission is to inspire principled performance. Since 1994, LRN has helped over 25 million people at more than 700 companies worldwide simultaneously navigate complex legal and regulatory environments and make ethical decisions, and has also helped hundreds of companies foster ethical, responsible, and inclusive cultures.  LRN’s combination of practical tools, education, and strategic advice helps companies translate their values into concrete corporate practices and leadership behaviors that create sustainable competitive advantage. In partnership with LRN, companies need not choose between living principles and maximizing profits, or between enhancing reputation and growing revenue: all are a product of principled performance. As a global company, LRN works with organizations in more than 100 countries.