[August 2, 2017] I’ve written before, here in theLeaderMaker.com that the most important leadership characteristic is “caring” about others (see link here). While I believe that is true, there are many who make the argument that the most important leader trait is having a good moral foundation.
Without a moral foundation, the argument states, there is no other way of knowing the leader will be able to make the right decisions. Many of their lists show successful leader traits; positive attitude, focused, passion, self-disciplined, etc. Rarely do we see morality come into play.
A review of those who give advice to leaders will occasionally mention “ethics” as a factor, although it is often an afterthought. Yet ethics is – living by sound moral principles – more often than not, the key factor. Enron, Watergate, Veterans Administration, and recently Wells Fargo1 all had the same problem with their leaders; a failure to adhere to basic moral standards.2
Those who study leadership are often scoffed at by many who will say that ethics is important but, at the same time, deny the influence of religion on those very ethics and the values that underpin them. It’s a strange world that would deny the basics of leadership in a modern society because of their personal faith in a rigid non-secular belief system.
However, the origins of such a non-secular belief are not relevant here. What is important is that there must be some moral code of values that is the foundation for people in their behavior. Religion is the specific vehicle where one learns this from a young age and is in a social setting where good traits are praised and bad (or evil) traits are discouraged.
A good moral upbringing is responsible for many who have internalized behavior that is ethical and therefore leaders are focused on what is good for all humans. That is why I had written earlier that the best leaders are those who truly care about others. Both ethics and caring are closely intertwined and ultimately inseparable.
I like the idea that a good moral foundation is the most essential leader trait. In my long U.S. Army career, I’ve found that those who were religious could be trusted more than those who had rejected religion in their lives. This is no promotion of religion, except by exception, but the simple recognition that it helps leaders immensely.
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- Others include, Waste Management (1998), Worldcom (2002), Tyco (2002), Healthsouth (2003), Freddie Mac (2003), American Insurance Group (2005), Lehman Brothers (2008), etc. See this link for more: http://www.accounting-degree.org/scandals/