The Importance of Morality in Leadership

By | November 24, 2020

[November 24, 2020]  While writing an article yesterday on Good Sense, I was simultaneously thinking about the issue of morality and its impact on leadership.  A host of questions sprung up that I was not prepared to answer.  I will address one of the crucial questions here today.

Leaders are granted certain powers and responsibilities.  If we were to look out across time and cultures, we would see successful leaders.  A closer look at them will show us a behavior pattern from which we can extract those things associated with success, write them down, and study those behaviors.  We do this to improve our own leadership capabilities.

“Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” – Alexis de Tocqueville

Does morality have a place in leadership?

Read any history textbook, watch television, or read a newspaper, and reality grabs us like a bad dream.  The daily dose of violence, apathy, divisiveness, and destruction has desensitized us to moral character failure.  Unsurprisingly, the integration of morality into the decision-making skills of a leader is also on the decline.

How to Connect Morality to Leadership:

A U.S. Army retired Command Sergeant Major contacted me last week to lament that ethics are no longer being taught at the Army’s Sergeants Major Academy.  Instructional emphasis is on “getting along” and “how to advance your career.” No longer do they mention morality outright for fear of being labeled racists or sexists. “What is this world coming to?” he said.  Here are a few suggestions on how to link morality to leadership:

Be a Role Model:

Leaders practice what they preach.  Leaders know the way, go the way, and show the way.  Role models are what leaders are about. They have the freedom to show they are good people; strong, loyal, hard-working, and caring.  Never underestimate the difference a leader can make.

Encourage Positive Behaviors:

As opposed to reinforcing negative behaviors, providing reinforcement of positive actions keeps a leader’s team in a state of intellectual and moral growth.  Rather than focusing on the bad apple, praise the positive.  Identify where the problems are and show others how to grow out of them.

Build Grit:

One of the learning opportunities leaders frequently encounter is how they will react to mistakes.  A good leader will reflect upon how the mistake was made, but more importantly, they recognize that it is an open door for personal growth.  Give others the guidance, time, and resources to correct mistakes.  This makes them more robust and more adaptive.

Grow Character:

When leaders focus more on the mission, they are losing another generation of followers.  Investing in character education will make the workplace a better place to be.  When people know they are valued for who they are, they want to follow a moral leader.  Respect, honesty, compassion, and teamwork are character traits that do not magically appear.

Be Open to Faith:

Morality is built upon a religious foundation.  This building block is not based upon going to church every Sunday but upon a belief in humankind and their spiritualness.  Encourage, don’t discourage, faith-based learning.

Leaders’ impact on shaping others’ character and core values is the fundamental reason leadership exists.  A great leader teaches mentors, and coaches.  That means being there for others, learning to inject the moral fiber necessary to make their lives better.  What flows from that will determine how well your organization does and how you will be seen as a leader.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

19 thoughts on “The Importance of Morality in Leadership

  1. ZB22

    School teachers should read this article. Also, their reputation during the pandemic has taken a huge hit. That includes everyone in the education field. We are seeing how little they actually contribute.

  2. Jerome Smith

    I’ve not read much about the development of ‘grit’ lately and so it was refreshing to read it in this article. I like the idea of developing grit esp in our kids. Makes them stronger emotionally and physically as well as more flexible and self confident.

    1. Mr. T.J. Asper

      Good point Jerome. Grit is something we need to be teaching our kids. But we are failing to do so properly.

  3. Max Foster

    “Be open to faith.” Now that is one item on the list here that will get our liberal friends up in arms. Maybe they will start a riot. That is what they like to do. Whenever their thinking is challenged in any way, large or small, violence is the first thing they think of doing. Or it could be cancelling you on social media. Reminds me of the Nazi methods used in the 1930s during the rise of Adolf Hitler. Very similar in many ways.

  4. Janna Faulkner

    Hi Gen. Satterfield, long-time reader here. I see you’ve changed your formatting up a bit. It is more readable. Keep it up.

    1. Dennis Mathes

      I noticed it too. Janna, what do you think if we start making recommendations for Gen. Satterfield to write about? Hmmmm, maybe he would appreciate it. That also points him to what we think might be important or to which we have some curiosity. I would go for it. Your thoughts?

      1. Janna Faulkner

        I like the idea, Dennis. My first suggestion would be an article on “what is an evil leader?”

      2. Yusaf from Texas

        Hi guys! I recommend a blog post on ‘How not to fail as a leader.’

          1. Dead Pool Guy

            This was one of Gen. Satterfield’s better articles because it was ‘hard hitting’ and named names. I like it when he does that. Why pull back and not name the failed leader. In this particular case, Tom, it was Hillary Clinton. Boy, did Gen. Satterfield nail this one. Hillary continues to show us what failure looks like over and over and over.

      3. Ed Berkmeister

        What about “Language of a Leader” or “How to Identify up and coming Junior Leaders” ….. just a few off the top of my head.

    2. Kenny Foster

      Good eye, Janna. Anything that is done here to make the site more appealing is okay with me. But ultimately it is the content that matters most. This article is about morality and the subject is crucial for any leadership. That is why Slow Joe Biden will never be the US president – maybe in name only – but he doesn’t have the moral background to cut it.

  5. Army Captain

    Excellent blog posting this morning, Gen. Satterfield. I cannot ever underestimate what the impact of a “good” person can do inside any organization. They are the one you can rely on to get the job done, and done ethically. In the US military, this is so important.

    1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      I cannot imagine it being any other way, Army Captain. Thank you for reinforcing my belief in

      1. JT Patterson

        As Army Cpt has done in the past as well. Thanks to you also Otto for pointing it out. Most of us are real believers in our military. It comes to us not due to propaganda from the govt but from direct interaction with real soldiers. That is the way a real leader (also a real American) makes up their mind about any subject. We won’t be spoon fed by some govt bureaucrat.

  6. Greg Heyman

    Greatly understated, I do think, in our society that morality matters. It matters a great deal. The origins of “morality” however, is something that I would be interested in following. Thanks, Gen. Satterfield, great post … again.


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