The critical importance of morality in leadership lays not in the highest standard of behavior it can set; but in the disastrous outcomes it can prevent, or at least, help prevent. The problem, however, is in the relativistic environment it has to deal with. Relativism has no standard, other than the standard of the individual. And, in the corporate world, that standard often rests in the position of power. Anyone in power has the official incentive to impose personal standards (“individualistic morality”) upon others. That, however, does not mean that a morality based on personal standards is morality at all. Morality necessitates the existence of objective, universal moral principles (Sendjaya, 2005). Nonetheless, an individual has to follow a developmental form of morality that gradually grows in consistency with universal moral principles. Moral development consists of three levels: the pre-conventional, the conventional, and the post-conventional (Daft).
Stage 1, level I (the punishment-obedience orientation): It is the stage of unquestioning deference to power in its own right, regardless of its objective moral value, encouraged by physical consequences of action (Kohlberg & Hersh, 1977). Need-fulfillment is mostly, if not totally, self-centered. I can remember I was in this stage when I was in grade school when my parents were indisputable authorities at home, my teachers in school. However, with the laws protection of children from physical punishment, I move directly to stage 2 after my fourth grade.
Stage 2, level I (the instrumental-relativist orientation): Need-fulfillment remains largely self-centered with occasions that allows the fulfillment of others’ needs (Kohlberg & Hersh, 1977). It involves relationships governed by reciprocity, where fairness often means equal sharing. While these elements exist, they have nothing to do with loyalty, gratitude, or justice. Reciprocity is nothing more than plain and simple mutual and equal sharing of benefits. Since fifth grade to junior high, I learned to demand what I needed from my parents, confident that no physical pain would be inflicted to me. I learned to assert my rights as a child; although I gave in to their demands in areas not so important to me.
Stage 3, level II (the interpersonal concordance orientation): This is the stage of conformity of behaviors approved by others. An attempt to subjectively interpret intentions based on perceivable behaviors. Stereotypical images abound based on these subjective interpretations. I adapted my behaviors to the peer I want to befriend during junior and senior high, and even in much of college. I believe that’s critical to gain friends. People befriend only those like and who like them. Having something in common makes that possible.
Stage 4, level II (the law-order orientation): Deference towards authority, fixed rules, and maintenance of social order for its own sake characterizes this stage. Standards of correct behaviors rely on fixed rules, on doing one’s duties (Kohlberg & Hersh, 1977).
Stage 5, level III (the legalistic orientation): The stage has a general utilitarian characteristic. Correctness of behaviors finds interpretation from the general perspective of individual rights and standards, critically acceptable to the whole society (Kohlberg & Hersh, 1977). Laws and rules are accepted as objective standards of behavior. I moved to this stage when I started working. At work, rules (e.g. Code of Conduct, technical rules) abound that must be followed or risk disciplinary action or even termination of employment. Civil rules (e.g. traffic rules) must also be followed to avoid legal troubles and punishment by law. My supervisory jobs also required me to observe as well as implement certain rules at work.
Stage 6, level III (the universal-ethical-principle orientation): In this highest stage of moral development ethical principles, based on consistency, universality, and logic, reign; although more abstract and ethical than concrete (Kohlberg & Hersh, 1977). These principles embody justice, reciprocity, equality of human rights, and respect for the dignity of human beings as individual persons. Its many clashes with stage 5 morality make this stage something to aspire for with fullness. However, I still journey towards that goal.
Daft. Chapter 6: Courage and Moral Leadership [Attachment]
Kohlberg, L. & Hersh, R.H. (1977, April). Moral development: A review of the theory.
Theory into Practice, 16(2): 53-59. Retrieved from: http://worldroom.tamu.edu/Workshops/CommOfRespect07/MoralDilemmas/Moral%20Development%20a%20Review%20of%20Theory.pdf
Sendjaya, S. (2005, March). Morality and leadership: Examining the ethics of
transformational leadership. Journal of Academic Ethics, 3(1): 75-86. Retrieved from: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10805-005-0868-7