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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Moral Leadership

Author's note: The following is taken from a larger paper prepared as part of a course taken for his pursuit of a Ph.D. through Milwaukee's Cardinal Stritch University.

Copyright 2016, Aaron Scott Robertson. All rights reserved.

Taken from "The Importance and Relevance of Moral and Ethical Principles in Leadership"
Aaron S. Robertson, MSM
April, 2016

Personal Mission Statement

The personal mission statement of this author is, “To help others discover their true potential with the talents and gifts granted to me.”

This author believes that each person has his or her own unique gifts and talents – potential – to share with the world. Unfortunately, many of these aspirations, dreams, and skills go uncultivated and never actualized, either because the one in question does not want to fully acknowledge and develop them for whatever reason, or because the happenings and trappings of modern, complex, everyday life interfere with their successful fruition. This author, knowing how little time each of us possesses in this lifetime to develop these unique gifts and talents for the betterment of both ourselves and for others, has always strived to share his unique perspectives and experiences with the broader world, and, in turn, assist others in discovering their full potential and sharing what they have to offer, as well. On the subject of time, which largely guides this author in his overall life philosophy, he wrote in a previous paper, “My Personal Theory of Leadership”,
Time can be a wonderful thing. With its passage, a person can build a successful and satisfying career. It can heal many of the physical and emotional wounds and illnesses we carry throughout our lives. Time allows interest to compound in a person’s investment account. It lays the foundation for meaningful and lasting relationships of any kind. It can give way to stunning hair and nails, or an impressive beard. And the passing of time can close the gap between a person’s formal education and practical work experience, creating more of a cohesive union between the two, along with more impressive credentials for an employer. But as we as society always look forward to the new year so that we can have that psychological fresh start when it comes to achieving resolutions, and as we continue to cheer, “There’s always next year,” when rallying around our favorite sports teams, we do not realize at that moment that each passing year brings us, as individuals, that much closer to our demise. This author does realize this fact at that moment. He is always aware of the finite amount of time we have to make meaningful contributions to society and to the individual lives that we connect with along the way. And so his leadership style and approach are as much tied to life philosophy as they are to his role as a tactician in business and management. (Robertson, 2015)
With this context established, devising this author’s mission statement came with great ease.

The Need for Moral Leadership and Action

For this author, it seems nearly impossible to envision society at large being able to exist without moral leadership. And not just moral leadership emitting from the usual suspects – the giants; the heavyweights; the legends we as a society have come to know and revere through the proverbial textbook – but moral leadership coming from the countless number of people who have gone to, and will go to, their graves an unknown; unknown, in this context, to the broader world. There is something extraordinarily profound to be said about the everyday – about everyday people going about their lives, guided by some set of principles that allows society as we know it to exist and to go on continuing to exist. Without these values, namely cooperation, collaboration, open-mindedness, and mutual respect, there would be complete and utter chaos. Now, it is obvious and it goes without saying that not everyone possesses these values. However, enough people do, that it prevents society from descending into total self-destruction. This author would like to devote this discussion, specifically, to the value of open-mindedness and how it relates to the subject of moral leadership.

This author has seen a number of times now the recent major motion picture, The Big Short. Based on true events, the film looks at several New York-area investment bankers and fund managers that were able to make tens, even hundreds, of millions of dollars off of the mortgage crisis of 2008-09 that took the United States and many other countries throughout the world into recession. These investors were able to make these gains by investing significant sums of money in insurance instruments that would pay out when the underlying mortgage bonds that these instruments insure, fail. They predicted, through a thorough analysis of readily-available and accessible mortgage data and other economic indicators, that the housing market was about to crash. Yet, mainstream, conventional thinking at the time was that the housing market was very safe and stable. After all, it always had been up to the crash. Mortgages had never caused a crisis before, so it could never happen, right? These investors were considered on the far fringe, going against the grain of the conventional business and economic thought of the day. They were laughed at and dismissed by the big banks and brokerage houses, and embraced with open arms by those that sold the insurance instruments, convinced that these investors were handing them large sums of free money via the premiums they were paying for the coverage (Gardner, Kleiner, Milchan, and Pitt, 2015). Because so many in the investment world lacked the open-mindedness necessary to even consider the theories and arguments advanced by these rebel investors, based purely on data freely accessible to anyone wanting to take the time to look at it, world-wide recession ensued. Millions lost homes, jobs, and life and retirement savings. This quote by Mark Twain at the beginning of the film says it all: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so” (Gardner, Kleiner, et al., 2015;, n.d.).

The Big Short movie trailer

The case of The Big Short is certainly an example of a lack of open-mindedness on a major scale, with consequences of nearly-insurmountable proportions. But on an everyday basis, a lack of open-mindedness can hinder or prevent economic opportunity, business deals, new or improving relationships, and overall personal and professional growth. For this author, refusing to be open-minded, especially to data and facts that may demonstrate the validity to another side of an argument, goes against one’s ability to utilize one’s talents and gifts for the benefit of both one’s self, and, more importantly, for others. The result is intentionally- known and wasted potential, and for this author, this goes against the grain of morally-responsible leadership and is, frankly, reprehensible.

Now, this author is not suggesting that everyone be open-minded and open to negotiation on every matter in life. Most people, under normal circumstances, possess some sort of core that may or may not consist of belief in a god, as well as thoughts on how they view that god, how they feel others should be treated, what actions and decisions are out of the question, how they view one’s relationship to others, and so on. And even then, changes to these core beliefs can certainly change gradually over time as a part of natural growth and development as new insights are gained and experiences had. But everything else should be open to discussion. One’s closed-mindedness is irresponsible, and it can have broad, sweeping implications on the lives of others.

Moral Leadership Platform

With this author’s assertion that open-mindedness plays an integral role in moral leadership, it is important that he demonstrate this value, certainly in all that he does, but especially in his role with his work organization. Being open to any and all possibilities, opportunities, and facts and data, is crucial for the continued success and growth of the organization. However, the rewards of doing so, that is to say, remaining open-minded, or the consequences of not doing so, have far-reaching implications that extend well-beyond the work organization proper – the implications spill over into the individual lives and livelihoods that comprise the organization. For this author, who is in a supervisory role, not embracing this value can mean hindering the personal and professional growth and development, and hence the advancement, of the team members charged to his care. This, for this author, is morally irresponsible and unacceptable, and is contrary to his personal mission statement of, “To help others discover their true potential with the talents and gifts granted to me.”

Bibliography (n.d.). Mark Twain quotes. Retrieved from

Gardner, D., Kleiner, J., Milchan, A., Pitt, B. (Producers), & McKay, A. (Director). (2015). The big short [Motion picture]. United States: Paramount Pictures

Robertson, A. (2016, January 3). My personal theory of leadership. Posted to

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