Development of Moral Authority and Responsibility

Mahatma Gandhi epitomizes moral authority in leadership. In every aspect of his life, when he witnessed injustice, he felt morally responsible to correct the situation. His following lines on the seven deadly sins effectively capture the root cause of the ills prevailing in the society in the 21st century

Seven Deadly Sins

“Wealth without work
Pleasure without conscience
Science without humanity
Knowledge without character
Politics without principle
Commerce without morality
Worship without sacrifice

In the business sphere, the issues relating to financial crises, sexual harassment cases, oil spills, nuclear power station disasters, money laundering, bribes and corny capitalism – all arose because of the seven points.

It is not that moral responsibility has disappeared from Indian society. Anna Hazare’s fight against corruption, Arvind Kejriwal’s exposes and the candle light march for the Delhi gang rape victim, all show that leadership based on moral authority flourishes and forms the foundation of humanity.

The challenge is that the percentage of people showing moral responsibility is small. It is disheartening that India, a country thought as the heartland of spiritual awakening world over, is finding a shortfall in moral leadership. The difference between Gandhi and Hitler was only about conscience leadership. They both had vision, passion, communication and people management skills. Now we are seeing more leaders without a conscience.

So what changed over the centuries? If we see, a human body has physical quotient (PQ), intelligence quotient (IQ), emotional quotient (EQ) and spiritual quotient (SQ). In the 20th century, the focus suddenly shifted to IQ and PQ. In the age of industrialization and development, people ignored EQ and SQ.

In the 18th century, most of the literate people would have read their religious text. Though religion does not ensure ethical behaviour, it still lays down some parameters for virtues. In this century, just small percentages of literate people have read religious text and are capable of discussing the finer points. Therefore, the solution is to bring back focus on EQ and SQ. People with higher EQ and SQ are more ethical and morally responsible. Punishing people after they have conducted a crime isn’t the solution; we need to build the character.

The onus of responsibility rests with all the adults in the society. It may sound like a tall order, but there are a few things that each adult can do without much effort. Here are my three suggestions, share with me your ideas on the same.

1.     Use Gamification  

With technology, kids and adults are addicted to playing games on computers. It is unlikely, that kids now will sacrifice their computer to listen to grandma stories of old times. The stories had messages, which taught kids the difference between right and wrong. The schools had moral science classes, doing the same. In the current setup of nuclear families and education system, the kids lack it. Parents therefore can buy computer games dealing with ethical dilemmas, moral lessons and spiritual ideas instead of Angry Birds. It would be a step forward to see kids addicted to such games and not those showing violence and abuse.

Even in the business world, ethics can’t be taught in a day. If gamification is used to issue one ethical dilemma every day which staff participates in, the awareness level of the staff will be much higher.

2.     Take Speaking and Writing Engagements

Indians have vast access to knowledge on spirituality and ethics. The number of Indians speaking and writing about morals, ethics, spirituality etc. needs to increase. We can use blogs to give our messages, write in newspapers and journals, become guest lecturers in schools and colleges and take speaking engagements in business seminars.  The gap in EQ and SQ is huge. We need to build awareness by communicating the stories and building the skills.

Do the same in business environment. Have a business ethics blog on the intranet, make videos on ethical dilemmas and have classroom training on the same.

3.     Build Communities

In US there are huge number of societies and communities focused on addressing various problems. For instance, they have anti-bullying communities that propagate no bullying in schools. However, in India most of the societies are focused on religious aspects or charity. We need to build communities, whose members are brand ambassadors for personal and business morals. As we have seen from the past events, collective strength matters enough to force government and various authorities to take the right steps. We can then ensure better ethical education for the children and young adults.

In business too, it is easier to build an ethical culture when champions are appointed to propagate business ethics. Members of operation teams besides ethics officers are required to enhance the ethical values of the organization.

Closing thoughts

We have a choice, to ignore the ills of the society, complain about them or do our two bits to help improve it. From my experience, it is far more satisfying to contribute positively. Even guest lectures to college students on business ethics sow the seeds for morally conscious business. India has a huge Gen Y, and Gen X has to address this problem. Otherwise we will continue to see the increasing crime rate and see our own children become part of a racket.