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Moral Authority

“The recognition of a person’s leadership influence is based on who they are more than the position they hold. It is attained by authentic living that has built trust and is sustained by successful leadership endeavors. It is earned by a lifetime of consistency. Leaders can strive to earn moral authority by the way they live, but only others can grant them moral authority.”

John Maxwell

“Moral authority is the credibility you earn by walking your talk.”

Andy Stanley

Moral Authority

Understanding moral authority is absolutely essential for business leaders and entrepreneurs.

All organizations have people in positions of authority under their organizational structure.  Each of these people in a position of formal authority has power granted by a specific function.

Examples of this are the power of the company president or the authority granted to a person with special knowledge or technical expertise.

Too often, however, people in these positions assume this formal authority automatically makes them a leader.

These people have power, but true leadership, credibility, and effectiveness can only be earned and sustained through moral authority.

Moral authority does not rest singularly in one person.  Moral authority is a composite of the leader’s vision and the follower’s belief in that vision.  The person in power must earn moral authority, and the employees must grant them moral authority.

Need for Moral Authority

The new State of Moral Leadership Report highlights the critical role moral leadership plays within organizations. The report provides evidence of the imperative for moral leadership.

Leaders can no longer hope to scale shareholder value without scaling shared values. Mission and margin, profit and principle, success and significance are now inextricably linked.

Data from this report suggests the following:

  • Moral leadership is in high demand but short supply;
  • Managers that demonstrate higher levels of moral leadership have stronger connections with colleagues;
  • Moral leadership increases business performance;
  • Professional development opportunities are not doing enough to foster moral leadership.

The research signals a call to action: organizations can and must invest in fostering a culture of moral leadership.

How to Gain Moral Authority

Of the many ways to build moral authority, there are four primary ones.

  1. You build moral authority by living a life with an observable and relentless alignment between what you believe and how you behave. As the saying goes, “you walk your talk.” There is no gap between your rhetoric and your daily actions.
  2. You build moral authority by choosing to play by the same rules as those in your charge. You steer clear of entitlement at all costs. Your followers know that you neither seek nor accept preferential treatment that attends high-profile leadership.
  3. Moral authority is established as it becomes increasingly clear that the leader is not motivated by financial gain or public recognition. People see that the leader is called to make a difference, not driven to make a name. There is something noticeably sacrificial about how they fill their leadership role.

The Bible

  1. And finally—and most importantly—moral authority is built as people recognize the presence of God at work in and through your life and leadership. People want to follow a spiritually rooted leader—someone who leads from the inside out.

Amazingly, even in today’s culture, they want to know that their leader is ardently seeking and discerning God’s agenda and His agenda alone.

According to the Bible, man was created in God’s image. Part of that image makes man a moral being.

We are moral agents who make moral choices and can differentiate between right and wrong. The basis upon which we distinguish between right and wrong is our knowledge of God’s law, and that knowledge comes from two sources—revelation and conscience.

Romans 2:15 says.

They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.

God printed morality on our hearts for us to follow.  While this message is marred by the Fall, it is still there for us to follow. 

Furthermore,  God is always available for us to turn to help in making sure we “walk our talk.”