Our culture is unfortunately notable for its leadership vacuum. There are plenty of people who call themselves leaders and are even believed by others to lead. However, they lead through their position, but they are unable to lead through their personal moral authority.
What is moral authority? It is the ability to influence another’s behavior and thinking without using a position or employing force or pressure to make someone do something. A gap between what we say and what we do immediately begins to erode our influence and moral authority.
Moral authority is the credibility you earn by walking your talk. Everyone watches you, even if they are not consciously aware that they are filing away information about your character and credibility. Your level of moral authority is established by the relationship other people see between what you claim to be and what you really are. You attain moral authority when there is perceived alignment between your conviction, action, belief, and behavior. This alignment is the most powerful communication. Nothing else will make a leader persuasive.
Moral authority is established when observers can clearly see that the leader has no ulterior motives and that he/she has no other “god” than being a leader of integrity. Often leaders are motivated by progress, financial reward, and recognition. When pursuing any of those becomes greater than the joint mission of the team, influence is lost. A successful leader often sees steady progress, is rewarded financially, and becomes recognized. Each one of those happenings feels great and can easily seduce a leader into selling out his/her moral authority to get more.
But with moral authority comes influence. It is far easier and effective to lead from authority than position alone. You can manage and “handle” people without moral authority. But you cannot influence them. You can find people who will work for you for the right amount of pay just based on your position alone. But you can’t find people who will have a passion for the work or involve themselves in your cause or movement without moral authority.
You know what you want in a political leader. You want someone you can trust. You want a man or a woman in leadership you can trust; someone whose walk matches their talk. You want a consistent leader. You want that person to value their integrity more than party preference or re-election. You want someone you can count on to truly be who they say they are and what they believe personally, politically, and professionally at every level. Think about it. That’s what your employees, clients, and teams want from you too.
We are a skeptical age. We WANT moral authority, moral leadership, but we assume that most leaders don’t have it. We have been fooled too many times. When people give a leader a try, they are seriously looking for their choice to be validated or proven false. Inconsistency between what is said and done will inflict a mortal wound on a leader’s influence. It will be almost impossible to recover it again with that person or team.
Your family wants you to have moral authority. Your church wants you to have integrity. Your workplace needs you to lead authentically. Lead from moral authority. It is what you need and what the world needs.