The recent dreadful story about Oxfam employees’ sexual misconduct in Haiti introduced a take on leadership that is rarely brought up in the modern world: morality. In response to the revelations that Oxfam staff used Haitian prostitutes, Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, called for the charity to show “moral leadership”.
I think it was the close juxtaposition of the terms ‘moral’ and ‘leadership’ that really struck me. For in business, questions of morality are generally kept in the outer orbits. Some might even claim that to bring morality into business is painfully naïve.
But of course, there’s certainly one contemporary business topic that has distinct moral connotations – diversity. Yet when writers discuss diversity, it’s generally the business rather than the moral case that they seek to make. It’s certainly the business case I generally try to make .
Yet I do also certainly feel a moral responsibility when it comes to diversity – as I do in many other business areas. I’m glad there’s such a strong business case for diversity but it got me wondering whether there’s any room for ‘purely’ moral considerations in business.
And actually, I think there is – moreover, as the fourth industrial revolution gathers speed, what we might term ‘moral’ discussions in business will become more urgent. That’s because as tech takes up more and more of the pie chart of industrial activity, the focus on the human segment will become more acute. And that necessarily means moral as well as philosophical deliberations.