Embrace the Moral Spiral


Posted by Frank Bucaro

The Moral Spiral is the reality that no decision is made in isolation and without affecting others. One thing leads to another, then another, and then another, and hence the spiral effect. As the spiral spins and one thing leads to another there are consequences. I call these “the price to pay” or the PTP factor. When is the best time to think about the effects of one’s decision-making before or after one makes it? Consequences, either good or bad, can go on for a long time, so go slow and choose well.

Logic tends to be that it is better to deal with a moral issue when it’s first discovered and “pay the price” needed at the time. Isn’t it better to treat a disease when one finds it early and be proactive to resolve it than to wait until it develops into something so costly in so many ways and for so long? Which option is the most credible? Dealing with it as it happens or procrastinating to deal with the issue and so much more than you may have counted on?

Think beyond the immediate, most accessible answer and yourself to think about who or what else could be affected by your decision? Think about the decision its cause and effect before any action.

Moral Leaders need:

  • More confidence in values than in personalities.
  • To take into consideration what others have thought and done before us.
  • Understand that values don’t change and need to be a constant foundation for developing credibility.
  • To have the ability to face difficulty, uncertainty, or pain without being overcome by fear or intimidation by consequences.
  • To be able to deal with the consequences based on the foundation of your values. This means that beyond ethics training, one must develop customized leadership training that includes morality, moral reasoning, and developing a moral compass, because you can’t give what you do not have!

So what’s the moral of these moral credibility insights?

  • Think beyond the immediate, most accessible answer and oneself to think about who or what could be affected by one’s decision.
  • Think about the decision reflectively, keeping in mind that no matter what your decision there is always a “Price to Pay,” positive or negative. The choice is yours. If you can’t pay then walk away, review, re-think, and re-commit.
  • Knowing yourself is a question of values, in business as in life, you can’t substitute rules.
  • Understand that values don’t fluctuate; they are a constant and they are the foundation for the leaders’ persistence and determination.

So how does one “set” a moral compass?

Where are the “moral compasses” today i.e., Congress? Education? Business, Sports? If one finds a leader with a moral compass, what does it look like, and how does it work?

The purpose of a compass is to set a direction and help discern a course of action on how to get where one wants to go. The compass is the tool, but knowledge and wisdom are needed on how and why to use it properly.

With a moral compass, the added dimension of morals comes into focus. The premise for using this compass properly is that one knows what one’s values and morals are and that, in an ideal world, one knows what one’s “line in the sand” is that will not be crossed.

Isn’t one’s “line in the sand” the goal of a moral compass and the modus operandi of a moral compass.  What is the “true north” for a moral compass? Is it the law? Is it the common good, the greater good, a mission statement, or??

Unless one knows what “true north” is moral, can one have a moral compass?

A moral compass is not just what one believes or states, it must pervade every decision made, big or small for consistency’s sake. Without that consistency, there cannot be a viable moral compass.

Given these trying times in politics, international relations, religious institutions, professional sports, and business development, to name a few, is having a viable moral compass even possible?

It most certainly is, what are you doing right now, today, to set your compass to the  “True North?”