The Moral Capital of Leaders

The Moral Capital of Leaders

Why Virtue Matters

New Horizons in Leadership Studies series

Alejo José G. Sison

Sison studies a wide range of recent management cases from the viewpoint of moral capital: the sorry state of US airport screeners before 9-11, the Ford Explorer rollovers and Firestone tire failures, the battle for the ‘HP way’ between Carly Fiorina and the heirs of the founding families, the dynamics of Microsoft’s serial monopolistic behavior, the pitfalls of Enron’s senior executives, the sincerity of Howard Lutnick’s commitment to Cantor Fitzgerald families, how Andersen’s loss of reputation proved mortal and a fresh look at Jack Welch’s purported achievements during his tenure at GE.

Chapter 3: Actions, Moral Capital’s Basic Currency

Alejo José G. Sison

Subjects: business and management, business leadership, human resource management, politics and public policy, leadership


The key to developing moral capital consists in taking advantage of the dynamics among three operational levels found in the human being, namely, the level of actions, the level of habits and the level of character. Among these levels, actions are the elementary building blocks and may be considered the basic currency of moral capital. This means that nothing in a human agent acquires moral significance unless it issues into actions or comes as a consequence of actions. Until then, it could only be regarded as something that happens to an individual; not something that he does nor something for which he is responsible. Certainly these happenings or events could be judged as good (for example, when one wins the lottery) or bad (when the same person loses the winning ticket to thieves), but we never interpret them as reflecting the ethical quality of the individual to whom they occur. In this chapter we shall look into the elements and conditions of actions – the things that make these acts human – as well as the criteria according to which actions are judged ethically valuable or good. We shall likewise examine – by way of extended accounts of business experiences – how particular actions on the part of company leaders determine their personal future and that of their firm. We shall show not only how personal and corporate fates are linked, but also how favorable economic consequences somehow derive from sound, ethical decisions. This should not be taken to mean, however, that economic consequences...

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