What is Moral Purpose? Description
In an article regarding moral purpose from Nikos Mourkogiannis,
he describes four main ideals of leadership. These can be used for inspiring
and leading an organization toward a long-term competitive advantage. According
to Mourkogiannis in Strategy+Business, Issue 41, Winter 2005, a moral purpose
is a value that, when it is articulated, appeals to the innate sense which
is held by some individuals of what is right and what is worthwhile. Great
leaders have learned how they can use moral purpose to allow them to inspire
and lead their organization toward achieving long-term competitive advantage.
Mourkogiannis distinguishes four categories of moral purpose which
are most successful and influential in today's business, with four corresponding
ideals of leadership:
- Discovery. Here the type of morality is "the new".
The moral basis for actions is "I have freely chosen it". The philosophical
background for this value was provided by the Danish Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard
(1813-1855). Typical examples include innovative, technological companies
such as IBM, Sony, Intel and Virgin.
- Excellence. Here the type of morality is "the good".
The moral basis for actions is it constitutes fulfillment. The philosophical
background for this value was provided by the Ancient Greek Philosopher
Aristotle (384 B.C. - 322 B.C.). Typical examples include professional and
creative companies such as Berkshire Hathaway, The Economist, Apple and
BMW. Compare: Clarkson Principles,
Of Ethical Collapse
- Altruism. Here the type of morality is "the helpful".
The moral basis for actions is it increases happiness. The philosophical
background for this value was provided by the Scottish Philosopher David
Hume (1711-1776). Typical example organizations include many political movements,
charities and also Wal-Mart, Marriott, and the Body Shop.
- Heroism. Here the type of morality is "the effective".
The moral basis for actions is it demonstrates achievement. The philosophical
background for this value was provided by the German Philosopher Friedrich
Nietzsche (1844-1900). Typical examples include ambitious and daring companies
such as S.G. Warburg, Microsoft, Ford, and Exxon Mobil. Compare:
Each moral purpose, in its own way, compels the people who work in that
organization to rewrite the rules of their industry's game and generate unprecedented
results. It should resonate with the sensibility of customers, employees,
and other constituents.
Origin of the Moral Purpose tool. History
The four moral purposes are based on the philosophy traditions as mentioned
Usage of the Moral Purpose framework. Applications
- It contributes to employee morale by establishing a feeling of
community and common meaning which is grounded in mutual respect.
- It fosters innovation by sensitizing people to market conditions
- It counters risk-aversion in large companies. People are stimulated
to search for solutions within the framework of the chosen moral purpose.
- It provides a unifying theme that allows people to understand
and facilitate the complex fit between the organization and its actions,
assets and strategy.
- Company leaders must manage and align the moral purpose with the
strategy. The nature of the moral purpose should help the company to
advance in its environment.
Strengths of Moral Purpose thinking. Benefits
- As stated above, a moral purpose contributes to employee morale, fosters
innovation, counters risk-aversion and it provides a unifying strategic
- Also: moral purpose is where the big money is made. Outstanding long-term
results can be achieved.
- It reveals the underlying human dynamics of a firm, which are very important
to employee motivation and behavior.
- Strong and lasting communication message, especially for CEOs.
- Strong basis for achieving strategic breakthroughs.
Limitations of the Moral Purpose categories. Disadvantages
- There are a number of other moral ideas besides the main four which
are described by Mourkogiannis. These include the belief in equality and
universal justice, religious morality, obedience to authority and precedent,
- However these other ideas do not in themselves inspire employees in
ways that would make these concepts useful as moral purposes for most competitive
- Other moral purposes may become a dominant model over time or when circumstances
change. Compare: Spiral Dynamics,
- The framework of Mourkogiannis is clearly a realistic and a
to corporate purpose.
Assumptions of the Moral Purpose theory. Conditions
- Effective corporate strategy starts by identifying what moral purpose
is closest to the company's strategic intent.
- The true business leader's significant role is to be in touch with,
and to act on, the moral currents that influence his or her colleagues.
- If a company's corporate purpose is X, its strategy can not be Y. It
will not work and it might even be harmful.
Book: Nikos Mourkogiannis
- Purpose: The Starting Point of Great Companies -
Moral Purpose Special Interest Group
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Compare with Moral Purpose:
Ashridge Mission Model
Signs Of Ethical Collapse |
| Clarkson Principles
Stakeholder Commitment |
| Stakeholder Value
Shareholder Value Perspective
| Spiral Dynamics
| Contingency Theory
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