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Moral perception is a moral projection

Bijgewerkt op: 5 jun. 2021

Posted on 20 June 2020 by Tanno Bregonje

What we experience is who we are! Imagine that your values intrinsically change from shareholder value to stakeholder value? How would that change what you perceive, your decisions, and your behavior? Reality is not something out there, no, the reality is a reflection of your thinking. And your thinking is a reflection of your core beliefs and values. So if you want to change your reality, you need to change your thinking. And if you want to change your thinking, you need to reconsider your beliefs and values, and the impact they have on your day-to-day behavior.

What would happen if you change your perception from a self-centered perspective to a social perspective? That you mentally adopt, understand, or consider another one’s beliefs, attitudes, feelings, desires, goals, intentions? How would that influence your behavior? That your social perspective is lead by truly understanding the moral consequences of your choices for the next generation, for society and the planet? Deep questions. But if you do not ask yourself these kinds of questions, you will miss the understanding of operating in an interconnected, continuous changing world.

The world is getting more and more complex. If you try to understand a multilevel, interconnected world with a belief and value system based on a traditional, hierarchical way of thinking, you will get disconnected. The challenge for every leader in today’s fast-moving world is to reflect on their own behavior. The ideas of the psychologist Alexander Kohlberg can help you in doing that. Kohlberg noticed three stages in the moral development of the human being. Level 1 is what he called the pre-conventional stage that you will notice in the mind of small children. ‘How can I avoid punishment, what is in it for me?’ When people are getting into the adolescent stage, they will develop to level 2, the conventional state. ‘What are the social norms?’ ‘What does the authority say about it?’ And when you are mature, you should develop into level 3, the post-conventional stage. ‘What are my moral values?’ ‘How do I relate to universal ethical principles?’

The good reader will notice that traditional, hierarchical leadership is based on level 2 of a person’s moral development. The leader is the authority who declares the social norms (which we call culture). And sometimes you can even say that fear in the organization leads to level 1 behavior; ‘How can I avoid punishment?’ So traditional leadership is – on a moral level – based on the values of small children and adolescents.

Interconnectedness invites you to think about your personal moral values. Are they still on level 1 or 2? Or are you in the state of the mature leader, using moral values of level 3? It is level 3 that not only helps you to be socially centered and interconnected but also to take accountability for your behavior related to society and the planet. A must-have for successful leaders, not only in the future.

Inspired by the insights of Lawrence Kohlberg and based on the coaching of more than 500 executives, ChiFactum developed the model of 5EES, Humanity Centered Leadership. The 5EES represent the development of values from EGO (self-centered) to ECO (social and ethics centered). From mono-vocal leadership to poly-vocal leadership. From single-brain leadership to the interconnected, collective brain leadership. From old school leadership to accurate adaptive leadership. From leaders with a focus on stakeholders to leaders with a focus on shareholders. This kind of development is what we call a paradigm shift, a great change in your mental models. It is not about you as a mono-vocal thinking leader anymore, but about you facilitating a process of deep awareness on what is going on in the world. And this kind of great change asks for courage. The courage to let go of beliefs that helped you to build your career in the past but are not accurate anymore. Once you have found this courage, it is about coming home. Coming home as a mature leader with clear moral standards and ethics. Authentic and wise.

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