There’s a lot of talk and things written about the rights and wrongs of our world at the moment. No one can stand by an argument saying everything is going swimmingly but its the tone of the arguments I am most confused by. We seem to have left logic and reason behind and in some areas are rewarding aggressive behaviour and soundbites. Behind this I think we’ve, again, lost something of our morals.
I started to really think about this after I left Wood Mackenzie earlier this year. When I left there was a leaving card, a few drinks, and a goodbye speech. It was all rather humbling and during all of this someone said to me they were losing a Moral Compass. I remember feeling very touched and a little embarrassed at that point. The evening moved on with a few more drinks and silliness but something kept niggling me about the term.
With summer upon us and inspired by Stephan Sagmeister’s TED talk “The power of time off”, we decided to take a break and travel for two months with our young children. The time out was refreshing and reflective. We left the UK just after the divisive Brexit vote and saw some of the Clinton/Trump division in the USA before heading to Costa Rica and seeing this incredible country with an environment and society that’s flourishing and is happy. Along the way I read a few books including a great one by Kenan Malik — “The Quest for a Moral Compass”. There are lots of wonderful quotes from the book but one that stood out is in Chapter 11, The human triumph, and reads:
The very idea of morality relies on viewing humans not as machines but as conscious agents capable of making choices and taking responsibility for their actions.
Coming back to the UK and a search for new opportunities I’m convinced that we’ve lost a requirement of ourselves and our leaders to have a Moral Compass especially in times of dramatic change. Our Moral Compass is critical to us making good choices and decisions.
The Cambridge Dictionary definition of a Moral Compass is:
A natural feeling that makes people know what is right and wrong and how they should behave.
But reflecting on this, and working through Malik’s book, I’m convinced this compass is anything but a “natural feeling” and we must not leave to chance the development of a Moral Compass in our children, our leaders, and ourselves.
I’ve led and been part of a number of transformational change programs in my life and keeping my moral compass level and pointing north has always depended on learning from others. On reaching out to leaders I respect, mentors and mentees, and colleagues. It’s also required me to reach inside myself and hold myself to learned standards of behaviour.
If you think about growing up I’ll bet you can conjure up memories of how you learnt right from wrong and who helped you? Can you reach out to them, say thank you, ask them to keep doing more, and challenge yourself to help too?
To be a little topical again. Brexit is Brexit and maybe the US Presidential race is too flawed already but at least the vote hasn’t been completed yet. The optimist in me believes there is always time to ask that our leaders, regardless of mistakes made in their past, pull out their moral compass, dust it off, get help in improving it, and lead us well. Please expect this of them as you work, vote, and lobby.