Having previously described how individual moral development is defined and achieved, the moral challenges observed within collectives in the corporate world will be the topic of this article, clarifying though in principle that morality remains an individual characteristic, therefore “collective moral development” here refers to the prevalent level of moral judgement among the members of the collective in question.
Following the above clarification, it becomes evident that the moral identity of a collective/ organization is determined by the ethical criteria, priorities and decisions endorsed and embraced by formal or informal leaders. These are those members who have both the responsibility for decision-making and the power of influence among others. In this sense, a low developmental (preconventional) ethic is evident among members/ executives who value self-interest and delegate responsibility (rather than mere tasks) to their hierarchical subordinates.
At the highest level the aforementioned connection is acknowledged, as the extroversion of the group helps leaders and members alike understand the interdependence of the collective with the wider systems which it participates in or with which it coexists. The collective’s vision, mission and values are in tune with universal ideals and values and inform individual decisions and functions as well as collective policies.
The ethical stance of the Leader in question needs to be aligned with the vision and values of the organization in a clear and concise manner, before any attempt is made to align individual departments and their members with the rest of the system. While coaching interventions are a common means of facilitating communication, dissemination and adoption of corporate values in leadership and teams, the ultimate challenge within VUCA environments today lies in maintaining the delicate balance between self-preservation and collective contribution.
Ultimately, the moral identity of a collective is not captured as a ‘seal’ on every single decision made in it; it is revealed through the totality of its attitudes and policies over time. Regardless of whether an organization is educational or not, it is a “school” for its members, who are called to work, learn, evolve and create in it.
At the contractual/ conventional level self-interest is extended to a small number of “select allies” or, at its highest end, to the whole collective/ organisation – it is the moral stance of “Us First” or, more strongly, “Us versus Them”. Both of these foundations of moral judgement can foster harmful antagonism and downright aggressive or passive-aggressive actions among members, as there is no visible or commonly embraced connection between the collective in question and its wider environment.