Do Great Leaders Follow A Moral Compass?

I recently read an article written by Frank Bucaro, a regular contributor to a LinkedIn group for Ethics and Compliance Officers. In this article, Frank asked, “How Does One Set A Moral Compass?” ( His question started me thinking about the Great Leaders that I have had the privilege to follow and learn from … and the moral compasses that I believe they used to navigate moral dilemmas and life. I believe that these compasses were aligned with the following points.

  • They knew the difference between right and wrong – I’m not talking about the difference between legal and illegal behavior (although this distinction is certainly important). I’m talking about behaviors that, while technically may be legal, are morally wrong. As my father would ask me, “Just because it is legal to do something, does that mean it’s the right thing to do?”
  • They consider the impact that their actions may have on the lives of others – Great Leaders ask if their decisions, their actions, will improve the lives of those they have the privilege of leading; or, will their actions and decisions harm those around them.
  • They think about how their behavior will impact not only their own reputations but also the reputation of the firm they represent and the reputations of those who follow them – My father used the expression “guilty by association” and Great Leaders understand that, fairly or unfairly, the reputations of both their firms and their followers are tinted (or tainted) by their own behavior and reputation. When they behave morally and ethically, those they represent and those who follow them are perceived to be ethical and moral. When they behave improperly, the firms they represent are perceived to be tolerant of unethical behavior; and, it is anticipated that their followers will follow the example that the unethical leader set.

Great Leaders possess a moral compass and they have it oriented to the “true north” of doing the right things for the right reasons. Think about the Great Leaders that you have known and followed. What were the key points on their moral compasses? Please share those points by commenting here.

Tom Hoisington is a speaker, trainer, and author whose goal is to provide leaders and potential leaders with tools that empower them to build teams that are creative and cost effective along with a clearer understanding of how personality types interact within those teams. He can be contacted at