“As Election 2016 demonstrated, we live at a time of moral outrage. Partisans framed the political choice as between a criminally corrupt politician and a serial sex offender – even though neither candidate had been formally charged with, much less convicted of, such crimes. Social media streams burst their banks with indignity. Everyone stood in judgment.
My friend Dov Seidman, who advises companies on how to build ethical cultures, says this excess of outrage is partly a byproduct of modern technology. The philosopher David Hume wrote that ‘moral imagination diminishes with distance.’ But technology has made us all closer, putting the world at our fingertips and enabling us, in Seidman’s words, to ‘experience the dreams, frustrations, plights, and behavior of others directly and viscerally.’ Moral imagination has exploded as a result.
For business leaders, as with political leaders, the implications of this are profound. Being a ‘good’ corporate leader once meant delivering results to shareholders. Today, that’s necessary, but not sufficient. CEOs being held by their employees, customers and the communities in which they operate to a new and higher moral standard. They need, Seidman believes, ‘a moral framework and North Star’ to guide their thinking and their choices.”