The Power of Influence
Authority is optional. Influence is essential.
Influence is a tricky thing, isn’t it? In the digital age, being an influencer is often confused with credibility. One can influence by way of popularity, deception, or manipulation, but such forms of influence soon become suspect for their shallowness and self-service, and their effects are temporary.
Other dynamics can elevate a person’s influence within society, such as civil authority, government representation, wealth, rank, education, accomplishments, and performance. But there are some who have none of those things that wield great influence in the world. Even though it is not clear why, we are drawn to them. Something about their lives translates into authority. We want to emulate them.
Their authority rests on an inner conviction and a consistency of alignment between their life and their conviction. When observed, this alignment between conviction and action is what makes a person’s life persuasive. Herein lies the key to sustained influence. The best phrase to describe this type of influence is moral authority.
One does not set out to achieve moral authority. It is achieved as a result of pursuing something outside the realm of influence. Because moral authority is not an end goal, its influence is untainted by self-interests and exists in perpetuity as long as there is consistency between belief and action. A deeper understanding of what is “moral” can be found in Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary.
The word moral is applicable to actions that are good or evil, virtuous, or vicious, and has reference to the law of God as the standard by which their character is to be determined.
Modern dictionaries have done their best to change the language and definition of terms that have long been anchored in a core belief in God. They do so by altogether removing any reference to God, even though without God, there would be no defining standard for morality.
It is with this understanding that we can draw a clear polarity between moral authority and moral superiority. As Marcus Moyer, a United States Marine Officer, and contributor to Rich in Thought stated,
Especially in today’s environment, there are people and companies who have adopted certain self-serving strategies and pass them off as values or morals; they may even maintain them consistently for a period of time. However, just because a belief or policy is adopted and maintained (for days, weeks, years, decades, or centuries) does not make it morally good. There are many examples around us now of people/organizations/businesses that may be consistent in their values, enjoy at least some measure of success (sometimes even a lot of it), persist under pressure, and exhibit many of the same characteristics you rightly ascribe to “moral authority,” but they are anything but moral. They fiercely hold to their beliefs, going so far as to force those beliefs on others by any means necessary and/or shame dissenters for not getting aligned. In that way they act as self-appointed arbiters of a morality of their own creation. This sort of behavior (referred to in the modern vernacular as “virtue signaling,” I believe) is what I mean by “assuming moral superiority” without having true “moral authority.”
There are two characteristics that make moral superiority easily distinguishable and lie in contrast to moral authority. First, moral superiority is a negative character trait where a person’s insecurity is projected by distinguishing themselves in a self-righteous way, and often overtly in the form of correcting others. At its root, moral superiority is a psychological reaction to insecurity and self-doubt. Second, moral superiority is perceived by the individual and dismissed by the others; therefore, it leverages little influence. Meanwhile, moral authority is dismissed by the individual and perceived by others, thereby carrying significant influence, even if the individual is unaware.
Perhaps, no one, within the last one hundred years, has demonstrated the power of moral authority quite like Mother Theresa. This lady lived her vision. She embodied it. Skeptics questioned her theology, but not her character. And for that reason, the skeptics came off looking rather foolish. Mother Theresa did not seek influence, as was evident throughout her life; however, she did not shy from nobly using her influence to state her convictions and further her vision. Each time she did this, her moral authority only grew, and with it, her influence.
In 1948, she shared her vision with the Vatican—to establish an order of nuns whose sole purpose was to serve people who lived in conditions unworthy of human dignity—and within two years, her vision was sanctioned by the church. They called themselves the Missionaries of Charity. Their charge was to seek and care for the poor, sick, abandoned, and dying. She demonstrated her sincerity and commitment to the mission by choosing, for her parish, one of the neediest locations in the world—the streets of Calcutta.
In 1952, she was authorized, by the officials in Calcutta, to use a section of an abandoned temple to launch her ministry—a home for the dying. Mother Theresa and her Missionaries of Charity referred to it as “Nirmal Hriday,” the Home of the Pure Heart. They wanted to provide what she referred to as “A beautiful death for people who lived like animals to die like angels—loved and wanted.” It was a humble beginning, but it was not destined to remain so. In time, she would unintentionally garner the attention and respect of the world.
Early on, the sisters garnered a reputation of caring for the needy, a reputation that carried to the Hindu priests, which petitioned that the authorities force the Catholic missionaries to move to a more remote location. Over a short time, the Hindu resentment grew substantially, and the priests from the Kalighat Kali Temple led a large delegation to the Nirmal Hriday and demanded that they leave at once. It is reported that Mother Theresa came out and personally addressed the crowds, “If you want to kill me, here I am. You can merely behead me, but do not disturb my poor patients.” Even when her life was in peril, she was thinking of others.
Soon after, Mother Theresa discovered that one of the Hindu priests was in the advanced stages of tuberculosis. Because his illness was untreatable, he had been denied a bed in the city hospital. “Here,” she thought, “is a God-given opportunity to show our sincerity and devotion—a chance to practice what we preach, even to those who wish us harm.” It was an unprecedented act of grace, foreign to the Hindu religion, when she brought the gravely ill priest to the Nirmal Hriday, and personally cared for him until the day he died. The Missionaries of Charity, then, carried the body of the priest back to the temple for Hindu rights. As word spread, the event captured the hearts of the people of Calcutta. Mother Theresa lived out her message. She embodied her vision. As a result, her moral authority shattered theological and cultural barriers.
Did Mother Theresa have a college or graduate degree? What were her credentials? No one cared. As a result of her character, she had moral authority. Moral authority cannot be purchased. It has no relation with positional authority. It is free, independent, and unencumbered. It is earned. Mother Theresa earned it by staying faithful to her convictions, even when speaking to the most powerful rulers, and denouncing the acts of rulers. Her words were consistent with the life she lived and the theology she believed.
Mother Theresa boldly spoke from the heart as she only knew to do. Perhaps, the most notable of these events was captured on video when Mother Theresa came to Washington to give a speech at the annual National Prayer Breakfast at the Hilton hotel. According to Peggy Noonan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, who witnessed the occasion, Mother Theresa’s speech left the entire audience dazzled, and part of it dismayed, including a United States Senator who turned to his wife, after Mother Theresa concluded, and said, ‘Is my jaw up yet?’ Three thousand people were there, including most of official Washington. Peggy Noonan described the setting,
By tradition, the President of the United States and the First Lady always attend. And on this day [February 3rd] in 1994, Bill and Hillary Clinton were up there on the dais, as were the Vice President and Mrs. Gore, and a dozen other important people, Senators, and Justices. As she stepped up on a little platform that had been placed behind the podium, there was great applause. She nodded at it. Then, she took her speech in her hand and began to read from it in a soft, sing-song voice.
The audience was composed of liberal Democrats, conservative Republicans, and moderates of all persuasion. Perhaps, half were Christian members of the Prayer Breakfast movement, some quite seriously devout, and some less so. There’s a bit of ‘this world networking’ that goes on. The other half was a mix—Muslims, Jews, searchers, agnostics, and atheists, reporters and bureaucrats, waiters, and diplomats. A good natured, attentive mix. And they all loved her; but as the speech continued, it became more pointed.
Other witness accounts described the audience becoming increasingly captivated as Mother Theresa shared stories.
I can never forget the experience I had in visiting a home where they kept all these old parents of sons and daughters who had just put them into an institution and forgotten them, maybe. I saw that in that home these old people had everything—good food, comfortable place, television, everything, but everyone was looking toward the door. And I did not see a single one with a smile on the face. I turned to Sister and I asked:
‘Why do these people who have every comfort here, why are they all looking toward the door? Why are they not smiling? I am so used to seeing the smiles on our people, even the dying ones smile.’
And Sister said: ‘This is the way it is nearly every day. They are expecting, they are hoping that a son or daughter will come to visit them. They are hurt because they are forgotten.’
The beginning of her speech opened the hearts of the listeners, but as she continued, she reached deep into the moral cavities of the audience. With a palpable sincerity, she incalculably reached people with rhetoric that had socially been forbidden, but with a genuineness rarely experienced by those in the beltway.
But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself.
And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion?
…By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems.
…Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.
…Jesus said. ‘Anyone who receives a child in my name, receives me.’ By adopting a child, these couples receive Jesus but, by aborting a child, a couple refuses to receive Jesus.
Please don’t kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child. I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted and to give that child to a married couple who will love the child and be loved by the child.
From our children’s home in Calcutta alone, we have saved over three thousand children from abortion. These children have brought such love and joy to their adopting parents and have grown up so full of love and joy.
When she concluded, silence sustained the room. Cool, deep silence. After a few seconds, applause broke out in the far right side of the room which quickly spread across the audience. And then, a standing ovation. Five or six minutes passed before the audience tapered their applause.
But not everyone applauded. Bill and Hillary Clinton, seated within a few feet of Mother Theresa, were not applauding. Nor were Al Gore and his wife. Peggy Noonan described them as “seated statues at Madame Tussauds.” She writes, “They glistened in the light, and moved not a muscle, looking at the speaker in a determinedly semi-pleasant way… [the speech] was all so pleasantly unadorned, explicit, and impolitic. It was wonderful.”
The goodness of it was like a refreshing cool drink of water. But Mother Theresa seemed neither to notice, nor to care. She spoke with a natural, unknown authority. She spoke with moral authority.
Defining Moral Authority
Moral authority is never retained by any attempt to hold on to it.
It comes without seeking and is retained without effort.
When the term “moral authority” is used, who comes to your mind? Is it your father, mother, employer, or minister? Do you have it? Does your company have it? What is moral authority?
It has nothing to do with positional authority. Neither does leadership for that matter. Moral authority is evident when it exists. You know when someone has it, and you know when someone does not. It means legitimacy, respect, and credibility for the possessor. Every individual and company wants it. Few obtain it.
Nothing compensates for a lack of moral authority. No amount of communication skills, wealth, accomplishment, talent, education, or position can make up for a lack of moral authority. We all know plenty of people rich with all those qualities, but who exercise no influence over us, whatsoever. Why? Because there is a contradiction between what they claim to be and what we perceive them to be. In the truest sense, perception is reality.
Those that do obtain moral authority, exude a power of influence far greater than other shallower, self-aggrandizing forms of influence. It is a credential that is never leveraged to benefit itself. It is far more powerful that legal authority, which, at best, can only influence compliance. Said differently, people comply with authority, but they follow influence. Influence taps into the human will at a level of individual resolve, which is deeper than a level of compliance.
To have this level of influence, leaders must have moral authority. Moral authority is not something that pertains only to individuals. Companies that value influence, credibility, and legitimacy can obtain moral authority as long as their actions match their core values. As Marcus Moyer stated, a company assumes an identity just as an individual does; and with that identity, they assume the core attributes of it, whether they be positive or negative. Companies that have moral authority sell more than a product or service. They sell a belief system.
The Characteristics of Moral Authority
Moral authority is a bi-product of the means that enables the end.
Everyone—people and organizations alike—participate in the quest for moral authority. It is not something from which we can opt out. In the same way other character traits are involuntarily earned, such as integrity, loyalty, generosity, and curiosity, moral authority is attributed either positively or negatively.
In the modern era, we increasingly find that businesses, executives, brands, and firms are ever more frequently facing public pressure to engage in social and political dialogue. An entity’s moral authority comes directly from the synchronicity between their public dialogue and their behavior in the marketplace. Still, to many, moral authority remains a somewhat nebulous principle. By examining the constituent parts of moral authority, we can see how it is established.
There are three fundamental components that are required to establish moral authority. These are time, experience, and alignment. In the same way that matter exists in three dimensions, each of which contributes its own value, the three characteristics of moral authority contribute their value to the acquisition and sustainment of moral authority. Although these characteristics exist simultaneously, they exist within an order of dependence. We will take a look at each of these in their requisite order.
Success is succession.
The first characteristic required to establish moral authority is time. In the same way that adolescents have little moral authority, a recently launched company will not have moral authority. The founder may leverage his or her own credibility to establish perceived value for the startup, but it will take time for the company to develop its own. Generally speaking, those early days are the hardest.
Truett Cathy, founder of the Chick-fil-A chain, is one of many businessmen that has been repeatedly attacked for the values of his company. His critics state that moral values should be kept hidden within one’s personal life, and not leveraged to create a culture of those values in the corporate world. Truett felt it would be hypocritical to personally hold values that he did not practice in business. So, for almost fifty years, he slugged it out, bringing his vision to life, while remaining faithful to his beliefs.
There are two interesting truths about time as it pertains to earning moral authority. The first is that it takes a longer period of time to establish moral authority than it does to establish that you do not have it. The second truth about time is that although it can take a lifetime to establish moral authority, it takes but a moment to lose it all.
In 1945, Truett and his brother, Ben, set out on a vision to operate a restaurant. After pooling their money together, selling Truett’s car, and persuading First National Bank, they were able to raise a total of ten thousand, six hundred dollars. In his book, It’s Easier to Succeed than to Fail, Truett describes the obstacles they faced in post-World War II, when building materials, meats, and other essentials were scarce. The brothers found themselves pushed around by larger businesses and contractors with buying power. The only building materials they could purchase were used ones.
The resilient Cathy brothers soaked their vision in prayer, trusted God would come through, and became resourceful. They straightened used nails, cleaned cement off used boards that had previously been used to form cement, and spared nothing. It was a trying time, but Truett and Ben opened the Dwarf House, on schedule, in May of 1946.
As their business grew, so did Truett’s vision. He says, “Ideas come from God, but they won’t keep. They have to be acted on.” In 1967, Truett acted on his idea when he built and dedicated his first Chick-fil-A unit. In the years that followed, Truett and his team used this pilot to expand into an internationally recognized restaurant chain with annual revenues approaching one billion dollars.
When times were difficult, they stayed true to their values. In fact, the biggest test occurred when they faced their first annual decrease in sales. It was during this economic uncertainty that they decided to announce their corporate Purpose Statement: “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.” What were they thinking?! Most would probably agree this was not the time to make an ethics splash and garner additional criticism beyond that of their poor sales performance. Humanly speaking, Truett had every reason to hide or even abandon the company’s core values to achieve that which was politically, financially, and practically expedient. After all, he needed to survive this. Truett wrote,
I couldn’t ignore the dismal sales figures. Our actual sales had fallen off even though we had more restaurants. I looked at the problem facing us. Five malls had been scheduled to open but were delayed by developers for months. We had geared our whole program towards the mall’s target dates. That meant we had to pay operators who had no restaurants. On top of that, the American economy went crazy with incredible inflation. Interest rates shot up as high as 23%, which is what we had to pay for a period of time. I felt squeezed. I was afraid of debt, yet I had signed a lease on some properties and couldn’t walk away from them. No matter what I looked at or where I turned, the situation got worse. I couldn’t understand what was happening.
Truett interpreted his circumstances differently than most. He saw an opportunity where God was allowing him to remember who was in control. Truett did not back out of his leases. He did not open on Sundays. They did not sugar-coat or misrepresent their performance. If they had, the company would have sacrificed its moral authority, all of it. Instead, Truett and his staff made the decision to embrace and publicize their first corporate Purpose Statement.
Truett knew that coming out so boldly about their faith, when the future of the company was in jeopardy, could have been met with resistance, even internal ridicule, but time had done little to soften Cathy values. Because of their moral consistency, time was the ingredient that brought clarity as they looked back on the many occasions in which God intervened on behalf of the company.
Committed they were, so Truett and his staff sent copies out to every branch supervisor and made sure that every Chick-fil-A operator and staff person was familiar with their Purpose Statement. Six months later, the company’s sales increased 40% over the previous year. Over the years, Chick-fil-A remained faithful. This remains true today, as Chick-fil-A recently passed Taco Bell and Subway to rank among the top three restaurant chains in the world, with annual revenues exceeding eleven billion dollars.
Liked or disliked, Truett Cathy earned the respect of both his competitors and his customers. It did not happen overnight, but it was worth the long and grueling challenge to prove his company’s commitment to their values. What resulted was an unmistakable degree of moral authority that the Chick-fil-A experience embodies.
Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increase
as the importance of the position increases.
George Washington was known for his fearlessness in battle, humility in service, and deep conviction resulting from his commitment to his Christian beliefs. It is no surprise that he is often hailed as the finest general and the greatest president in American history. He was a gentleman farmer and a seasoned war veteran, yet he did not seek opportunities to increase his influence or garner fame.
His influence grew over time with each battle, each trial, and each time his men saw him far beyond the front lines, motivating them amid showers of lead and cannonball explosions. Sure, he was accomplished. He was an intelligent man, respectful of others, selfless in action. He held little regard for himself, his comforts, or his safety. He had all the character traits of a great leader. But his moral character would merely render admiration without adequate time and experience to try its resolve and test it with fire.
However, experience alone, is insufficient to accredit moral authority. The experience must contain trials and temptations, victories and defeats, decisiveness amid uncertainty. Studying Washington’s life, we can extract three crucial elements of experience that developed and reinforced his moral authority. These elements translate perfectly to both individuals and companies alike.
The first element of experience that must be present is conflict. As stated earlier, just any experience simply will not do. Until a person or company has been tested, they or it cannot develop moral authority. An individual may preach their beliefs, and a company may advertise their core values, but the day they come under fire for them is the day they begin earning or forever losing any chance at developing moral authority.
Most, if given the choice, would likely avoid experiencing conflict, yet few would be attracted to a movie without conflict weaved into the plot. Conflict evokes mystery and stimulates the necessary uncertainty that, in a movie, closely simulates reality. Therefore, we find conflict intriguing, provided it is not our own. Similarly, we look to others experiencing conflict and observe their reaction. When their reaction is noble, be it graceful, humble, introspective, or even grateful, it stands in stark contrast to what is expected. It gets our attention, our admiration. We begin to assume they have something special; and, in exchange, we grant them a measure of moral authority. It is easy to profess our principles when they are not on trial, but conflict is a great revelator. Therefore, in order to establish moral authority, we must experience conflict.
The second element of experience that must be present is conviction. Noah Webster defined conviction as “the state of being convinced or convicted by conscience.” This is where we dive into beliefs and values. Equality. Profitability. Quality. Exceeding customer expectations. These are often corporate strategies sold as values by weak companies with weak leadership. They fail to speak to the core principles of an organization. Perhaps, they do not have any principles. Or, perhaps, they are afraid to be reminded of them and held to account. It may seem obvious, yet the commonality of this requires the obvious statement to be made: Weak leadership makes for weak companies, and neither will ever possess moral authority.
So, what does conviction look like?
In Nashville, Tennessee, there is a company that has been recognized for the last eleven consecutive years as being the Best Place to Work in Nashville. In 2020, the company was nationally recognized and named one of Inc. Magazine’s Best Workplaces. Eleven consecutive years! How is this possible? One insight that surfaced from repeated interviews is that the company employees share the same professional conviction and similar personal convictions. This common ground allows employees to fully embrace the mission of the company.
Ramsey Solutions is known for its mission to provide biblically-based, commonsense education and empowerment that give HOPE to everyone in every walk of life. That shared mission keeps the team focused, motivated and moving in the same direction. Phrases like “work that matters” are just slogans at most companies, but Ramsey Solutions gives team members the training, support, and motivation to do their jobs with excellence while empowering them to reach people during some of the most difficult times of their lives.
The challenge most are probably considering is how to recruit, screen, and hire people that consistently share the same convictions. This seems like a tall order for any company, but even more for a company as committed to maintaining such a selective standard. To put it lightly, their human resources team diligently screens prospects resulting in an estimated one out of one hundred getting hired, and their pipelines stay full. People want to work for a company that serves a higher calling.
“We exist for the people outside these walls. We are on a mission to help people change their lives, and when you believe in that mission at a soul level, it’s hard to not love your work,” said Dave Ramsey, CEO of Ramsey Solutions. “But we also have incredible leadership and human resources teams that work hard to make sure we maintain our culture. We do work that matters, and we have fun doing it.” If you speak with Ramsey’s teammates, you will hear the conviction in their delivery. By the way, they do not use the term “employee,” they only hire teammates. Dave has a unique take on the difference between an employee and a teammate. And he is pretty unapologetic about it.
The third element of experience that must be present is consistency. Family is an environment in which moral authority can easily be assessed and understood. Further, it is universal and thereby relatable at almost every level. Consider you parents for a moment. Are they or were they leaders worth following? Do thoughts of your parents elicit warm feelings of respect? If so, you respect them because you perceive consistency between their beliefs and their actions. Surely, it is not because of their profession, financial or academic achievements, or social standing. In fact, you may hold them in high regard despite their profession, achievements, or standing. They have moral authority.
If instead, you have little respect for your parents, it is likely due to a perceived inconsistency between what they said and what they did. Perhaps, you were witness to a disparity between who they were outside your home and who they were inside your home. And all the accolades, accomplishments, and financial achievements were unable to compensate for these inconsistencies. As you think back on when you started noticing these inconsistencies more and more, did it leave you less and less open to their influence? As they lost their moral authority, they lost their influence. In contrast, parents who retain their moral authority maintain their influence throughout their children’s lives. Thus, is the power of experience and the reason it is a necessary component of moral authority.
Good values are like a magnet – they attract good people.
We have established that it takes significant time and experience to develop moral authority. Time well spent is invested taking on challenges where belief systems and convictions are tested. By now, you have picked up on the value of aligning our beliefs with our actions. Without this alignment hypocrisy emerges and moral authority disappears. The obvious consequence is that hypocrisy is uninspiring, and individual or company influence vanishes with the loss of perceived moral authority. So, what does alignment look like lived out? Once again, we go back to Dave Ramsey.
There is no doubt, Dave is an interesting and unique character. Critics often dislike him for his stance against debt. He encourages people to cut up their credit cards, live on a budget, and avoid debt at all costs. But it is likely a deeper issue that infuriates some—his unapologetic stance on everything based strictly on his Christian belief system. After all, living a life based on biblical principles, no doubt, involves raising the colloquial bar. And although he may not be a favorite in some circles, many more flock to his advice due to its consistent nature, moral applicability, and, of course, his track record of successfully helping people with money problems.
Today, Ramsey, 59, is one of America’s most trusted sources for financial advice. His syndicated radio program, “The Dave Ramsey Show,” is among the top five talk radio shows in the United States and is heard by 13 million listeners each week on more than 600 radio stations. Dave has more than made a name for himself over the years. He has productized a practical approach of applying biblical principles to managing finances, whether as a CEO, a parent, a student, an investor, or an employee. For business owners, he has broken down the basic principles of running a business responsibly while staying completely out of debt and living according to Scripture. For students, he provides step-by-step guides to paying off school and credit card debt, along with which debt to prioritize. For investors (novice to seasoned), he provides credible market information and investment recommendations. Bottom line, his scope of influence is extensive. But what does this have to do with alignment between beliefs and values?
Dave is known for his transparency. Five minutes listening to his radio show will prove it. He is known for handling his personal finances in a way that mirrors his advice to others. He openly shares that it was as a result of his own credit mishandling that he was forced to file bankruptcy more than twenty-five years ago. He puts it uniquely, “I met God on the way up, but I got to know Him on the way down.” Using his story, he has helped thousands of people avoid similar predicaments. Not only does he apply the principles he touts, but he uses his own life as a canvas to prove their effectiveness. Alignment.
Because Dave will never [knowingly] advise someone to violate biblical statues in terms of financial stewardship, there is consistent alignment associated with his brand. In fact, he goes a step further and recommends leveraging finances to set a Christian example for the world to see. Often quoting Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” he challenges his audience to put their money where their mouth is. His challenges are simple but pointed. If you say you support a charity, give to the charity, and give to a degree that it hurts. If you say that you trust God, you will do so with your money.
But there is another reason we brought Dave Ramsey back as an example for this section. Because where there is consistent alignment within the CEO’s life, there is alignment throughout the organization. Dave demonstrates the value in leading an organization in a way that empowers a company to develop its own moral authority independent of Dave. Yes, Dave heavily influenced the values of the enterprise, but the employees have assumed those values as well. In turn, the executive staff also hold Dave accountable when those same values are on the line.
By 2017, Ramsey Solutions was reaching maximum capacity at their office in Franklin, Tennessee. On July 27, they broke ground on a new 223,000 square foot corporate headquarters expanding their capacity to one thousand employees on a beautiful forty-seven-acre lot. As of this writing, the company is already reaching its new one-thousand team member capacity and is investing fifty-two million dollars on a second office building, adding another 192,000 square feet to its current capacity.
Herein lies a hidden nugget that separates Ramsey Solutions from any other company. This organization which makes millions from telling people not to assume debt, paid cash for the lot, the zoning, the development, and the construction. Not a dime of debt was assumed. They are responsibly taking a phased approach to accommodate growth as needed. It was reported that the developers told Dave it was unheard of, “Impossible!” Yet, if they had financed the build, they would have lost their moral authority.
True leadership is moral authority, not formal authority. Leadership is a choice, not a position.
The choice is to follow universal timeless principles, which will build trust
and respect from the entire organization. Those with formal
authority alone will lose this trust and respect.
So, is it possible for an organization to develop moral authority? Absolutely! When an organization operates in alignment with its core values, everything it does contributes to its influence. Its value becomes evident, and with it, its moral authority.
The problem is that too many businesses allowed themselves to be cowed into operating according to someone else’s standard. If leadership is a choice, it is one we consciously make, as both individuals and organizations. Even if someone does not agree with your leadership stance, it is likely they will at least respect you for sticking to your principles.
If your business sells a proprietary product or service, it is one in a million. However, as seen with Ramsey Solutions, if your business sells HOPE, it is one of a kind! In order to sell HOPE, it must have moral authority.
Last thought: Life is full of givers and takers. If you want to have moral authority, you must be a giver. If you are a taker, the best you can hope for is a vain sense of moral superiority. So, be a giver.
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