The MoralDNA of Performance

Corporate philosopher Roger Steare publishes "The MoralDNA of Performance"

Raleigh Addington
Raleigh Addington
editor at Chartwell Speakers

Roger Steare, known as the “corporate philosopher”, recently wrote and published a report through the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), titled “The MoralDNA of Performance”.

This report explores the space in which people work, to see how well it serves them, their customers and society itself. Roger believes that anyone who takes the time to reflect on human behaviour will observe the impact, both actual and perceived, of different styles of leadership and management on organisational performance.

Roger explains that organisations are very simply collections of people, ideally sharing a common purpose, a set of values, a thoughtful decision-making approach and a will to succeed. He goes on to note that if leadership is “getting ordinary people to do extraordinary things”, care needs to be taken by leaders and managers to espouse the ethical behaviours which inspire confidence, trust and followership.

Roger Steare presents "The MoralDNA of Performance" at CMI
Roger Steare presents “The MoralDNA of Performance” at CMI


Stronger management ethics are linked to better organisational performance

Strong ethics and high levels of organisational performance go hand in hand. Across all 11 performance indicators explored in our survey, high levels of performance were associated with higher ethical scores.

Almost a third of managers rate their organisation as mediocre or worse on ethical behaviour

Despite evidence of links between good ethics and business performance, almost a third of managers (29%) say their organisation is mediocre or plain poor when it comes to standards of ethical behaviour. This equates to nearly one million (928,000) managers across the UK.

The public sector and large organisations face the biggest challenges

Large employers face the biggest challenges when it comes to ethics: managers in big organisations are four times more likely than those in small firms to rate their organisation as poor (12% vs. 3%). Big organisations are also less than half as likely as small firms to be rated as excellent (23% vs. 59%).

When it comes to different economic sectors, it’s clear that the public sector faces the biggest challenges. Some 13% of managers in the public sector rate their organisation as poor, and only 20% give top marks for ethics, which is half as many as those in PLCs (40%).

Managers in growing organisations score higher on ethical behaviour than their colleagues in declining ones

37% of managers in growing organisations give themselves top marks for ethical behaviour, compared to 19% in declining organisations. Those in declining organisations are also much more likely to say that their organisation behaves unethically (22% vs. 6%).

Junior managers don’t share senior managers’ outlook on ethics

There are also significant differences between junior and senior managers. Senior managers have a rosier picture of current standards than those in junior roles – 48% believes their organisation has excellent ethical behaviour, compared to only 22% of junior managers, who clearly tend to believe their organisation could do a lot better.

Roger Steare speaker
“Strong management ethics and strong organisational performance go hand in hand with improved performance”

Coaching, visionary and democratic leadership delivers results

Managers in organisations with coaching, visionary and democratic leadership styles report that their organisations perform better on all performance measures than those organisations where command and control or pacesetting styles are adopted. Only 18% of managers working in a commanding and controlling environment rate the effectiveness of their organisation’s management as ‘excellent’, compared to 75% in coaching environments.

Ethics helps to engage employees

A more ethical culture is linked to higher levels of employee engagement, especially the ethic of care, where individuals think about ethical decisions primarily in terms of the impact of action on others. Managers in organisations with excellent staff satisfaction levels score 13% higher on the ethic of care. The ability to attract new staff is also linked to an 8% difference in the level of care.

Better ethics means happier customers

Managers in organisations with excellent customer satisfaction score 9% higher on the ethics of care and reason than those who admit their organisation does a poor job for customers. This may seem obvious, but it does warrant the question of why almost a third of managers (30%) say their organisation is performing either in a mediocre way or just plain poorly when it comes to customer satisfaction. If caring more means higher customer satisfaction scores, why is not everyone doing it?

Being ethical pays off when it comes to managing risk

More ethical attitudes can pay off when it comes to risk management too. Excellent risk management is associated with higher scores across each of the three ethics measured by MoralDNA, including the ethic of reason (8% higher), care (10%) and obedience (14%).

Putting it into practice

Based on the empirical research and the leader interviews conducted for this report, we recommend that organisations act to improve their ethics and support better performance with seven key areas.


Click here to read the full report, or click here to read an infographic summary.

For more information, or to book Roger Steare as a keynote speaker for your conference or event, please contact Alex Hickman at or call 0044 (0) 20 7792 8004.


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