Make a Difference: Exert Moral Authority

Talent Plus Talent Plus

November 06, 2017 Blog Leadership

Moral authority. What is it and why is it part of managing to make a difference?

Wikipedia has a comparative definition of moral authority we like:

Moral authority is the capacity to convince others of how the world should be, as opposed to epistemic authority (relating to knowledge), which is the capacity to convince others of how the world is.

In that sense, moral authority is a kind of leadership vision around ethics, principles or fundamental truths. And managers who exert moral authority make a meaningful difference in the lives of other people because they draw a line in the sand that defines “who we are” and “how we will conduct ourselves.”

We can all think of people who have bravely exerted moral authority: Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, John McCain, Mother Teresa, C. Everett Koop (see our story in Chapter 58) and, quite recently, Senator Jeff Flake. But you can see everyday people exerting moral authority too, if you’re looking for it.

Listen in as we discuss some everyday examples of moral authority, along with questions such as:

  • Is moral authority the same as honesty?
  • What do you do when “the right thing” is not at all clear?
  • What do you do when “the right thing” comes at a cost?
  • What are the costs of not exerting moral authority?
  • How can you assess your own moral authority and make a plan to grow in this area?
  • How does moral authority relate to the culture of your organization?

Have you started reading Managing to Make a Difference yet? If not, we hope this will be the week you start! We’re more than halfway through our podcasts highlighting various topics in the book, and you can find the entire archive of our conversations here.

Until next time, manage to make a difference every day!

+ Larry Sternberg, J.D. and Kim Turnage, Ph.D.


This post highlights Chapter 58 of Managing to Make a Difference (Wiley), a handbook for hitting the sweet spot of middle management. Next up: Rise Above the Politics. Connect with Kim Turnage and Larry Sternberg on LinkedIn to see their latest updates.

Latest Posts: Blog

Individual taking a Talent Plus Talent Online Assessment

Blog June 20, 2024

Integrating Talent Plus Assessments with Your Applicant Tracking System (ATS) 

Learn how integrating Talent Plus assessments into your ATS can streamline your talent acquisition process and improve candidate volume.

Fran Westfall Fran Westfall

Read More
Mother with two kids on school break working at home.

Blog June 03, 2024

How Workplaces Can Support Working Parents During Summer Break

Summer breaks rarely match up with work schedules, affecting working parents. Leaders must adapt & accommodate or risk losing good employees.

Zack Robertson Zack Robertson

Read More
Employee who has great well-being at work.

Blog May 09, 2024

Well-Being, Burnout and How To Invest in Your Employees

Boost employee engagement and well-being with these four strategies. Learn the keys to fostering a dynamic and flourishing workplace culture.

Zack Robertson Zack Robertson

Read More
Happy individual at work

Blog May 03, 2024

Unlock Your Potential With the Talent Card

Unlock your potential with the Talent Card. Discover the benefits of understanding your talents and learn examples of how to leverage them.

Talent Plus Talent Plus

Read More
Diverse employees congratulate man on business achievements, excellent work results or promotion.

Blog May 02, 2024

DEIB Strategies for Fair Promotion Processes 

Maribel Cruz explores the impact of unbiased evaluations and standardized promotion processes within organizations.

Maribel Cruz Maribel Cruz

Read More