There are two hazards in writing about morality. The first is that readers will dismiss it as marginal to their real-world concerns, an idealistic luxury that has little to do with our daily struggles for survival or fights for fame and glory. This hazard arises from a misunderstanding about what morality is and how it works in the real world. The aim of this book is to clear up this misunderstanding with a detailed explanation of how morality creates a valuable business advantage for those who employ it consistently and imaginatively. But the second hazard is less direct and harder to combat. It is that people who speak or write about morality have a way of sounding moralistic, preachy, and, worst of all, holier-than-thou.
It is essential that I take this second hazard head on at the outset of this chapter, not only because I do not wish to sound like a preachy prig, but also because being moralistic (as opposed to being moral) is antithetical to the message that I wish to convey. Being consistently moral is a matter of virtue, and humility is one of the primary virtues, in business as well as in life in general. People who are moralistic tend to be arrogant rather than humble, and their sense of superiority can lead their judgments and their choices astray. It also prevents them from learning from their mistakes— and everyone makes mistakes.
Morality is always a work-in-progress. People who remain aware of their own imperfections and determined to improve throughout their entire careers are the ones most likely to do the right thing for themselves and their companies.