Some people are especially respected because they maintain exemplary behavior or because they stand out for the connection between what they say and what they do. These individuals can become a moral authority for the people around them and for society as a whole.
In most professional areas there is a hierarchical scale where one or several bosses exercise power, consequently, they have some authority over their subordinates. This does not mean that the company or entity’s agent has moral authority, as this condition does not depend on the hierarchical scale, but on the individual’s human qualities .
An individual with moral authority is one who is committed to his ideas and values to the last consequences.
It is a person who tries to be coherent and, consequently, does not express contradictions between what he does and what he says. In short, moral authority is a status that someone has because of their ethical trajectory and their values. This category can be achieved by being fair in decisions, by adopting an honorable conduct and by performing actions aimed at good.
A corrupt, hypocritical and unprincipled individual may be successful in his personal and professional life, but it would make no sense to be considered a moral reference.
Three historical examples of moral authority that ended tragically
Socrates promoted the philosophical debate among the Athenians and passionately defended the search for truth and respect for the law.
Mahatma Gandhi was the political leader who led India to independence. He was a peaceful man who defended non- violence as a weapon that should accompany the civil disobedience of his people. His attitude led to prison and all kinds of suffering. He became India’s top leader because he exercised moral authority over others.
Martin Luther King was radically opposed to the racial segregation of blacks in the United States. His firm position was really uncomfortable, in fact, he had come under all sorts of threats.
In the three characters mentioned, there are several coincidences: they were guided by firm convictions, all were moral references for their followers and the three ended up tragically dying (Socrates was forced to take hemlock after submitting to a trial full of irregularities, whereas Gandhi and Luther were murdered).
In the civilization of ancient Rome
For the Romans, auctoritas was a virtue that some people or institutions possessed. This quality gave them a certain moral power over society as a whole. In this context, members of the Senate should be people of honor, with a sense of justice and worthy of respect.