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Should Duty Always be a Virtue in Business Leadership?

Should Duty Always be a Virtue in Business Leadership?

When someone says it is their duty to see something through, however difficult or controversial the task, does this reflect good leadership qualities.

Having a sense of duty is a powerful thing, and it should denote an embedded feeling of responsibility to a role.

However, when duty becomes an unbending reason for acting, and where it leaves no room for flexibility or adaptability, it can cause serious problems in business leadership.

Mark Cushway, leadership expert, entrepreneur and motivational speaker, talks about duty and leadership, what works and what does not.


What is the Duty of a Leader?

“Leaders must inspire others. While they have a duty to the business, the people in it, its shareholders or stakeholders, they should not divorce this duty from their interactions with people.”

Leaders act, but they must also listen.


“Having the right communication skills is what helps leaders establish themselves in their role, and communicating with both feeling and transparency then establishes trust”

Mark Cushway


Another important leadership trait is positivity.

“An optimistic outlook is enormously powerful, providing you can use this in such a way that it is beneficial to the business and its employees. This requires engagement and encouragement in focusing on them.”

On paper, there are key duties of leadership, including understanding the true value of a business.

“You must ensure your business maintains its vision, communicate its strategic direction, make the right resources and support available, and boost morale.


Taking Tough Decisions

“As a leader, you are going to find that you will be the focal point for pretty much every decision in your business, and some of these decisions will be tough ones.”

This is an aspect of leadership that can be emotionally and mentally demanding.


“You might have to choose a new strategic direction, which has risks attached, or let people go and, although leadership should involve collaborating others, there will be times where, ultimately the decision is yours, and part of your duty as a leader”

Mark Cushway


Can anything make the duty of decision-making easier?  One method is to try and take yourself, as a person, out of the equation, and view your business as if you were a third party.

“Imagine yourself witnessing the situation and weighing it up, and basing your decision on what you might advise someone else to do.”

Another is to quantify your options and, where possible, narrow them down.

“What is making you more, or costing you more, for example, and work out what variables matter most in making a decision, rather than having to consider all of them.”


Leadership and the Ability to Adapt

The duty of leadership should always be about the long-term implications of decisions and actions and not just the short-term repercussions.  However, to maintain this perspective may take a large degree of adaptation to changing circumstances.


“You must be able to understand the diversity of people you work with or do business with, learn continuously and be being willing to step out of your comfort zone”

Mark Cushway


Leaders often make errors when they mistake the ability to adapt as a weakness, and, as a consequence, they stubbornly stick to one approach.

“Duty is important, but it doesn’t mean sticking to a fixed script in your head, regardless of real-world circumstances and developments,” Mark concludes. “In fact, as a leader it is your duty to adapt.”


Discover more about Mark Cushway by visiting or by reading a selection of his interviews: