The Path of Moral Leadership


The first thought of the discussion: “Practicing moral imagination starts with listening and empathy but it does not stop there. Empathy alone reinforces the status quo. It’s about immersing yourself in what others are seeing, hearing, feeling, and experiencing. And, from their perspective, deeply understanding the problems they are facing and what they need, want, and value

Then comes imagination and action.” 

Listen, then analyse, imagine, and take action.

Having just returned to Estonia after almost a decade abroad, I am experiencing a somewhat difficult time with navigating in the landscape of social impact and seeing how my experience, skills or talents might fit into it. What is the need? Where are the opportunities? How does the work that I’m doing for NGOs around the world fit into the local scene here? I’m daunted by the height of this mountain, where the way up involves building social capital, networking, proving myself, understanding the nitty-gritty of funding, figuring out the power structures etc. I’m at level 0. No — I’m below sea level.

But that’s not a reason to stand still. We must not feel paralyzed. Yes, it is confronting to be reminded time and time again that you really don’t know much at all. But he answer lies in going out there into the world as much as possible, talking to new people, listening and listening and listening, trying to find ways to get a foot in the door—somehow. At the moment, I feel like I’m simply casting nets in the water to see which one catches a fish, or planting a full handful of seeds at once with the hope that at least one of them will start growing. 

And this might take time, more than we might like or anticipate. Find peace with that. Our team discussion for this course revealed that the key to moral imagination is to leave our own egos in the background. Old truth, but nice to be reminded of it. Creating change is not about us, not about getting our own bodies and names somewhere. Yes, we should always focus on our self-development and take care of ourselves, but that is a different type of journey. The purpose of our social ventures has to be to serve others in the best possible way, and if it takes long to understand that, then.. so be it. Our goal should be to support, guide, join the efforts as most necessary and appropriate — and not to embark on a journey ASAP for our own fame or fortune. Our contributions are a tiny drop to an ocean. The work will continue beyond us, without us, despite us.

Listen, then analyse, imagine, and take action. The process of listening and analyzing will take time, maybe years. I’ve decided to become mindful of my ego and stay humble. Luckily though, I can safely start with third step in this sequence—the imagination. I’m imagining an Estonia in which everyone, despite their native language, nationality or skin color have equal access to opportunities to education and decent work. To speaking out their voice. To finding peace and self-fulfilment.

What about you? “Using your imagination—grounded in putting people and planet in the center—what could your community, country, and world look like?


Looking back at COVID19, I remember those weeks in May when several online course platforms made their resources available for free to everyone. Wonderful initiative — while making some of us experience a tiny spike of stress. Are we missing out? Are we productive enough? Are we using our time at home in the best possible way? I signed up for many courses with enthusiasm (and mini-stress), but didn’t end up completing them. One exception to the rule is The Path of Moral Leadership by Acumen+, one that I managed to actually stay engaged with. 

I am publishing a reflection and learnings on each of the modules in this space. 

2 replies on “MORAL IMAGINATION”

  1. Tijs Holstein

    Just read your latest blogpost.
    -proof you have a mind unlike any.
    A creator, a visionary, a woman, a host.
    -that peace prize may one day happen. Uncanny.

  2. Love your first blog post, Maria! It reminds pn Bukowski who said that intelligent people doubt too much while the stupid shout out lies into the world.
    So here is a Big Shoutout to you, beautiful soul❣
    Cannot wait to see more of you im this world.

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