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A Typology of Moral Exemplars in Business

Moral Saints and Moral Exemplars

ISBN: 978-1-78350-074-1, eISBN: 978-1-78350-075-8

Publication date: 16 August 2014



A proposed typology of moral exemplars in business highlights instances selected to illustrate standards for inclusion. The typology distinguishes among champions, heroes, and saints as different kinds of business exemplars. The typology reflects variations in both specific decision conditions and moral value emphases of business actors. The typology also differentiates moral exemplars from moral neutrals (i.e., amoral actors) and moral sinners (i.e., moral value scofflaws). The objective is to advance understanding of moral character and moral courage in business settings.


The methodology combines original conceptual argument and brief case summaries taken from available literature. The chapter is not a systematic survey of literature but cites key works. Construction of the typology involved iteration between conceptual development and case interpretation.


The chapter separates business cases into private business and public business, and applies Adam Smith’s distinction between citizenship and good citizenship. An additional distinction is made between extreme conditions and normal conditions. Moral heroism in business is restricted to life-and-death or strongly analogous situations in extreme conditions such as hazardous whistleblowing. Moral sainthood in business involves extreme maximization of a single value going far beyond simple compliance with legal requirements and typical ethical norms – Smith’s definition of citizenship. Moral championing in business concerns some degree of lesser self-sacrifice in defense of important values reflecting Smith’s definition of good citizenship.

Research Limitations and Implications

The chapter is a selection of literature undertaken in iteration with the conceptual development effort. The original research aspect of the chapter is thus quite limited. The author is not positioned to judge the accuracy of published information, for or against a particular instance. The classifications thus depend on whether the instance would, if the generally reported facts are basically accurate, serve as a reasonable illustration of standards for inclusion. Criticisms have been made concerning some of the instances discussed here.

Practical Implications

The emphasis is on providing standards for defining moral exemplars for business to suggest how much can be accomplished in business through moral influence.


The conceptual contribution is original, although drawing on the philosophical literature debate about saints and heroes. The chapter treats exemplar as the overarching construct, separated into three kinds: heroes, saints, and champions. Sinner is implicit in the notion of saint. The chapter adds moral champions and moral neutrals to isolate moral heroism. The cases exist in the literature, but have been combined together here for the first time.



Windsor, D. (2014), "A Typology of Moral Exemplars in Business", Moral Saints and Moral Exemplars (Research in Ethical Issues in Organizations, Vol. 10), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 63-95.



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