Is There Hope for High Integrity Leaders?

April 14, 2010

Chapter 8 Pg’s 207-209 Lead With Love By: Gerry Czarnecki

 The negative conclusion of the previous section should not be where we leave the discussion of integrity. There is little doubt high integrity leaders should have a strong commitment to integrity, and therefore, we cannot assume they will be unable to change an organization from within. The previous section sounds like a particularly pessimistic view of changing an organization with rotten values. The good news is organizations can change, and recent studies reflect that American corporations are increasing efforts to improve their cultures. According to the 2005 National Business Ethics Survey, which surveyed more than 3,000 American workers, 69 percent of employees said their companies implement ethics training, which is a 14 percentage point increase from 2003.

 Tragically, much of the change that occurs in organizations, as in the world of politics, results from a crisis. Often the behavior predicated on the lack of integrity encourages or precipitates a crisis. Many organizations have found a way out of a crisis because leaders, either from within or from without, have committed to change. If the crisis is severe enough, the entire culture can be shocked into a dramatic shift. It is important the cancer of lost integrity is not so pervasive that the organization is populated by only the weak or the $awed. One example of an organization that lost its way at the top is

Hewlett-Packard (HP). This organization has very high standards and a rich culture of commitment to a value system known as the “HP Way.” It appears much of the culture remained intact, but not at the top. The tragic story of HP’s apparent illegal practice called “pretexting” demonstrates that even an organization known for its virtuous business ethics can be polluted by a breach at the top. The scandal that ensued caused many to leave the board and the organization, and several individuals, including the former chair of the board of directors, were indicted in California. Those individuals appeared to have strayed from the company’s tradition of sound values and integrity. However, the strong culture that exists deep into the organization has reportedly survived and seems to be working with the new leadership to save the company from demise.

 The HP story suggests that an ethical culture at the bottom of an organization can eventually prevail. If integrity is a value that has positive influence on the organization, then hopefully, the lack of an integrity culture at the top will eventually lead to an organization’s failure. If that is true, then the good leaders at the bottom can overcome the “bad leader” at the top, hence invalidating the Law of Bad Leadership. The mission of restoring integrity within an organization may be influenced by its size, complexity, and geographic dispersion, but it can be accomplished more easily when the top fails than when the entire organization fails.

 Some organizations manage to mask their lack of integrity for a surprisingly long time. The Enron story is once again a perfect example. Enron had been the darling of the investment community for decades, and it took a financial crisis to bring the house of cards down. In the case of WorldCom, it took the courage of an internal auditor to speak up and tell the Board Audit Committee she thought there was “something

wrong” with the accounting. In the final analysis, neither Enron nor WorldCom survived as stand-alone entities. The message is clear: eventually the “bad guys” get caught, but it is difficult for outsiders to see that a corporate culture lacks integrity. The good leaders from within must be the organization’s salvation and cause others to commit  to the value of integrity.

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Why Not Like Instead of Love?

September 22, 2009

Chapter 1, page 23-24 from  “Lead With Love” by Gerry Czarnecki                

You may ask, “Why use the word love when the word like would be easier? Why not say that every leader must like people?”

For our purpose, the word love is more accurate and less confusing than the word like. Indeed, the proposition that leaders must like those they lead is flawed. When you like a person, what does that mean? Usually it means that person’s personality characteristics, core beliefs, character traits, or even physical appearance, for some reason, appeal to either your emotions or logical thought. The person may have treated you nicely, smiled at you on a day you were unhappy, complimented you when you needed confidence building, or helped you think through a personal or business problem. You may even have an unexplained bond with that person, which made you feel an emotional attraction almost immediately. You may have nothing in common or everything in common, but you feel comfortable being around that person.

In the same way, liking your associates can help you to enjoy the people you lead. It makes you feel good to lead people you like. In turn, since the chemistry usually goes both ways, the people you are leading will probably like you and feel good about you. If all of this good comes out of liking, then what is wrong with the idea that you should like the people you lead?

 Here’s what’s wrong: How many situations have you been in where you could say that you liked everybody in the group you were leading? If you have a group of two people, then you might expect that you will like both of them. However, most of us are charged with the responsibility of leading larger groups. If you are a sales manager who takes over a sales force of ten, the odds of not liking at least one person in that group are much greater.

Let’s also hypothesize that the one person you do not like, for whatever reason, is also the top salesperson in the group and has the highest customer loyalty. In addition, that person has the best relationship with the manufacturing division and has always had the highest peer group ratings as well. At this point you might say, “If this person is that good, then obviously I would like her.” Indeed, that might be true. The opposite happens frequently as well. You can have a top performer you truly dislike. If you have been a leader for any period of time, you have been in that situation and probably have struggled with the consequences.

If liking is a requirement of good leadership, how can you lead this person? By that definition, you cannot. So what do you do? Your dislike usually becomes a barrier to communication. If you do not like a person, it is very difficult to hide your dislike. The other person will sense how you feel and begin to react negatively to you as well. Slowly, you begin to distance yourselves from each other in an effort to avoid the undesirable contact. Worse still, you will invariably become overly critical of the person. Eventually these tensions will result in either termination or transfer of the subordinate. Bias wins every time.

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