Seven Bold Leaders Reveal How Ethical Leadership Is A Boon To Business
I asked seven leaders to provide a concrete example or two of how ethical leadership benefits businesses, employees, clients and communities.
Here’s what they said.
Leading through a hurricane
In September 2017, Hurricane Maria, the worst natural disaster in recorded history struck Puerto Rico, home to 34 Baxter Credit Union employees and 26,000 of our members. While this disaster tested nearly every business process and operating system on the island, I could not be more proud of the rapid response and courage displayed by the entire BCU leadership team, our Board, and especially the resolve of our staff, who repeatedly put the needs of our members above their own.
BCU was one of the first financial institutions on the island to make aid available, stock our ATMs with cash and not limit access to only our members. We acted swiftly to issue 0% interest disaster-recovery loans, defer interest payments on existing loans, and accept hand-written promissory notes of repayment for cash distributed while the network was unavailable.
Never did it enter my mind to stick to policy or procedure when it came to employee and member well-being. Nor was it a consideration that providing aid for this unfortunate disaster would come at a cost to BCU of roughly $3 million. My only thought was to do everything humanly possible to ensure the safety of our employees and meet member needs.
Fast forward 2 years and it proved to be the right decision. BCU has not experienced any measurable losses, membership has grown 20%, and we have expanded our operations to create new jobs and grow our employee base on the island to 55. What’s more, Net Promoter Scores among members in Puerto Rico are top-decile and our company partners - stateside and on the island - regularly cite this example as one of the reasons they are proud to partner with BCU.
–Mike Valentine, President & CEO, Baxter Credit Union
"We See Equal"
The inactivity of governments around the world has caused a shift in the focus to where nearly two-thirds of employees say they expect CEOs to take the lead when it comes to policy change on societal issues like gun violence, the environment and human rights. This drive for change is no small task but the collective action of companies can make a difference, for example Dick’s Sporting Goods, which responded to gun violence in a way that was unpopular with some of its customer base, has seen its stock price soar in the past two months.
Procter & Gamble is another example of a company doing the right thing and raised awareness of gender bias, working toward equality for all with a campaign called ‘We See Equal’. Their performance has outpaced the markets in 2019. To those who say that CEOs who prioritize ethics and values are doing so only to score public relations points, the facts, and the data tells a different story. Every day at Ethisphere we see the hard work done by leading companies to take on some of society’s most pressing issues and this approach not only promotes stronger companies and communities, it also boosts the bottom line —this is smart business.
“There's an appetite for more ethical hiring”
Colleagues in the disability community came to us with a critical question: Could Accenture determine if there was a correlation between how inclusive a company is of people with disabilities and its financial performance? With only 34% of disabled people in the U.S. employed, our challenge was to take the ethical lead in establishing that ethical hiring—in this case, disability inclusion—is good for business.
Accenture research proved it, for the first time making the business case showing that companies which embrace best practices for including people with disabilities performed better financially on average over a four-year period, with 28% higher revenue. The reaction to our research was overwhelming, with many companies asking how to address disability inclusion within their own workforces, as we’re doing at Accenture.
There’s clearly an appetite for more ethical hiring, and I’m proud that Accenture revealed the benefits for businesses, clients and workers.
Courage and truth
I once had a client in the telecommunications industry. His company went through month after month of difficult times as the market moved from analogue to digital systems and the carriers changed the way that any resellers would be compensated.
Their revenues where plummeting. To keep the company afloat, the business owner tried to keep the problems a secret and took loans against every personal asset he could to keep making payroll. When he shared this with me, I encouraged him to be brave and share the truth with his staff.
They cried, hugged him, shared in his challenge all agreed to a reduction in pay and all pulled together to ride the storm and turn the company around - and they did.
Translating values into ethical behavior
The retired managing director of a small consulting company spent one year in Haiti after the earthquake, suffering with the local people and volunteering as CEO to rebuild and reorganise a hospital belonging to an Italian religious foundation. He made available for free his skills, his technical know-how and his management background, and he trained local managers to ensure his succession and the future management.
Also, at one of my client companies, an HR business partner was promoted to HR Director, even though she had just discovered she was pregnant. (In Italy, despite equal opportunities policies, this is not a common behaviour). This is a very impressive and important signal for women and a confirmation of how the declared values of a company are translated into behavior.
Leading by accepting responsibility
Years ago I led a small team of threat intelligence analysts. I was still very new to leadership and we had a complex project with a very tough deadline. Needless to say, we didn't make it. My boss had to break the news to the director.
What happened during that brief changed my life. Instead of pointing the finger at me for my misstep in leadership, he took complete responsibility and even found a way to paint me in a positive light.
That event sticks with me to this day. That is how I always want to lead.
The splattered tie and its leadership lesson
We used to get piles of snow in winter around our business center, and most people dreaded coming and leaving the office in their car, because doing so meant a lot of work with a shovel. There was a young guy cleaning the parking lot for a small pharmaceutical company, but he would also clean a few extra parking places, including one where an older man parked his Volvo.
One day he was seen in the lobby wearing a suit and slurping coffee. Turned out he was going to his first proper job interview in our business center. As he was getting in an elevator, he spilled some coffee on his shirt and a tie and panicked. The man with the Volvo saw that and offered him his shirt and a tie, since it was an emergency for the young guy. They both got out on the company floor and that guy kept his jacket and a T-shirt on while sending the young man towards his destiny in his shirt and tie. “It's my lucky tie,” he said.
The young man was called in by the manager while the man from the Volvo sat in the reception area. The manager looked at the young man and said: “That’s a nice tie! Where'd you get it?' The younger fellow told him the truth and the manager said: 'Then you’re hired if our senior vice-president makes sure you look your best for the job interview.”
Thank you for reading my blog post. I hope you're having a good day.
One more thing
Yes! I will give an engaging ethics presentation to your organization! Contact me here.
At your service,
Bruce Weinstein, Ph.D., The Ethics Guy
Ethics Trainer and Speaker
P.S. Take my free ethics quiz here. Includes video analysis of each answer. You can also sign up for my free weekly emails on ethics and ethical leadership that will enrich your work in accounting, human resources, engineering, and other essential professions.
P.P.S. Here's my contributor page on LearnFormula / CPD Formula with a description of the courses I offer for CPAs and HR professionals, all of which will earn you one or two continuing education credits in ethics.