Eagle Talk

Moral Courage – Your DNA for Leadership Integrity

Our world seems to be moving faster and faster toward a meltdown of ethical behavior and values. In my opinion, it’s a reflection on the sad state of Leadership in the world today.  Everywhere you look, you hear about incredible abuses of authority, power, trust, and fiduciary responsibility.  What is causing this meltdown in behaviors around the world?  Let’s look at some of the events making headlines.  I will ask you the Socratic question, ”Based on your own experience, what actions would you take to stop this deadly values erosion?”  I appreciate you sharing your ideas, thoughts and experiences with me on how you would take on this expanding diminution of values and behaviors exploding today within our cultures.

The FIFA corruption scandal is a real humdinger.  For at least ten years, it’s been an open secret.  The officials running, and in theory, leading FIFA, have been engaged in all nature of bribes and payoffs for their own personal benefit.  The crowning moment of corruption glory had to be the reelection of Sepp Blatter.  A few days later, he stepped down for the “well-being of the organization’s reputation.” Blatter is fully aware of the impending corruption charges being brought against him.

This corruption was understood by all the big companies, like VISA and Coca-Cola, pouring millions of dollars of advertising into FIFA.  How can men and women claiming to be leaders and setting examples for their companies, condone and financially support corruption at the level going on in FIFA? Makes you think about the question, “Why are we failing to develop leaders of character, integrity and trust?”  Where are today’s George Marshalls, Winston Churchills, Jaun Trippes, Tom Watsons and Vernon Loucks?  Where and why are we going wrong in educating, developing and nurturing our young men and women in school, university, and when they join the world of business, politics, health care, finance, or whatever?

Another humdinger of a scandal is LIBOR.  Last week in the Crown Court in London, Tom Hayes, a former UBS and Citigroup trader, admitted to investigators he made “concerted efforts” to manipulate Libor.”  Even though he has admitted his culpability, Hayes has pleaded not guilty to the 8 counts to commit fraud between 2006 and 2010 by allegedly influencing others to rig Libor.  In 2010, I first heard of this scandal from a client who told me his banking group had withdrawn from the Libor Association in 2000. He told British Banking Authorities the rates were being rigged by the sixteen banks that were setting Libor rates.  At the time of our discussion, he told me the scandal was going to be so big, so wide and so incredibly complicated that governments and banking institutions, let alone politicians, would never truly be able to grasp what he thinks is the biggest financial scandal of the past 100 years.  I ask you, what has happened to our ethical values and behaviors?  Why are we failing our societies, our institutions, and our young men and women, our future leaders, by not living up to decent behavior, Integrity and Truth? 

I have just finished reading General Stanley McChrystal’s superb book, Team of Teams.  The subtitle of the book is “New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World.”   I recommend this book to each and every one of you.  It is a thought provoking and challenging book. General McChrystal makes a number of highly valid points.  A central theme is that the world today is one of complexity producing fundamentally different situations from the “complicated” challenges of the past.  McChrystal points out that complicated problems require great effort, but ultimately yield to prediction.  Complexity means that in spite of our increased abilities to track and measure, the world has become in many ways vastly unpredictable.  He goes on to make a very strong point,  “Unpredictability is fundamentally incompatible with reductionist managerial models based around planning and prediction.”  This new environment of the twenty-first century demands a new approach within every organization in order to be successful.

Over the past forty years in my role as mentor and coach to senior executives, I’ve studied what are the shared characteristics of the men and women who have been able to live, embrace, and not lose their integrity.  My answer is simple, they are individuals who possess the moral courage to live high values, and in doing so, became the beacons of leadership for others.  They all shared three characteristics:

  • First, the structure of their organizations was built and rigorously defined and maintained around value behaviors.  That was their strategy and it was the strategy of values that then determined their organization’s business plan.  Expressed in a slightly different way, the DNA of their company is one of leadership, not production or financial process.
  • Second, they recognized the fallacy of the “myth” that order and values are always directed.  They understand and embrace the truth that it is Trustbetween all members of the team that produces excellence and in turn, creates what we would refer to today as High Performing Organizations.
  • Lastly, these individuals find ways and means to foster a DNA of “Thinking and problem solving” that General McChrystal refers to in his book as “Emergent intelligence.” This allows individuals to thrive and prosper in the absence of a plan, or when things go wrong.   It’s what I refer to as being able to “Think on your feet in the space in the moment,” and come up with the right and best answer possible to a situation or problem.

My best wishes to each of you.  There is no substitute for excellence!

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