Monday, March 23, 2015

What Makes a Great Leader?

Credit: Scott Maxwell
I read a discussion today from McKinsey & Company entitled Decoding leadership: What really matters. The authors discuss a study they conducted to try to identify "what sort of leadership behavior organizations should encourage". It seems that the researchers really conducted an exhaustive study. I congratulate them on their work.

A survey 189,000 people in 81 medium to large organizations, identified 4 key leadership behaviours that the strongest leaders possess. While that is interesting, what I find alarming is that the list of "20 possible types of behavior" that they used does not include  any mention of Ethics or Integrity. In fairness, some of the behaviours might be seen as ethical traits, but they aren't traits that would prevent Ethical Debt.
Where is the mention of Honesty, Fairness, Trustworthiness, Beyond Reproach, etc. Sure number 9 is "Foster mutual respect", and while that is important, it doesn't scream out "Always do the right thing".

My grandfather used to be an accountant. I remember a story that I heard about him that went something like this:
Someone approached one of his clients and asked for an introduction to my grandfather as they were looking for someone to fix their books so that they wouldn't have to pay so much tax. Apparently, my grandfather's client told him "Don't bother asking Mr. Rochow, he would never do that kind of book-keeping."
That is the kind of ethics that all leaders should possess and cultivate in their organizations. You want a reputation that is so ethical that nobody would ever even consider asking you to do something that is not above board. That is the way to avoid Ethical Debt.

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