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Thoughts for the C-suite: business integrity, your first priority for 2018

Published by CME Manitoba on January 08, 2018

By Kevin Lusk, CME Advanced Manufacturing & Senior Executive Leadership Champion

 

In 2017, our daily news was seemingly chalk full of business leaders, entertainers and politicians who we’d come to follow or admire whose private closet was hacked. And as a result of the informational fallout, they fell from our graces - largely around integrity issues. So, C-suite occupant, as the expression goes, “what’s in your closet”? In 2018, if your closet gets hacked is it possible that your name might also be added to the questionable integrity list? Would you be more than passingly surprised if an integrity issue even come to light among your peers? If not, why not?

In my opinion, a self-directed hard look at one’s C-suite leadership integrity ought to be the #1 priority for all C-suite occupants at the beginning of each new year. So, for 2018 a commitment to fix any integrity leadership problems ought to be your first order of work. Any integrity organizational repair ought to be your #2 priority. That might include making some painful people changes. Integrity ought to be a question of black and white. Unfortunately, for many C-suite occupants (as well as in the operational characteristics of the company), it’s becoming more common to see integrity in varying shades of gray, depending upon the situation and the corporate need. 

Smarts and integrity don’t necessarily go together. In fact, did you know that you might be more susceptible to a lack of integrity if you possess an MBA? In 2006, a Harvard School of Business study noted that MBAs cheat more than other graduate students in the U.S. and Canada, followed by engineers. More recently released studies have done nothing but confirm these findings. MBA’ers are taught to compete, get results and of course get into the top business slots because those slots pay the best. Integrity as a subject is often well down in the order of priorities. So, let’s take a few minutes to consider what integrity actually means sitting in that C-suite chair:

 

Integrity is (ought to be) the highest calling of C-suite leadership. If integrity is not your top priority for 2018, then in my opinion you have a fundamental problem in occupying your corporate C-suite. Integrity failure leads to compromise where ethics are rationalized as necessary for the "greater good." Integrity failure revolves around the mindset that achieving results is more important than the means by which they are achieved. Momentary situational justifications (whether positive or negative) tend to repeat themselves. Over time, they become a part of your leadership persona, namely: “I have the power and I’m going to use it”. If this speaks to you, or if your integrity choices in 2017 are even remotely suspect, it will be crucial in 2018 that you constantly subject your life and work to the highest scrutiny you possess in order to fix it. 

Almost every company (probably including yours) has a statement about integrity in its mission statement. “We act with integrity in all we do,” or “we hold honesty and integrity as our guiding principles,” or “we are proud of the integrity, sincerity and transparency our employees demonstrate daily,” etc. All good statements, but if the corporate integrity really starts with you in the C-suit…then should its presence need to even be declared?

In your C-suite world, you are faced with integrity-based choices pretty much daily. In 2018 some might include telling that client that you or your company made a mistake. Or, will you, sitting across the board room table from that new opportunity that you’re trying to convert into a purchase order succumb to “adjusting” the facts to suit the situation, knowing full well that it’s BS? Integrity always comes at a price whose paying is neither easy nor simple because choice requires personal judgment. The higher the position on the corporate ladder, the greater the integrity responsibility and the greater the consequences; both personally and to the company. That’s why your C-suite leadership integrity ought to be your #1 priority.

Leadership credibility, and your success or failure, primarily revolves around of two aspects: what you do (competency) and who you are (character). Any discrepancy between these two aspects creates an integrity problem for you, for those you lead and for those you perceive as your peers (who trust me, are watching your every move). 

Not all situations you will face have clear answers – no corporate policy can cover every contingency that you will face in 2018. In some instances you may yearn for someone outside the situation to simply talk things over with, maybe about fixing something or maybe to help you with that new potential opportunity. As a member of CME you have access to confidential knowledgeable senior executive council and advice anytime. Many C-suite occupants regularly use this unique CME service over the course of a year. Be sure to keep it in mind during 2018. It might just make your year a whole lot better.

All the very best of “success with integrity” for 2018!   

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