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Business Student's Guide to Leadership Integrity

I went through many leadership programs, seminars, books, articles and other leadership products. I found many of these well meaning but lacked capturing the complex context in which leaders live.

I found that the best leadership lessons were learned from experience, the key lesson is the absolute importance of Integrity. I learned that if leaders don't have Integrity, nothing else matters much. (Synonyms -- Authenticity, Credibility .Trust.)

The definition of Integrity is --"comprises the personal inner sense of "wholeness" deriving from honesty and consistent uprightness of character" This is OK, but this from Howard Adamsky, in his article "A New Day for American Leadership" is far better, "...leadership is part vision, part art, part science, part experience, part faith and part know-how, all bound together in an ironclad package called integrity."

Leadership Integrity always important for Business success, is now critical. We are experiencing a seminal change in the business environment -- from the Information Age to the New/Knowledge Economy, yet the news is filled with CEOs who are falling from grace and there is talk of a "leadership crisis".

There has been a continuing erosion of trust across numerous business sectors in America according to the Golin/Harris Trust Survey.
Nearly 70 percent of survey respondents said, "I don't know whom to trust anymore," and said they will "hold businesses to a higher standard in their behavior and communications." February 2002

Despite much advice from the $15 Billion Leadership Industry (business schools, seminars, books, tapes, journals), it seems that many so called leadership experts; business books and publications failed us.

* A major Business School had a business case on the success of Enron
* Bernie Ebbers and Ken Lay are profiled in a book on the best leaders
* In a major business magazine's list of most admired companies for 2000, Enron ranked first in quality of management -- ahead of even GE.
*BusinessWeek to its credit chronicled what some management gurus said about Enron, before and after its collapse

We must be careful of a Business-School-Media-Corporate-Complex. Perhaps in concept similar to the Military-Industrial-Complex President Eisenhower warned about.

This Complex seems to have engaged in a groupthink of enormous proportions - professors, consultants, journalists, students and executives all feeding on the same diet of best practices, theories and leadership theories.

? Business schools taught Ethics as a sideline.
? Many companies have lofty Mission Statements and Operating Practices statements that address ethics, but do little enforcement.
? Journalists gave interviews to glitzy executives who brag about how they improve profits.
? Executives courted analysts to improve stock ratings.

Business leaders' image were declining for some time. The 1980s brought a seemingly endless parade of mindless downsizing, reengineering, reorganizing and inauthentic PR all focused on satisfying the investment community. Corporate leaders exceled at Investor Relations and failed in the vital relationships with their people and customers.

I observed people as they moved up the hierarchy, receiving more perks, they became consumed with their own importance. Position and rank became more important than anything. One of my bosses said, "You know why the guys at the top have large offices? It is to house their huge egos."

It takes courage to be an authentic leader. You must be willing to honestly look at and acknowledge your weaknesses.

Many would-be authentic leaders are out there pleading, trotting, temporizing, putting out fires, trying to avoid too much heat. They're peering at a landscape of bottom lines. They're money changers lost in a narrow orbit. They resign. They burn out. They decide not to run or serve. They're organization Houdinis, surrounded by sharks or shackled in a water cage, always managing to escape, miraculously, to make more money via the escape clauses than they made in several years of work. They motivate people through fear, by following trends or by posing as advocates of "reality" which they cynically make up as they go along. Warren Bennis (Forward in Counterfeit Leadership)

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While leadership is vital to corporate performance, there is a growing realization that effective, trustworthy leaders are absolutely crucial to be successful in the future. In addition, leader characteristics are dramatically different than past leader, even the recent past.

Command and control is out, organizations are flatter, the competitive landscape is chaotic, people want meaningful work, and customers are in control. This transition is frequently compared to the Industrial and Information Economies, but the breadth of changes are so dramatic, little precedent exists.

I define 21st Century Leader characteristics needed in an increasingly changing business landscape. No definitive leadership model exists. Rather, leaders need to continuously adapt to their overall context. Application of these characteristics is more art than science.

While all characteristics are needed, Integrity is vital. Most companies are not ethically (and now financially) bankrupt like Enron, but we still have leaders lacking ...

Solution Summary

Business Schools increased emphasis an Ethics classes. The Federal government issued the Sarbanes/Oxley law. Companies issued lofty Codes of Conduct statements. Yet we sill have problems with Leadership Integrity.

This solution outlines why their are still problems with the integrity of leaders. It contains guidlines on how an organization can increase the level of integrity in its leaders.