Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What Are the Attributes of the Ethical Executive?

For some time now, I’ve been conducting my own completely unscientific “poll” of senior advisors, asking them, from their experience, to provide up to 10 attributes of executives with integrity. The question I asked was, “What are the characteristics, behaviors, and attitudes of the ethical executive?” I asked each individual for 10 examples. Here’s the list from a superstar mid-30s female:

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Fairness
  • Confidence
  • Vision
  • Ability to view issues through multiple lenses
  • Ability to flex communication styles for critical conversations
  • Ability to take feedback
  • Appreciation/gratitude
  • Responsiveness

Then there’s this from a late 40s top-notch consultant:

  • Truthful
  • Courageous
  • Honest
  • Respectful
  • Compassionate
  • Just
  • Humble
  • Wise
  • Responsible
  • Reliable

Here’s the list from a Ph.D. college professor:

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Accuracy
  • Transparency
  • Accountability
  • Fair
  • Responsible
  • Loyalty
  • Truthful
  • Professional

And, how about this from a late 50s senior agency counselor:

  • Honesty
  • Moral understanding and conviction
  • Uncompromising (re: established standards)
  • Versed in acceptable social norms
  • Fair
  • Unwilling to accept double standards
  • Willing to share information (transparent)
  • Leads by example
  • Believable
  • Mature value structure
  • Teacher/ethical evangelist

So far, honesty and truthfulness appear on three out of the four lists. Ultimately, I think I’d like to begin creating a roster of executives who meet a great proportion of these attributes, because we only tend to hear about those who succeed or fail in spectacular ways.

My experience is that there are very few lessons to learn from those who fail. The models we need are those who have consistently demonstrated the qualities of ethical behavior, integrity, and credibility as defined by those around them.

What’s your list? Who are your candidates?

Send these to me and I’ll publish them. We’ll create a matrix of ethical executive expectations, and then, the next step will be to ask for nominations of individuals who manage and lead in the space called “integrity.”

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