The Crisis in Ethical Leadership

Looking at recent headlines of CEOs getting fired, resigning abruptly, harassing women in the post #MeToo world, and just being plain stupid and careless with their power eg #Tesla, I had to ask myself, who (and which Board) did it worse, CBS or Google? My watermark used to be the 32-member Penn State Board of Trustees, which “accidentally” discovered assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky’s serial child sex abuse by READING ABOUT IT IN THE LOCAL PAPER!!! #UGH This is despite many opportunities for the Board to learn about parent complaints, campus police investigations, criminal investigations, grand juries, and at least one eye-witness report of an actual rape of an 10 year old boy in plain view in a shower of the campus locker room with Sandusky – but these modern times (and prosecutors) now demand that Boards step up to their oversight responsibilities for compliance, ethics and culture. Even the Department of Justice says it will be asking companies in their crosshairs questions like “What access does the Board have to compliance expertise?” And here let me reiterate the learning of the many Compliance 1.0 “DIY Compliance” Trainwrecks in the headlines, from the GM “69 Naughty Words” delayed ignition switch recall debacle, to the VW wide-ranging emissions software fraud, to the Wells Fargo horrific cross-selling customer fraud/fake accounts scandal, and many others=> A company that invests in its Ethical Leadership Culture, invests in its future, reputation and brand.

I’ve already discussed the huge missed opportunity by media giant CBS in its firing of CEO Les Moonves here =>, and still, Google’s Board appears to have stumbled right into the footsteps of CBS by taking a wrecking ball to any ethical leadership culture it may have hoped to be building (as I write this I realize the concept of “ethical leadership culture” must be a foreign phrase akin to Arabic, Sanskrit or even Vulcan to this particular Board), so therein lies the problem. But no Board is going to understand its responsibilities in this critical existential area without proper education/training by a true Compliance (SME) – the foundational element of modern Compliance 2.0 (built to succeed) as I discussed here – and let’s be honest here, as GM, VW Wells Fargo, and even Siemens, Walmart and Hewlett Packard discovered, true ComplianceSME cannot be acquired in law or business school, and neither is it held by highly compensated PR Wizards of Smart or any other discipline! Lockheed has already set the bar for how a company should manage CEO exits for misconduct as I discussed in 2013 here=> and friends, Lockheed’s choices were nothing like the hero’s farewells we have seen at CBS and Google!

So which Board did it worse? Hmmm… I probably have to give the LOSER’S AWARD to Google, because even though it’s $90Million severance to its CEO was less than Moonves’ potential $110Million payout, and Moonves reportedly gets to stick around the place as an “advisor” #UGH, here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write:

“Maybe Google needs to change its mission statement from “Don’t Be Evil” to “Don’t Blow Up Your Ethical Leadership Culture!!”

What do you think #EthiTweeps?

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