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CEOs Receive Poor Ratings on Business Ethics and Integrity
Posted on 17-Aug-2005 10:35 by M Freitas | Filed under: Blog

Fast Company magazine is one of the few paper media publication I still buy on the newsstand. The other ones are Busines 2.0 and Wired.

The magazine conducted the Fast Track Leadership Survey in July 2005, asking 1,655 employees about their company’s CEOs. No surprises in their answers. I used to feel like this myself sometimes…

Nearly all (95%) say that a CEO's business ethics remain very important and play a meaningful role in the way business gets done. Yet, when asked to grade CEOs on specific attributes respondents said CEOs at large companies "are ruthless in their pursuit of success" (79%) and few believe CEOs "have integrity" (28%).

The reasons most frequently provided to explain why they believe a CEO's ethical behavior matters include:
  • Leadership starts at the top; leaders must lead by example.
  • It has an influence on people in the organization both in terms of hiring, who works in the organization and how those people act.
  • The CEO represents the brand and reputation of the company. The CEO is the face of the company.
  • Businesses are built on trust.
  • Good ethics can save you money.

    Those survey respondents who said that CEO ethics do not play a meaningful role in business (5%) most frequently offered the following reasons for this view:
  • Ethics is no longer important.
  • The CEO doesn't impact front line employees.
  • Business is all about profitability and the bottom line.

    Wow… This is big. So 5% of all employees surveyed don’t believe in ethics, and think it is all about the money?

    Still according to the survey, the top three attributes most associated with CEOs at large corporations are international mindset (87%), ruthless in the pursuit of success (79%) and strategic and visionary thinking (70%). Only 28% said that CEOs at large corporations have integrity.

    The picture is completely different on the small business front. CEOs in small companies are considered to be passionate about their work (93%), innovative (90%) and have stamina and perseverance (76%). The majority of respondents (56%) said they believe that CEOs at small companies have integrity.

    And I don’t think the results for leaders in government are a surprise either. They are thought to be ruthless in their pursuit of success (32%), empathize with people from different backgrounds (29%), have an international mindset (27%) and have stamina and perseverance (27%). Only 17% said they believe that leaders in government have integrity.

    What about the media? Isn’t it the one we would expect more integrity? Not according to these results: CEOs in the media industry are considered to be ruthless in their pursuit of success (65%), passionate about their work (57%) and have stamina and perseverance (39%). Only 11% said CEOs in the media industry have integrity.

    But it looks like what is good for me is not good for you, because even with these numbers, respondents believe that their own company's CEO is passionate about his work (77%), has integrity (71%) and has stamina and perseverance (68%).

    Mark Vamos, Editor of Fast Company magazine said "It's clear from the survey results that employees are expressing the need, value and importance of solid ethical leadership in business. What's concerning is employees' view that CEOs in certain sectors lack integrity and that CEOs give little measure to the importance of ethics and its impact on business performance. This should send a loud wake up call to everyone in the business community, government and the media."

    When asked to "name a person who exemplifies great leadership," survey respondents most often cited (unaided responses) the following individuals in this order:

    1. Jack Welch
    2. Steve Jobs
    3. George Bush
    4. Nelson Mandela
    5. Colin Powell
    6. Mahatma Ghandi
    7. Bill Gates
    8. Rudolph Guiliani
    9. Abraham Lincoln
    10. Jesus
    11. Winston Churchill
    12. Bill Clinton
    13. Oprah Winfrey
    14. Tony Blair
    15. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    16. Richard Branson
    17. Lance Armstrong
    18. Pope Jean Paul II
    19. Michael Dell
    20. Warren Buffett
    21. Dalai Lama

    Among all active and non-active political leaders, Nelson Mandela was most frequently named (10%) followed by Colin Powell (9%), Mahatma Ghandi (7%), George W. Bush (7%), Bill Clinton (6%) and Rudolph Guiliani (6%).

    In the business community, Jack Welch was most frequently cited as an example of great leadership (15%), followed by Steve Jobs (14%) and Bill Gates (8%).

    More numbers? 15% of respondents were CEOs themselves.

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