I was recently asked to write something on the biggest ethical mistakes made by CEOs. There are a lot to choose from so this took some thinking.
And the winner is: Judging information you receive by the person who delivers it. I know of no ethical fiascoes, including Enron, that did not have clear warning signs. Somehow these signs were ignored – and not without reason. The information that enables a CEO to prevent an ethical crisis often comes from individuals who are afraid of taking any risks, whine about everything, and have a chip on their shoulder. I have just described one type of whistle blower. Really sharp CEOs ignore the source and act on the information, often at the objection of the top tier of their management. An ethical CEO is always asking, what if this information, although from a questionable source, is true? Would I gamble the future of the company on it not being true?