We have discussed two traits of ethical leaders – limiting what they say to what they can say truthfully and knowing the stakeholders. In this post, we discuss two more traits of ethical leaders.
Surround yourself with truth tellers.
Many CEOs express surprise at how little they can directly know about the organizations they lead. All CEOs are dependent on their direct reports and other managers to tell them how things are really going. Ethical CEOs are always looking for direct reports who tell them the truth even when it is very uncomfortable to do so. These CEOs know that they will only be able to learn the truth if they reward managers for candidly delivering bad news. Delivering bad news does not come naturally to highly competitive individuals seeking to advance their careers. It is only by making a conscious effort to reward individuals who deliver bad news that a CEO can gain a realistic idea of what is going on in the organization.
Learn for yourself.
No matter how much effort you put into rewarding candor on the part of those who report to you, there is often no substitute for looking at things for yourself. I remember talking to the CEO of a financial services company that had just barely survived a scandal. I suggested that he visit all of the company’s field locations to tell his team what he expected of them and also to listen to how they felt about what had happened. The CEO said, “You means you want me travel around the country and sit on red plastic chairs drinking coffee out of styrofoam cups?” Exactly what I meant. By doing this, he not only put the company back on track, but he also learned how it had gotten on the wrong track.