The Life: As the business news is crowded with the less than admirable acts of some of the world's leading companies, we need to revisit responsible leadership.
Honour bound to lead well
As the business news is crowded with the less than admirable acts of some of the world's leading companies, we need to revisit responsible leadership.
It's clear many successful companies have suffered a leadership catastrophe. Are these the companies to look at as role models of success? They were. But what went wrong?
The leaders in these organisations had mastered the game of business and become darlings for investors. But in the midst of this, they lost sight of society and a responsibility larger than just to their shareholders. The missing element was responsibility.
Something different needs to happen and it is not more government oversight. It is clearly time for a new approach that includes reforming leadership and creating leaders who are responsible for the actions and impact of their organisations - not just the financial results for shareholders.
In light of questionable corporate practices, organisations need to address the role of responsibility in leadership to ensure "leadership failures" do not continue to happen. A practical action is for organisations to ask their leaders to pledge their responsibility for the life of their organisations, taking account of society in general, and to create a culture where they can live by this pledge.
It is time for organisations to borrow from the ancient practice of the Hippocratic Oath, by which doctors are asked to swear to practise medicine ethically and not to cause harm. It is almost incomprehensible that society does not require something similar from the leaders to whom they entrust everything other than their health. Until now, the people who provide society with goods, services and supposedly a return on investments are free to act as they choose.
I believe the corporate world needs a similar rite of passage to doctors and all leaders should take an "Oath of Leadership".
This could include the following: I will be competent in my skills and actions while continually striving to improve my leadership; I will maintain and strengthen the vision of my organisation and strive to create sustainable prosperity in a way that is respectful of the environment and contributes to social growth; I will respect the rights and dignity of all people; I will hold accountable those employees I have been entrusted to leader responsibly and I will provide opportunities for their growth; I will conduct myself with the highest level of integrity and take responsibility for my actions while labouring for the good of my organisation; I will keep myself and my leadership far from all intentional ill-doing, especially from anything that might damage the economy, society or the environment; I will oppose all forms of corruption and exploitation.
Leaders should make this oath freely and upon their honour because being a leader is honourable and requires hard work, skill, rightful behaviour, accountability and responsibility. By taking such an oath, you are declaring to the world you will act as a responsible and accountable leader. And, by practising its tenets, you will be respected and you'll make a positive contribution to your organisation, your employees and to shareholders as well as society at large.
I make this oath freely and upon my honour. Will you?
Tommy Weir is an authority on fast-growth & emerging market leadership, an advisor and the author of The CEO Shift. He is the founder and managing director of the Emerging Markets Leadership Centre.