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5 Ethical Culture Lessons for CEOs from Pope Francis
Compliance and ethics professionals agree that role-modeling by senior executives, starting with the CEO, is the beachhead of any ethical leadership culture in an organization. Thats because employees have an uncanny ability to detect hypocrisy in their leaders. They are adept at reading between the lines of internal announcements and closely observing what their leaders say and do. When what leaders say doesnt match up with what they doethical culture takes a hit. The most powerful role models lead more by action than words. This is a lesson leaders and managers could learn just by watching the biggest, baddest new CEO on the planet, Pope Francis I.
Pope Franciss CEO stories are just beginning, but so far they are the very stuff corporate compliance officers dream about.
1. Speak Softly, But Walk Loudly
Rather than talk about what youre gonna do, just do. Your line management will take even more notice of what you do because youll surprise them. Dont worry, it will get around, and fast.
2. Sometimes Small Gestures Have Big Impact
Ordinary acts can have big impact because they are relatable to employees. A CEO who is seen consulting and talking about the company code of conduct always gets a big bang for the buck. (For extra bonus points, invite your chief compliance officer to lunch in the cafeteria.)
3. Live the Rules You Want Others to Follow
Nothing destroys the credibility of a compliance program like acts of hypocrisy from leadership. Just once, when someone in senior management screws up, Id like to see senior management take ethics training instead of the proverbial mailroom. In other words, if you want your people to take taxis, take a taxi.
4. Symbolism Matters
Pope Francis greeted his Cardinals immediately after his election while standing, rather than seated in the papal throne. His chosen name, after St. Francis of Assisi, has deep meaninghere is a fellow who understands symbolism. CEOs should never underestimate the value of symbolism (e.g., does that senior management meeting really need to be in Boca?) to further articulate the values of the company.
5. Be Consistent, and Be Mindful of Being Watched
Being a CEO is like being a movie star, and your employees are the paparrazzi: They see everything. Be consistent, because your people will compare notesincluding on social media. And make sure your top managers on down are consistent and thoughtful in their behavior, too.
Donna Boehme is an internationally recognized authority and practitioner in the field of organizational compliance and ethics, designing and managing compliance and ethics solutions within the U.S. and worldwide. As principal of Compliance Strategists LLC, Boehme is the former group compliance and ethics officer for two leading multinationals and currently advises a wide spectrum of private, public, governmental, academic, and nonprofit entities through her NJ-based consulting firm. She was named by ComplianceX to its list of "Who Compliance Professionals Should Follow on Twitter in 2013," so follow her on Twitter @DonnaCBoehme.