A CIO at a large multinational firm recently said something in conversation that surprised me with his candor: “I don’t know how they sleep at night,” he said. The reference was to the much-publicized huge salaries and end-of-year bonuses received by some top executives while so many of the world’s employees have lost their jobs and are struggling to get by.
I thought of that comment when I considered this month’s theme of “CIOs in the Boardroom” and the general the topic of global leadership and corporate responsibility. I hope, in fact, that more CIOs in the public and private sectors are engaging in conversations about business ethics. It’s a subject that has not gotten much attention lately, yet it seems quite reasonable to ask ourselves what we will do differently as we progress up the corporate ladder.
Maybe that’s also a question that more business school programs, corporate training courses and IT conferences need to ask on their exit surveys … and it’s certainly something that ought to be addressed when a new director joins a corporate board. We often speak about CIOs getting a seat at the executive table. Now we need to ask: “What will you bring to the table, and how will you help improve the lives of employees and customers?”
CIOs might respond by introducing collaboration, transparency, sustainability and accountability into processes across the enterprise. They might also recommend ways to minimize corporate risk, as Sandra C. Hofmann, CIO-in-Residence at Advanced Technology Development Center, suggests in our Smart Practices article this month. They can certainly introduce a fresh perspective to nontechnical executives at their own company or elsewhere.
Toward this end I was happy to see “A Beginner's Guide to Raising Ethical Issues at Work,” on Harvard Business Review’s blog, last month. The post stems from Mary C. Gentile’s research for her upcoming book, Giving Voice to Values, to be published by Yale University Press in September 2010. Gentile is a senior research scholar at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., who also wrote an article for Harvard Business Review this month, Managing Yourself: Keeping Your Colleagues Honest.
Ultimately, establishing ethical policies and enforcing them is key to good leadership, whether it’s on a board of directors or managing an IT staff. As Nick Craig , President of the Authentic Leadership Institute, says in his Insights column this month: “Oftentimes I see too few ‘authentic’ leaders — those who can inspire the next generation and steer us toward sustained economic progress.” How to achieve that goal should be the topic of conversation as we hurtle into the future. To help us along, we have asked Nick, who also is co-author of Finding Your True North (Jossey-Bass, 2008), to continue his discussion about leadership in coming months on the Smart Enterprise Exchange. Look for a quick poll about your leadership approach and then read Nick’s analysis of the results.
I also welcome your thoughts about business ethics in the current economy — is it a high or low priority among your executive peers?
Editor and Community Manager
Smart Enterprise Exchange