Embedding Integrity - It Is Time For CEOs To Speak Up

Tuesday, July 1, 2008 - 01:00

Al Driver, Editor

In this issue, we have focused on the need for corporations to achieve high performance with integrity and the key role played by their CEOs. We feature Special Sections which focus on model corporations, DuPont and GE. Under the leadership of great CEOs, these companies successfully fused integrity into the fabric of their operations. We have in the course of our coverage of these companies had an opportunity to learn about the impact of their CEOs on the process.

Our knowledge of the contribution of Chad Holliday, DuPont's CEO, to its dedication to integrity has been that reflected in our coverage of its law department's contribution to diversity under the leadership of Stacey Mobley and Tom Sager. That leadership has resulted in the law department and "DuPont" becoming recognized by our readers and website viewers as being synonymous with "diversity."By promoting Tom Sager to general counsel, Mr. Holliday has signaled his continuing support for the law department's unparalleled efforts.

Ben Heineman's book High Performance with High Integrity provided us with background on how the two CEOs of GE to whom Ben reported provided leadership that fostered its culture of integrity.

GE has two major agenda-setting meetings annually. One takes place in October and consists of the company's 220 officers. The other, made up of the company's 600 senior executives, takes place in January.

At each of these meetings former CEO Jack Welch and current CEO Jeff Immelt open and close the meetings with strong statements about performance with integrity with an emphasis on four main points: that its reputation as a world class company, which is of tremendous benefit, is built on the foundation of high performance with high integrity; that each executive present at those meetings is personally accountable for the integrity of the company; that integrity is never to be compromised to make the numbers, and that you can miss the numbers and survive, but you cannot survive if you miss on integrity.

Illustrative of the uncompromising attitude toward breaches of integrity was the request of Ben by Jack Welch and later by Jeff Immelt that he describe at January meetings of the 600 executives incidents in which officers had been asked to leave the company because of integrity breaches. And, at the end of each of those meetings the CEO drove home the point that sustained negligence in creating a high performance with high integrity culture is grounds for dismissal.

The January meetings are also the occasion for recognizing top performers from the prior year with Chairman's Leadership Awards, a practice instituted by Jeff Immelt shortly after becoming CEO in 2001.These recognize top performers from the previous year. Some go to those responsible for productivity increases or who developed a new product, but others go to those who contributed to achieving the goal of high integrity.

Given the deteriorating public attitude toward business and the serious consequences that can follow, it is important that the positive side of corporate America be presented. CEOs should tell the media about how they created a culture of integrity in their companies.We would be pleased to be part of this important effort.

Al Driver