Integrity is no longer just a boardroom buzzword. With the umpteen number of ethical lapses the business world has recently witnessed, integrity has gained more prominence among the upper-echelons of corporates now. Here we take a look at how CFOs can successfully blend integrity into leadership.
Integrity is no longer just a boardroom buzzword. It is something that affects the entire organisation, right from the C-Suite and the company’s employees to the brand perception in the market. This can go a long way in determining whether your company as a brand is here to stay or might fizzle out. With the umpteen number of ethical lapses the business world has recently witnessed, integrity has gained more prominence among the upper-echelons of corporates now. Outstanding performance with high integrity lays the foundation of a prosperous business and you need to have a fusion of both to have a successful, durable company.
Lapses within the organisation
It remains vital to actually test the integrity of the members of the C-suite individually. It has been found that while integrity is important at the upper management level, it isn’t so at the middle management level. In most cases, they are evaluated and assessed on the basis of their performance, team management and social skills. And when the best of these managers climb up the rungs of the corporate ladder and make it all the way to the top, there could be a serious dearth of integrity or worse, a complete lack of it.
Time and again history has shown us that a one-tracked focus on numbers is a recipe for disaster and can tip the scales in favour of corruption. This decade alone has seen plenty of instances of accounting scandals, option-backdating scandals, credit meltdown which was partly as a result of business discipline.
The CFO dilemma
CFOs are first partners to CEOs and only then do they put their foot down when the business enters into a grey area that could pose problems in the long term. As a partner, a CFO generally works together in agreement with the CEO to iron out any kinks the business faces. Going against the CEO’s decision in certain cases can be something that is new to both the parties involved and may create some friction.
It’s as simple as this: Leaders without integrity are not trusted neither by their colleagues, nor by the public – and inevitably this can lead to all sorts of problems. This makes a strong case for integrity within the corporate structure.
So how can you as a CFO ensure that integrity is maintained through the organisation at all times?
- Steer clear of shortcuts in decision making
Ensure that a rigorous decision-making process is in place and is followed at all times whatever the temptation may be. Integrity requires due diligence when making decisions. Train yourself and encourage your counterparts to ignore temptations that don’t match your company’s desired outcome.
- Keep personal agendas out of the picture
At one point in time or the other, we are all guilty of justifying our bad decisions because the outcome was what we wanted personally. Keep a clear conscience and keep your personal agenda out of the picture to conduct and lead yourself with integrity.
- Stay humble
Do you know fastest recipe for disaster? It is the “I’m never wrong” belief. As soon as a leader gets into this mode, it is probably time to revisit how the C-suite functions. The leader can easily slip into a rut where he/she only takes their personal perspective into consideration, which means that integrity and the larger good of the company takes a back seat. It’s important to stay grounded and welcome new perspectives. Make sure to surround yourself with people who help challenge your thinking with new perspectives.
- Be transparent and keep people accountable
Integrity drives accountability and makes leadership a joyful experience. Companies that are transparent have a wonderful advantage; that they are consistent with their version of the truth. A leader who spins stories forces the entire company to get on board with that lie and stick to one single story. Leaders and companies that fib lose focus on their core strategy and beliefs. They lose integrity.
While there is rampant corruption at the executive level, most companies have come a long way in terms of integrity. Doing the right thing, always and with complete transparency ensure that financial results, if not today, will follow tomorrow. As the CFO goes, so will the company.