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RSI - Executive Search Firm News | Company Newsletter, June 2009

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RSI Executive Search Firm Company Newsletter, June 2009

Issue: #31
Date: June 1, 2009
Author: Kellie Davis


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Reaction Search International Executive Search Firm - Executive Search, Executive Recruiting & Sales Search, Sales Recruiting Specialists This Month in the RSI Newsletter
» Where Have All of the Responsible Leaders Gone?
Executive Search Firm Newsletter Executive Search Firm Newsletter

Where Have All of the Responsible Leaders Gone?

Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary defines responsibility as 1: the quality or state of being responsible: as a: moral, legal, or mental accountability b: reliability, trustworthiness 2: something for which one is responsible. Correspondingly Merriam-Webster defines leadership as the act or instance of leading. Interestingly, their definition omits any traits associated with the definition of responsibility. While this presents a fascinating dichotomy, it is also reflective of the existing conflict many organizations are facing; executives in charge of maintaining the integrity of a business abandon responsibility in favor of pursuing its antithesis, irresponsibility.

The history of business is littered with many acts of reckless behavior on behalf of executives who were supposed to be an organizations moral compass, a representative for a company's mission to its own constituents and the public. Instead, companies such as Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, and Merrill Lynch have been the focus of some of the most high-profile corporate scandals in history. While companies like Enron and WorldCom collapsed, remaining companies such as Tyco and Merrill Lynch are left with damaged reputations that continue to haunt the organizations today.

While it is doubtful that business will witness any calendar year without some sort of discouraging scandal surfacing, particularly with recent events on Wall Street and ongoing revelations of

 

 


Continued...

careless and negligent behavior by both private and government entities, that does excuse the serious deficit of responsible leadership America is facing. Not only have we subjected ourselves to acquiring billions of dollars worth of liability in a matter of months to add to our 12-figure debt, we have also welcomed the demise of leadership into our organizations.

Referring back again to the definitions Merriam-Webster provides for responsibility and leadership begs the question: do we anticipate that by virtue of being a leader, one will assume the related obligations without explicit instruction to do so? Or have we developed a nonchalant approach to leaders in general and anticipate the disappointment many prominent executives, and even government officials have proven, and intentionally omit a responsibility clause in our definition of leadership because our efforts to enforce one would ultimately be in vain?

Sir Winston Churchill once said that the "price of greatness is responsibility." Typically when an individual has reached a level of greatness they are leading others toward a common goal or objective and are responsible for not only for fulfilling on their commitments, but more importantly performing as a superior leader for their people, customers, family, and their

 


Continued...

predecessors. Winston Churchill's remarks are not only poignant, but relevant to what we should expect in our leaders. Profitability and market share are critical factors to consider when evaluating the competency of an executive, but arguably having a responsible leader positions a company ahead of the competition because a pattern of thoughtful, accountable leadership over the long-term indicates the stability of the organization will be predictable; versus a leader that pursues questionable tactics to satisfy the board of directors expectations for a balance sheet to reflect the figures they desire, all the while possibly setting up a future of full of indictments and exorbitant lawyer fees.

It's time that we reevaluate the definition of leadership, not only in theory, but in practice. It may have been acceptable in years past for executives and other officials given the power to lead to desert their obligation of accountability when scandal erupted or revenue objections were not met and blame others or external factors, but such courses of action have left many distrustful and skeptical of high-profile leaders. If we redefine what it means to be a leader and stress the intense role responsibility plays in leadership of any kind, perhaps we can look forward to a decline of corporate and government scandal in the years to come because a responsible leader wouldn't invite illegal activity into their business practices in the first place.

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