Leadership : Character Lessons From The Corporate Reform Bill

Rebecca Barnett is an author and motivational speaker on character-centered leadership. Rebecca has a dozen years of executive experience with American’s most admired and aggressive retailers, including The Home Depot and The Limited. Drawing on her research and corporate experience, Rebecca offers practical, pragmatic, experienced solutions. She is a national referee and black belt in the Olympic sport of Judo. She is a Silver medallist in the 2001 World Masters Championships.

 Contact Rebecca info@winningyourway.com

Much has happened since last summer’s passing of the Corporate Reform Bill; CEOs quietly began putting their ethical houses in order while the ink was still drying, a beefed up SEC has served up lightening fast indictments and executives caught up in corruption are turning over evidence to reduce their prison sentences. 
Still, many business leaders are baffled by a dizzying array of new regulations and a full year later, many questions remain unanswered.  Will the Corporate Reform Bill woo back badly burned investors to the stock market?  Will the Wall Street allow CEOs to run their organizations with a long term focus beyond this quarter?  Will we learn any lasting leadership lessons from the scandals of 2002 and 2003?

It is too early to tell.  We know that there are no quick fixes, no sliver bullets, no celebrity CEOs to lead us through the wilderness of corporate reform.  We must not expect our CEOs to bear the full responsibility for the actions of thousands of employees.  We must accept the responsibility for integrity that rests on the shoulders of every business leader. Too often we often become infatuated with the new, when we need to firm up our foundation. Anyone who has been in business for a number of years has seen a dozen fads come and go.  Business fads blaze hot and fade fast.  They fail us because they distract from true leadership and lasting change. 

Certainly we need enforcement of the Corporate Reform Bill and SEC regulations.  Clearly we need stiffer penalties - executives who raid corporate coffers should swap their pin stripes for horizontal stripes.  But legislation alone will not correct corruption. Federal regulations and organizational ethics statements act as the white lines on either side of the road; giving us freedom to drive fast within the boundaries. 

If we have learned anything from two years of corporate accounting scandals, it is that leadership integrity must be modeled from the top.  The daily actions and small decisions of senior management echo through the organizations.  Executive character or lack thereof, ripples through the ranks. 

If we retain no other lesson, we must remember that beyond the mundane daily details of achieving performance objectives and meeting Wall Street’s quarterly targets, that there is a larger issue of leadership and character.  We must create a company culture where a leader’s character matters once more.  

Character in leadership is not a fad or a buzzword.  It is not a silver bullet or instant relief for the corruption problems that continue to plague our corporations. Rather it keeps you grounded in a solid core of values, helping you draw on reservoirs of strength when life snaps into fast forward.  In these tough times of unrelenting recession where even CEOs are shuffled every few years, you must have something to hang onto.  You must be able to say, “This is who I am, this is what I believe, and this is what I stand for.”

View Rebecca's website www.winningyourway.com.
Copyright 2003 by Rebecca Barnet. All rights reserved.

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