Moments of truth reveal true face of a leader

Reading Time: 9 minutes
By Firoz Abdul Hamid
By Firoz Abdul Hamid

On March 9, 2014, Malaysia woke up to one of its biggest tragedies, if not the biggest since its independence in 1957. Its national carrier MH370, which was headed to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, could not be detected. By the afternoon of March 9, which was a Sunday, there were many theories circulating through the social media in Kuala Lumpur at least. Three weeks on, no plane, reports of debris has drawn blank to date despite the cooperation from several countries, and the conspiracy theories continue to grow in the global social media circuit.

It became evident the first few days post the event, the Malaysian authorities  were straining to deal with questions that were both trying and searching from the media and the public globally. The criticisms of lack of transparency in the way the Malaysian government handled the crises has since come up in hordes and droves. From the authorities, we constantly heard – “this is an unprecedented event”. It is by all accounts unprecedented. Perceived or otherwise, this is a fair criticism as it is the duty of the originator (in this instance the Malaysian government and Malaysia Airlines) to ensure clarity where clarity was needed. This incident regretfully showed up areas where Malaysia needed to improve and improve fast.

These criticisms reminded me of similar ones that greeted the UK Government recently when faced with unprecedented flash floods in the South of England. The same faced by the US government during Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy. Conspiracy theories and criticisms flood the net post the World Trade Center bombing on 9/11 and the London bombing on 7/7. The Tacloban disaster in the Philippines saw criticisms of its government in its handling. This list could go on. We only need to watch Brad Meltzer’s Decoded.

This begs the question – what are our criteria to the appointments of public and private sector leaders? Are CVs alone enough to assure us that they will honour their duties?  Can a series of interviews and psychometric tests ascertain this? Can great and charismatic campaigns provide us the leaders who will see us through tough moments? Or does an organisation and/or a country need to reel from a disaster to know the true face of the leader we elected or appointed?

Many of the leaders who have had to face national disasters and crises are not just pick off the streets. In all if not most cases these are very well educated and trained individuals, yet they were not trained for their moments of truth. They had to learn it on the go. These are people who have helmed leadership roles for many years yet they overtly struggled when faced with challenges.

Who trains and prepares you for moments of truth? These trainings and education are not done during basic undergraduate degree. It is most certainly not done in an MBA. Top recruiters like investment banks and large multinationals source their talents from business schools. Despite possibly getting the best brains from the best schools, how can we not be perplexed as to why  the financial industry for instance has been wrought with lack of ethics and crises that has wrecked markets and livelihoods. Most professionals are sent by their organisations to some of these ‘Moment Of Truth’ programmes in the course of their careers. Well – some go and then some find the excuses not to go.

Perhaps there is a real need to rethink our entire education system globally. Should we not prepare potential leaders (beyond mere textbook theories and exams) for the worse case scenarios their careers could face? Scenarios that could make or break them; scenarios which could enhance or deplete their careers; scenarios which can potentially be the defining moment for a country or organisation? From environmental issues, to war and terrorism, to socio- political issues, to human trafficking and macro economics and technology crises, the public today hold much scorn and cynicism towards leaders especially those in the public sector. People are looking for leaders who can manage crises before a crises hits home – not learn on the go.

The question of leadership and ethics in moments of truth led me to the Dean of Imperial College Business School, Professor G. Anandalingam. I was keen to hear his views on the role of Business Schools in instituting ethics in business leaders. How do you train leaders or can you train them to be ethical in the face of shareholder and stakeholder expectations? Imperial College London is one of the top ranking Schools globally and its Business School is fast gaining top global rankings. Professor Anand is reinventing the culture of the school by getting more alumni involvement globally and ensuring that the modules they teach are relevant for the needs of the times.

Many of us work very hard to move up the ranks and rungs of the career ladder. We invest so much time in branding ourselves, making contact with people who can push us up that ladder. We keep around us those who will make us look good. Yet I wonder how much time leaders spend in educating and training themselves to face crises before a crises happens. How much time do leaders prepare for failure before a moment of truth comes home to roost. In the final analysis no matter how many times a contract is renewed for a leader – people remember you most in times of hardship – hardly ever in the good days. No one remembers the great speeches a leader gives in good times, but they do remember the actions of leaders in times of crises. The reality is – it doesn’t matter how much of self branding and how many privileged contacts we may have or how big the pay check may be, it is the moments of truth that reveal the true face of a leader! It is this face that will ultimately define our own legacies.

_____

DeanDean of Imperial College Business School, Professor G. ‘Anand’ Anandalingam

“…I think that we should work on problems that have an impact in the world rather than simply publish marginal papers for a small group of peers, however reputed. We all have the responsibility to make a difference in the world and to do things that will help those who cannot help themselves whether in medicine, science, engineering or business. I believe that one should not compromise on ethics and social responsibility…”

1. Ethics in business – What is your understanding of ethics in business and its application across politics and business for all strata of society?

My understanding of ethics in business is to do the right thing. Sometimes people think that ethics in business means compliance with the law and I think businesses should go beyond that. For example, businesses need to take into account the impact of their decisions on all their stakeholders ranging from shareholders to the community that their businesses are based in.

2. Wealth distribution and ethics – Is there a correlation between global wealth inequity, wealth distribution and ethics in business? What are their correlations and how can this be better reconciled?

I don’t think there is a real correlation. I believe that some people think that the only way to become extremely wealthy is by doing something that is unethical and I don’t think that is true. There are many examples of people who have done really good things and have become wealthy in the process. For example, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates – as far as I can tell – have followed very ethical business practices and have become wealthy.

3. Global ethics and moral dilemma – What would you say is the biggest moral dilemma or challenge facing the world vis-a-vis economies and markets?

There is a big moral dilemma around trying to grow companies and really expand production and businesses and the impact that this will have on the planet. Unemployment is very high, especially after the recession, in some countries around the world and people want to find ways to get themselves out of poverty. I think it is very difficult to balance the needs of expanding with the needs of the environment.

4. Business ethics and business schools – The concept of dignified profit is not defined in business schools. Must the format of Business Schools change radically?

Business schools are at the forefront of trying to create a world where business ethics is not just practiced but becomes the state of being. What business schools can do is put the students in different ethical situations and help them work out what is the best way to handle these complex situations. I think business schools can really heighten the understanding that students have about business ethics.

5. Ethics and bottom line – Can there be convergence between ethics and profit? Or is this notion utopian?

I think it’s important to have an ethical practise in business. I don’t think in many of the top companies there is a trade off with the bottom line and shareholder and stakeholder expectations. Ethical practises within a business would be much better for the company and for the shareholders rather than take short cuts. This is because the bottom line in the long-term is much better off in companies that are ethically orientated rather than with companies who think behaving unethically will bring about high profits.

Dean1

6. Ethics versus innovation versus legislation – What are the boundaries of progress and ethics in your view?

I think companies need to be innovative and if innovation borders on unethical practises than ethical practises should trump everything. For example, in medicine there is a huge dilemma about conducting experiments that are ethical and at the same time does not hamper potential innovation.

7. Role of media -What is the role media and citizen journalism can play in instituting ethics in business?

I think the media has a very strong role to play as a watchdog in making sure that they highlight when companies or individuals violate ethical business practises. I think they also need to highlight when companies are doing well in practising ethics.

8. Role of government – What is the role of public sector and government leadership, in your view, in strengthening ethics in business?

The role of governments has been to ensure that companies comply with laws that prevent bad business practises. I think the government can also play a strong role in creating the atmosphere where ethical business practises are rewarded as much as unethical practices are penalised.

9. Lobbying culture? – Are governments succumbing to large multinationals?

Governments all over the world would like to encourage large multinationals to set up businesses in their countries and so they are in the business of providing incentives to encourage them to do this. On the one hand, you want these companies to be based in your country to create growth and employment, but if you have too many strict rules they may not come. I think governments are trying to navigate this trade off between helping their own population and making sure these companies don’t do anything wrong.

Business school

10. Universal ethics – Is it realistic to expect a code of universal ethics accepted and ratified by all countries and global institutions?

I think if you talk to all business leaders they would have a reasonable consensus about what are ethical practises in businesses. To get everyone to agree on a code of universal ethics will be very difficult and I don’t think it is realistic to expect one universal code for ethics in business

11. Leadership and faith – How do you train leaders to be ethical? Does one have to be religious and spiritually guided to be ethical?

You don’t have to be religious or spiritually guided to be ethical. I think it’s very important for business schools to play a significant role in ensuring that future business leaders understand and follow business ethics. I think that most people in business are faced with dilemmas and tradeoffs. The hope is if they’ve had a good education and upbringing that they will do the right thing when confronted with difficult situations.

Business school1

12. Imperial College Business School – Is IC emphasising the role of ethics in public and private sector?

The business school incorporates ethics and social responsibility into every programme, and has the aim of doing so in each course as well. We also cover ethics in terms of commercial conduct in doing business (e.g. corporate values, corruption etc.), as well as environmental ethics around sustainability, packaging, effluent etc. There is no distinction made between public and private sector, as many of the same issues around ethics connect to both types of organisational structure.

In today’s global environment we are always striving to get better at understanding different attitudes towards ethics in different global markets. For example, in marketing we look at principles of corporate social responsibility, content and wording and the level of attention paid to ethical market conduct in different markets, according to cultural and regulatory changes. This is a constantly moving target, so getting ahead of the game in understanding different attitudes and priorities regarding business ethics are a key challenge for us and for any other global business school.

In terms of the debate around colour and creed, this is incorporated into cultural variation debate which takes place on courses touching on ethics across marketing, management, organisational behaviour, corporate strategy and environmental policy across the programmes taught in the business school.

_____

Anand alternative imageProfessor G. ‘Anand’ Anandalingam is the Dean of Imperial College Business School. He was the Dean of the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, USA.

As the former Dean of the Smith School, consistently ranked in the top 25 globally for the quality of its programs, Professor Anandalingam introduced a range of specialised Masters courses, sought to expand the School’s global reach with degrees and executive education programs and by providing global experience for its students, and has raised over $40 million from philanthropic donors and corporate supporters.

Professor Anandalingam was the founder of the Smith School’s Center for Electronic Markets and Enterprises, and its director from 2001-2004. He has published more than 75 research papers, served as editor of a number of academic journals, and is also the co-author of the book ‘Beware the Winner’s Curse’, which critically evaluates the technology and dot.com boom of the 1990s.

Born in Cambridge, England, Professor Anandalingam was raised in Sri Lanka and subsequently took his undergraduate degree at Cambridge and his PhD at Harvard. He worked at Brookhaven National Laboratory from 1981 to 1984 before beginning his academic career at the University of Virginia in 1984. He joined the University of Pennsylvania in 1987 and had a dual appointment both as a professor of systems engineering and professor of management science at the Wharton School of Business in 1987, before joining the Smith School in 2001 and becoming its Dean in 2008.

_____

See other posts on Ethics in Business:

Ethics in Business: Perception of sleepwalking

Ethics in Business: Facing medical ethics head on in Malaysia

Ethics in Business: A take on business ethics in the US

Ethics in Business: Moving Islamic finance from conference rooms to humanity

Ethics in Business: Walking the ethical track in Malaysia a perspective

Ethics in Business: Soul of ethics in the new Dubai

Ethics in Business: A conversation with Professor Tariq Ramadan

Ethics in Business: Where is the education for narcissistic leaders

Ethics in Business. With whom does the heartbeat of a nation lie, Part 1

Ethics in Business: With whom does the heartbeat of a nation lie, Part 2

Ethics in Business: Are we aware of the Iagos in our midst?

Ethics in Business: Fair trade or fair game, who benefits really

Ethics in business: What moves the conscience when mortality is at stake

Panel discussion: Medical ethics (plus video)

Please – CSR is not Ethics in Business

Are hearts dead? When good men stood by and watched?

(Firoz Abdul Hamid is an Inside Investor contributor. The opinions expressed are her own.)

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Reading Time: 9 minutes

By Firoz Abdul Hamid

On March 9, 2014, Malaysia woke up to one of its biggest tragedies, if not the biggest since its independence in 1957. Its national carrier MH370, which was headed to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, could not be detected. By the afternoon of March 9, which was a Sunday, there were many theories circulating through the social media in Kuala Lumpur at least. Three weeks on, no plane, reports of debris has drawn blank to date despite the cooperation from several countries, and the conspiracy theories continue to grow in the global social media circuit.

Reading Time: 9 minutes

By Firoz Abdul Hamid
By Firoz Abdul Hamid

On March 9, 2014, Malaysia woke up to one of its biggest tragedies, if not the biggest since its independence in 1957. Its national carrier MH370, which was headed to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, could not be detected. By the afternoon of March 9, which was a Sunday, there were many theories circulating through the social media in Kuala Lumpur at least. Three weeks on, no plane, reports of debris has drawn blank to date despite the cooperation from several countries, and the conspiracy theories continue to grow in the global social media circuit.

It became evident the first few days post the event, the Malaysian authorities  were straining to deal with questions that were both trying and searching from the media and the public globally. The criticisms of lack of transparency in the way the Malaysian government handled the crises has since come up in hordes and droves. From the authorities, we constantly heard – “this is an unprecedented event”. It is by all accounts unprecedented. Perceived or otherwise, this is a fair criticism as it is the duty of the originator (in this instance the Malaysian government and Malaysia Airlines) to ensure clarity where clarity was needed. This incident regretfully showed up areas where Malaysia needed to improve and improve fast.

These criticisms reminded me of similar ones that greeted the UK Government recently when faced with unprecedented flash floods in the South of England. The same faced by the US government during Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy. Conspiracy theories and criticisms flood the net post the World Trade Center bombing on 9/11 and the London bombing on 7/7. The Tacloban disaster in the Philippines saw criticisms of its government in its handling. This list could go on. We only need to watch Brad Meltzer’s Decoded.

This begs the question – what are our criteria to the appointments of public and private sector leaders? Are CVs alone enough to assure us that they will honour their duties?  Can a series of interviews and psychometric tests ascertain this? Can great and charismatic campaigns provide us the leaders who will see us through tough moments? Or does an organisation and/or a country need to reel from a disaster to know the true face of the leader we elected or appointed?

Many of the leaders who have had to face national disasters and crises are not just pick off the streets. In all if not most cases these are very well educated and trained individuals, yet they were not trained for their moments of truth. They had to learn it on the go. These are people who have helmed leadership roles for many years yet they overtly struggled when faced with challenges.

Who trains and prepares you for moments of truth? These trainings and education are not done during basic undergraduate degree. It is most certainly not done in an MBA. Top recruiters like investment banks and large multinationals source their talents from business schools. Despite possibly getting the best brains from the best schools, how can we not be perplexed as to why  the financial industry for instance has been wrought with lack of ethics and crises that has wrecked markets and livelihoods. Most professionals are sent by their organisations to some of these ‘Moment Of Truth’ programmes in the course of their careers. Well – some go and then some find the excuses not to go.

Perhaps there is a real need to rethink our entire education system globally. Should we not prepare potential leaders (beyond mere textbook theories and exams) for the worse case scenarios their careers could face? Scenarios that could make or break them; scenarios which could enhance or deplete their careers; scenarios which can potentially be the defining moment for a country or organisation? From environmental issues, to war and terrorism, to socio- political issues, to human trafficking and macro economics and technology crises, the public today hold much scorn and cynicism towards leaders especially those in the public sector. People are looking for leaders who can manage crises before a crises hits home – not learn on the go.

The question of leadership and ethics in moments of truth led me to the Dean of Imperial College Business School, Professor G. Anandalingam. I was keen to hear his views on the role of Business Schools in instituting ethics in business leaders. How do you train leaders or can you train them to be ethical in the face of shareholder and stakeholder expectations? Imperial College London is one of the top ranking Schools globally and its Business School is fast gaining top global rankings. Professor Anand is reinventing the culture of the school by getting more alumni involvement globally and ensuring that the modules they teach are relevant for the needs of the times.

Many of us work very hard to move up the ranks and rungs of the career ladder. We invest so much time in branding ourselves, making contact with people who can push us up that ladder. We keep around us those who will make us look good. Yet I wonder how much time leaders spend in educating and training themselves to face crises before a crises happens. How much time do leaders prepare for failure before a moment of truth comes home to roost. In the final analysis no matter how many times a contract is renewed for a leader – people remember you most in times of hardship – hardly ever in the good days. No one remembers the great speeches a leader gives in good times, but they do remember the actions of leaders in times of crises. The reality is – it doesn’t matter how much of self branding and how many privileged contacts we may have or how big the pay check may be, it is the moments of truth that reveal the true face of a leader! It is this face that will ultimately define our own legacies.

_____

DeanDean of Imperial College Business School, Professor G. ‘Anand’ Anandalingam

“…I think that we should work on problems that have an impact in the world rather than simply publish marginal papers for a small group of peers, however reputed. We all have the responsibility to make a difference in the world and to do things that will help those who cannot help themselves whether in medicine, science, engineering or business. I believe that one should not compromise on ethics and social responsibility…”

1. Ethics in business – What is your understanding of ethics in business and its application across politics and business for all strata of society?

My understanding of ethics in business is to do the right thing. Sometimes people think that ethics in business means compliance with the law and I think businesses should go beyond that. For example, businesses need to take into account the impact of their decisions on all their stakeholders ranging from shareholders to the community that their businesses are based in.

2. Wealth distribution and ethics – Is there a correlation between global wealth inequity, wealth distribution and ethics in business? What are their correlations and how can this be better reconciled?

I don’t think there is a real correlation. I believe that some people think that the only way to become extremely wealthy is by doing something that is unethical and I don’t think that is true. There are many examples of people who have done really good things and have become wealthy in the process. For example, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates – as far as I can tell – have followed very ethical business practices and have become wealthy.

3. Global ethics and moral dilemma – What would you say is the biggest moral dilemma or challenge facing the world vis-a-vis economies and markets?

There is a big moral dilemma around trying to grow companies and really expand production and businesses and the impact that this will have on the planet. Unemployment is very high, especially after the recession, in some countries around the world and people want to find ways to get themselves out of poverty. I think it is very difficult to balance the needs of expanding with the needs of the environment.

4. Business ethics and business schools – The concept of dignified profit is not defined in business schools. Must the format of Business Schools change radically?

Business schools are at the forefront of trying to create a world where business ethics is not just practiced but becomes the state of being. What business schools can do is put the students in different ethical situations and help them work out what is the best way to handle these complex situations. I think business schools can really heighten the understanding that students have about business ethics.

5. Ethics and bottom line – Can there be convergence between ethics and profit? Or is this notion utopian?

I think it’s important to have an ethical practise in business. I don’t think in many of the top companies there is a trade off with the bottom line and shareholder and stakeholder expectations. Ethical practises within a business would be much better for the company and for the shareholders rather than take short cuts. This is because the bottom line in the long-term is much better off in companies that are ethically orientated rather than with companies who think behaving unethically will bring about high profits.

Dean1

6. Ethics versus innovation versus legislation – What are the boundaries of progress and ethics in your view?

I think companies need to be innovative and if innovation borders on unethical practises than ethical practises should trump everything. For example, in medicine there is a huge dilemma about conducting experiments that are ethical and at the same time does not hamper potential innovation.

7. Role of media -What is the role media and citizen journalism can play in instituting ethics in business?

I think the media has a very strong role to play as a watchdog in making sure that they highlight when companies or individuals violate ethical business practises. I think they also need to highlight when companies are doing well in practising ethics.

8. Role of government – What is the role of public sector and government leadership, in your view, in strengthening ethics in business?

The role of governments has been to ensure that companies comply with laws that prevent bad business practises. I think the government can also play a strong role in creating the atmosphere where ethical business practises are rewarded as much as unethical practices are penalised.

9. Lobbying culture? – Are governments succumbing to large multinationals?

Governments all over the world would like to encourage large multinationals to set up businesses in their countries and so they are in the business of providing incentives to encourage them to do this. On the one hand, you want these companies to be based in your country to create growth and employment, but if you have too many strict rules they may not come. I think governments are trying to navigate this trade off between helping their own population and making sure these companies don’t do anything wrong.

Business school

10. Universal ethics – Is it realistic to expect a code of universal ethics accepted and ratified by all countries and global institutions?

I think if you talk to all business leaders they would have a reasonable consensus about what are ethical practises in businesses. To get everyone to agree on a code of universal ethics will be very difficult and I don’t think it is realistic to expect one universal code for ethics in business

11. Leadership and faith – How do you train leaders to be ethical? Does one have to be religious and spiritually guided to be ethical?

You don’t have to be religious or spiritually guided to be ethical. I think it’s very important for business schools to play a significant role in ensuring that future business leaders understand and follow business ethics. I think that most people in business are faced with dilemmas and tradeoffs. The hope is if they’ve had a good education and upbringing that they will do the right thing when confronted with difficult situations.

Business school1

12. Imperial College Business School – Is IC emphasising the role of ethics in public and private sector?

The business school incorporates ethics and social responsibility into every programme, and has the aim of doing so in each course as well. We also cover ethics in terms of commercial conduct in doing business (e.g. corporate values, corruption etc.), as well as environmental ethics around sustainability, packaging, effluent etc. There is no distinction made between public and private sector, as many of the same issues around ethics connect to both types of organisational structure.

In today’s global environment we are always striving to get better at understanding different attitudes towards ethics in different global markets. For example, in marketing we look at principles of corporate social responsibility, content and wording and the level of attention paid to ethical market conduct in different markets, according to cultural and regulatory changes. This is a constantly moving target, so getting ahead of the game in understanding different attitudes and priorities regarding business ethics are a key challenge for us and for any other global business school.

In terms of the debate around colour and creed, this is incorporated into cultural variation debate which takes place on courses touching on ethics across marketing, management, organisational behaviour, corporate strategy and environmental policy across the programmes taught in the business school.

_____

Anand alternative imageProfessor G. ‘Anand’ Anandalingam is the Dean of Imperial College Business School. He was the Dean of the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, USA.

As the former Dean of the Smith School, consistently ranked in the top 25 globally for the quality of its programs, Professor Anandalingam introduced a range of specialised Masters courses, sought to expand the School’s global reach with degrees and executive education programs and by providing global experience for its students, and has raised over $40 million from philanthropic donors and corporate supporters.

Professor Anandalingam was the founder of the Smith School’s Center for Electronic Markets and Enterprises, and its director from 2001-2004. He has published more than 75 research papers, served as editor of a number of academic journals, and is also the co-author of the book ‘Beware the Winner’s Curse’, which critically evaluates the technology and dot.com boom of the 1990s.

Born in Cambridge, England, Professor Anandalingam was raised in Sri Lanka and subsequently took his undergraduate degree at Cambridge and his PhD at Harvard. He worked at Brookhaven National Laboratory from 1981 to 1984 before beginning his academic career at the University of Virginia in 1984. He joined the University of Pennsylvania in 1987 and had a dual appointment both as a professor of systems engineering and professor of management science at the Wharton School of Business in 1987, before joining the Smith School in 2001 and becoming its Dean in 2008.

_____

See other posts on Ethics in Business:

Ethics in Business: Perception of sleepwalking

Ethics in Business: Facing medical ethics head on in Malaysia

Ethics in Business: A take on business ethics in the US

Ethics in Business: Moving Islamic finance from conference rooms to humanity

Ethics in Business: Walking the ethical track in Malaysia a perspective

Ethics in Business: Soul of ethics in the new Dubai

Ethics in Business: A conversation with Professor Tariq Ramadan

Ethics in Business: Where is the education for narcissistic leaders

Ethics in Business. With whom does the heartbeat of a nation lie, Part 1

Ethics in Business: With whom does the heartbeat of a nation lie, Part 2

Ethics in Business: Are we aware of the Iagos in our midst?

Ethics in Business: Fair trade or fair game, who benefits really

Ethics in business: What moves the conscience when mortality is at stake

Panel discussion: Medical ethics (plus video)

Please – CSR is not Ethics in Business

Are hearts dead? When good men stood by and watched?

(Firoz Abdul Hamid is an Inside Investor contributor. The opinions expressed are her own.)

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