In his recent Harvard Business Review post HCL CEO Vineet Nayar raised the interesting point that CEOs deliver shareholder value in vastly different ways today than in years past.  I couldn’t agree more.  Leaders either create or destroy financial strength through the corporate values they support. The largest impact a CEO can bring to a company is related to the culture.

Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Tony Hsieh (Zappos) are examples of CEOs who have focused their efforts on developing/sustaining a culture that is centered on customer satisfaction.

The nineteenth century historian Thomas Babington Macaulay once said:

“The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out.”

What do the questionable actions of Bernie Ebbers (Worldcom) or Kenneth Lay (Enron) say about their personal morals and the culture they created?  What do the present day actions of Tony Hayward (BP) imply about BP’s values?

Just as a CEO can bring great value to the company by infusing it with a positive culture, so too will a negative culture spread throughout the company.

The pivot point is that a company’s culture, how its employees operate and behave in the absence of rules and oversight, determines its success.  What drummer does your company march to?  As a leader, have you deliberately crafted a culture that nurtures employees, cares for customers, and creates value for shareholders?  Or do you still have work to do to stifle politicking, backstabbing, and self-aggrandizement?

Actions Louder than Words
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